Four Poems

These poems explore the passing of time and include themes that move from the microscopic world to the macroscopic world regarding human behavior.

To Frank, Within the Pope-Leighey House

Your house is here, Frank.
I sit in your architecture.
I observe your texture.
A groundhog comes to the window
sticks his nose right on the glass
looks me in the eyes.
Could’ve been you.
I don’t know much
but it could’ve been you.
We measure our lives with algorithms
the groundhog just looks for food
I just sit and write here inside of you.
Your algorithm was on paper
in geometry
gliding graphite along graphs.
I sit here in your structure.
I step into your construct.
I see the backside of your ribs.
You don’t know my ribs, Frank
but I measure my time just like you.
You built order
among particles.
I sit in the architecture
of your immortality
I teach high school.
I don’t know about building homes
I don’t have millions
nor does anyone know me.
I have no Wrightian style
no unique accent of verse

to be analyzed here.
But I see the backside of your ribs
and your heart is clear.
I see your stomach churn behind the wood
the veins in the grain
your still blood liquid here.
Are you in love
or just the groundhog passing by
or the red fox—ears perked—listening?
Is my presence unsettling
or do I comfort old fingerprints
on old brick bones?
I consider your dark eyes
smooth forehead
and thin lips.
I see how many years you’ve lived
within the rings of the wooden soul
and watch condensation drip.
If you knew decades ago
I would be here
aware of your time
aware of your wives and your
architectured life—
if I watched you in the morning
laying next to you—
had just woken up
watched you yawn in sync
with the dew
on your windows
would that be Wrightian
or am I just measuring time?
There have been families inside of you
death in a pond

and tea on the stove
sweat in the night
and hands
on the inside of your eyes
leaving stains against the glass.
I sit inside as a tourist
walks by
taking pictures
through that glass.
I am bothered, Frank.
I sit and consider you—
your skeleton I applied to.
We have a deal
you never agreed to.
We are together
you and I
and the wandering photographer
doesn’t know that I know when you were born
and if you are still alive in the past
in that other dimension—time—
I know when you die.
I know about
I know how Mamah will die
and the morphine within Maude.
Your architecture remains.
Leave skeletons alone.
This will do
we can talk like this.
I can warn you now
to not worry about death
to leave the houses unbuilt
to leave the woods to the groundhog and the fox.
But there is no message I can send
no rewriting an algorithm
no truth against the world
to reach into the reverse

and tap you on the shoulder
to feel something other than.

Future Song

Infinite trees
with infinite leaves
to the horizon
and shutter in the wind thick air
Lightning above.
Infinite trees
we live below
look down and see our shadows.
We smoke with our backs against your bark
as your skin falls apart
behind us
hair is rigid on the neck
when we feel the static—
burnt wood.
Infinite trees
in a gasp of lightning:
some belong to families
others belong to houses
some belong to the woods
some belong to children
and some are crushed with vines
others don’t grow just right
some die slowly in the night.
Infinite trees
with infinite leaves
now saturated with rain—
your unyielding smoking wood
we turn into tabletop art—
can’t stop dancing beneath shade
or smoking with backs against bark—

widespread leaves
keep me down below
keep me from climbing
and keep me here.
The infinite trees
with their infinite leaves—
we are skeletons of wood
just like the rest
waiting for a future song
act of alchemy—energy—
your hand that has
just been touched for the first time.
Your smile
that is real beneath the leaves.
There is the smell of thunder
like wet smoke
like your skin absorbing the night
through a window
absorbing quiet humid streets
in the summer heat.
You know what the thunder smells like
but you don’t know me
until the rain is there in the dark.
I don’t know you
but I know what the thunder smells like too.
I’ve seen lightning twist wood around
into muscle or split it through the middle
set fire to the stillness.
And I could know the future
if I went far away—
looked at a blackhole so closely
in the warped time and space.

I could come back to the earth
and hold your hand again
and kiss you purple.
But old eyes can’t read lyrics
when eyes drift like leaves—
expedited time to hold your hand
if you were ninety then like the trees
and lived a life staring up
singing a future song
waiting for the air to vibrate.
So I reach over now
to set my glasses down
beside the wooden bed
and lay still
to wait for the lightning as well
next to the hyacinths
and the can of beer.

The Commuter

The burnt cigarette
becomes concrete
as I walk down K Street
like homo erectus
disintegrating into dirt
asphyxiating in the halitosis of cars.
I see his grey knees everyday—
his naked torso with its sinuous frame.
He travels east beneath a torn blanket
each morning
we could make a home of a moment
if I ever waited there for him
for long enough.

Blood Bag

This is blood.
When it’s red thick
stabilized in plastic.
When it’s next to pigeons
collecting cigarettes on sidewalks
moving within slovenly hands
disembodied from clothes
found in trash bags.
A hand touches your face—
makes you feel like you belong
to your feet to your blood
within the conversation of synapses—
lightning separate realities.
When it seeps through bandages on backs
and it scabs or it stains the sheets
like berries and wine made from bones
drinking and thinking for love—
hand that touches your face again
makes you feel okay about it
makes you feel okay about it.
There is blood in the clouds
blood in the air
blood in love and in revisions
and incisions.
There is blood in the sun
and in the moon.
You injected it into everything
when you were born.
Blood that drenches the body
coming down like rain in the night.
Blood bag in a hospital bed
baby singing for something sweeter than this
so much human in one container.
This is blood.

When it carries life
in between bones
through bodies
you feel safe
and the blood that lifts
the hand to touch your face
makes you feel okay about it.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

More from Poetry

What is the long now?

The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking. Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.

Learn more

Join our newsletter for the latest in long-term thinking

Long Now's website is changing...