Baby of the world, unrecyclable moral standard of American culture, you're on the go, lounger bouncer in pure cotton nappies free of dioxins. Born a monster, you may yet mature Of the tentacles with which you root yourself now to rock, to tendon, to milk and mind, to the slatted crib's sleek-styled nursery necessity. Oh, you future, you juggernaut, you Are our charge, but how can we save you who can only stare astonished at your progress: even cooking in the uterus you were a total social function, breeding shower invitations, sleep-sets, tough or cuddly accouterments and now, being born, serums, fluids, two-way radios, diaper pails, and college funds. Little creeper, you're our keeper, jailor, chaperone: we'll never see the world again without your stamp, your chubby heel, the heartbeat that calls out to our own.
Wrote it, had it eaten by Microsoft Word. Damn you, taunting paperclip! How you mock me! So here's memory's version . . .
The Year's at the Spring
Flash of white teeth, a dark Face that turns to call - ôSpring brings out the best Of us, baby! - words Reassembling in my ears As I pull down the first Skirt of the year - pink plaid Riding up over my knees. Always a little too early, A little too cold: goosebumps Growing like the first green Tips of the daffodils but This afternoon's angle Reminded me that the earth Has flowers and I have legs The sun will soon enough Turn brown so here we are: Girls and leaves and flowers And the first bared skin: ready To start in the limelight, all Pushing to get out on the town.
"Kiss it!" Darlene said. "Kiss the face!" But it wasn't a face; just some knots in the floorboards that formed a sort of triangle: two twisted eyes, a round mouth. Darlene was twelve and not always angry but this was her favorite humiliation, her revenge on the scourge of little brothers everywhere. Her foot pressed on my back as I bent down, our little tableaux of the state flag: Sic Semper tyrannis. I closed one eye, squinted with the other into the knot hole, made my obligatory fish-faced smooch, then stayed there, breathing into the knot, enjoying the flat reflection of my head's varied topography: reduced dimensions, angles. The longer I stayed put, the more scared Darlene got that mom would find us, so she started pleading with me to make me move. I knew I had at least three pleads before she'd kick me in the gut. I let them last, heard my exhalations swirling round the knot, saw green and blue floaters against the darkness of the wood and then, as her last "come on" wheedled past, my heel tapped the mouth, my toe touched the eye, and I ran smoothly out.
Blowsy climbers, hitched to brick, to fenceline. They bloom, then stick there for months. Undelicate, unhybrid, the neighborhood cats get a lovely latrine under their leaves, beetles and aphids are too good for these downmarket shufflers, and the shock of fertilizer would probably kill them through insult. They don't need my neighbor, don't need me; they would grow despite us, to spite us, hang with the roaches after the nuclear blitz: pure life-force unheeding of possessive modifiers, these careless snarls who know no one, not even the earth, can own their thorns.
Number 3. Like all my sonnets, I'm not sure it ends well. Alack.
It's Not the Church -- It's You
The stained-glass saints have mouths no sourer Than your parishioners.' The steeple stands yet proud, erect. Collection plate in fine repair, the churchyard mowed and neatly kept, the sexton dutiful, and even kind, but you of late are grown more shaggy Than any virgin could concieve: goat-footed piper among the halls of beech and ash that grow beyond the gate. Get out from under the chandeliers-- your hymns are all unpsalmed And strangely met. The church committee will call you crazy and be right. But think of it as a compliment: A little panic In the springtime never did no harm yet.