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Poets of the Monterey Bay

Four Poems by Ken Weisner


I am told it’s good to forgive.
So I will do myself later and start with Dick Cheney.

After all, I honestly wept for Frankenstein.
Perhaps I can love Dick Cheney.

Doris Lessing says forgive what you cannot understand.
I will try not to understand Dick Cheney.

The lamby-soul of a child is sweet, androgynous.
So must be the soul of Dick Cheney.

Sometimes I am overcome that he is cynical.
I must not project my shadow onto you, Dick Cheney.

Did you ever truly clear a decent shelter for sorrow?
Me neither, Dick Cheney.

But I try. And in trying now, my hate
is turned to this flower, Dick Cheney.

If I knew you better—if you were a friend,
how much harder it would be, Dick Cheney,

to be tender and awake in the face of you.
It’s easier to forgive people like Judas, Pharaoh, Dick Cheney,

than the people I know who voted for you,
some twice; some even with yard signs, Dick Cheney.

Why should it be your fault that you are so beloved?
We lifted the sedan chair, crowned you twice, Dick Cheney.

Then why does my body convulse
every time I think of your smile, Dick Cheney?

That would be judgment, I know.
I’m trying to forgive you, Dick Cheney,

to take you back to the many-armed sea of mothers
where you are unborn once more, Dick Cheney,

no pacemaker, no surgeons starting your heart
over and over, Dick Cheney;

no pesky Congress, no courts or lesbian daughter to ponder.
Just that bliss of androgynous innocence we all lost once, Dick Cheney.

Ken says ah, source of all beauty, still unborn sleep that lasts forever—
thing all music longs for, even yours, even mine, Dick Cheney.

             for David Aquino

When you can’t breathe at all
there’s a long crowning
minute or so before the lungs start to really burn
when, as in comedy, you may stumble
out the kitchen door, a fish out of water

to where David is measuring for a deck rail;
he takes in your ballet, its demi-wheezes and wide eyes,
luckily a language he can read,
and then you’re being flipped around
heimliched—he’s remarking on each decision—
he’s done this sort of thing before, more than once,
on jobsites, boats: a tuna fisherman
choking on a tuna sandwich,
an electrocuted worker (who died, you later hear).

So next when David tells you to lie down flat
and try to relax, pounds you on the back
by the heel of his open palm, it’s sort of comforting,
although you still can’t breathe,
and any time now that minute of grace will end.
So he asks if he should call 911,
which is certainly the right question;
he’s tried what he knows
and is not finding you much of a conversationalist.
It’s time to pick up the phone.

You are at a remove, appreciative,
but your gaze seems to you
to originate from somewhere high above
your right eyebrow. I mean, it’s comic, right?
the wheezing, and stranger still,
the not being able to wheeze.

How long can this go on,
from what, a corn chip?
the karmic fate of a multi-tasker
who seems to have wanted to save a few minutes
by breathing, eating, and pacing around
balancing his checkbook all at the same time.

You could alert your wife
at the front of the house—
lope and stagger in there suffocating
where she is teaching piano to small children.
No, have David tell her
after he grabs the phone.
He pounds your back one more time;
you stay face down,
like the call to prayer—
you think: you’re even facing east.

And that’s as far as it goes this time—
just a glimpse; not the full dark fury.
Is it the jarring, or just
the lying down and totally relaxing
releases the cramped valve?
Like waking from a little dream,
the wheezing dissipates,
the channel opens, and the body respires,

inspires, prostrate to new redwood 2 x 6,
inhaling the sawdust of this new day,
which indeed, upon reflection,
has a remarkable patina
as you think, “Where was I?
Where am I! Who am I?”
pulled dying of thirst off the lifeboat,
then flopped up living on David’s brand new ship.

Dear Maude,

I’m sitting down to eat these pretty good quesadillas
with sweet onion, cilantro and this really
tangy new Mexican sauce
when the phone rings and on the message

I’m hearing how you died last night,
so of course I pick up, talk to our friend a while,
then return to table a little in shock now
where the food has turned to stone.

Though right away I hear you saying,
“Eat! eat”—“I wish I could join!”—
“They don’t let me eat a thing anymore!”—
and laughing about it.

It seems you’re right here in the living room,
your warmth welling up, your belief
in the dignity and good intentions
of all our labors, and all who struggle to survive.

And then I’m also thinking: who picked the cilantro—
cooled the Vidalia onions, kept them dry—processed
the endless tortillas—who is home with their children,
who’ll cook for them, take them to the doctor?

You won’t stop your smiling as I slouch and brood
with the guilt of the living. You’re just there,
a mother who has very reasonable expectations,
who says “Eat,” says: “Now you’re pissing me off,”

says: “I’ll be watching,” says: “Do something with your life.”

—Maude Meehan 1920 – 2007

A Proclamation Concerning a Bowl of Apples

Whereas they command the space in my room
like offerings in the arched casement light

Whereas they show pomegranate highlights and saffron shadings
stem-end, blossom-end, equally haphazard, and fortunate

Whereas they rained down on my head in the picking
quickly filled the basket
and sometimes fit into my hands two or three at a time like baseballs

Whereas they are beautiful in their patience

Whereas they are the gift of the gift of an immigrant farmer
that farmer is no longer with us
and his trees don’t care which side of the fence they hang down on

Whereas my knife is sharp

Whereas they are red in more ways than one
mottled and golden and penumbral
it is harvest, and each longs to be touched

Whereas it’s what they live for
what we live for

Whereas there is thunder and sweet gaping
and it is our teeth and wild jaw splits open the tree

Whereas we too shall be eaten
by love, by eyes, by fire, by worms—

Let it hereby be resolved
to savor the presence

of apples, the absence of apples
the very idea of apples
in a bowl, on a windowsill, in autumn.

Copyright 2010