A lavish amber’s damaged filigree—
the sun imprints a negative
upon my skin, an outline of my book
while I’ve dozed off, head pillowed
on a cenotaph. Awake, I walk the grounds
through graves and willows where dust floats
unsettled through the air, assuming
another twist of revelation. Musk and celadon.
A summer day is ravished as it melts
—a mayfly’s stammering celerity.
I moon about. I maunder in my own existence.
Light zeros in, away. Mauve levels wilt;
the evening glimmers and incinerates.
Each star crawls ciphers cross my peeling vellum.
A cheese-crumb stink of public reading rooms,
as out the window mizzle glums the streets.
Umbrellas bobble through the cobblestones.
Now beer-tipped laughter from an afterparty
stumbles backwards through a Dummkopf hang-
over and over-brimming ashtrays of this Sunday.
I slept throughout the Russian Silver Age,
the whole immodest lecture. I had nothing
to contribute to discussion. I am an artifact.
I sit here in this room where half the books
have been half read and the other half half-
unremembered—wan, tumbledown, and musty—
as if I stared out from some muzzy photograph,
making you to wonder what to make of me.
Small headlights glide like crystals on the bridge.
Dark fissile matter of the snow-edged harbor.
A blizzard of remembrance; auroras, touchwood
over cloudbanks. A brackish odor. My thinking
scratches up more trash and makes the past its nest.
The smudged revolving glare upon the river spills
until the void dissolves in shapes like moon-rimmed
toys from childhood. A séance rummaging in squalor.
A door swings open! Loose-limbed skeletons
whose frivolous dancing prophecies new elements.
O, crayon grizzle! Comet slurry! Down a wildered
whelm of old diaries, postcards, watercolors—
this scumblack night drinks all the ink I’ve wasted.
Men waddle round with bags and sagging breasts.
One bone-thin lady hugs her doll; the other
braids—upbraids her nest of beard. My addled
hearing aids chirp bird-brained logic in my ear.
Some fat bland nurse shaves off my chin.
Another nurse tells someone, shut your trap.
The fuddled televisions tsk me like a child.
A voice smears down the hallway from the moon,
a moan against authorities who’re putting
them away—their door snaps briskly closed.
Daff doctors’ lingo, random as the Bingo games.
The ornery orderlies keep spooning us
chyme and forcemeat on non-staining trays,
keep crushing horse pills in our tapioca pudding.
Our dodge and dawdle thwarts their schedules, yes,
and in return they singsong, squeak, and hector us.
Some chap on staff I’ve never seen has rubbed my lesions,
and legions of old lovers fade, faint characters
that smudge like lessons on a splotched blackboard.
I’ve lost my taste. But no, it’s onion soup again.
Depressors hold my tongue where some black fuzz
appeared. The nurses rub up puddles, caress the knobs,
and hand out puzzles, beads. I’ve told them showers
hurt my skin. They wheel us in in shifts, backwards,
back through wayward wards and glitching shafts,
up shuffling lifts then crank the levers down.
We thank them, knowing that they’d rather scram.
Glum smocks and scrubs metastasize the halls.
We bubbled at the little dog who used to visit Thursdays
with pert consolateers. Where did they go?
The minders taking turns turn over invalids,
those lumps of nubble troubled by bedsores.
My files claim I sundown. I count out grains
of rice; I practice motor skills, the grosser and the fine.
I’m closer now to smiling at all the weekly tours.
I’m due for one more solo day next year. This slow
glaucoma is the light’s undoing, Lord. Even prisoners
have each their pet sun-patch. And yet, the raindrop
of our life falls brightly. Scatters its remainders and
foreshortens daily tasks we need reminders for.
Our joint’s locked down. Today was over-due
for doing-over anyway. We are the Minotaur
of our own memories. We walk each second back.
My roommate, when I enter our shared space,
is talking in his fitful sleep. He reckons
I’m his late half-brother. But we’re all family here,
all strangers in a too-small house, and then some-
one can forget you, I—he/she, each other—
those time-worn grooves each face has like a key.