Memorial Days

The park’s in bloom, its gate seeping honeysuckle.
I work to shed some flab I gained last winter.
It’s a year since I spoke at my father’s grave

Before bayonets and brass bands for his memorial.
Twenty-four years of loss I had to disinter
And put back again with a smile and a wave.

I can hardly remember what I thought or said.
My gravity’s art weakens and uncoils.
Eased, what was caught to my orbit drifts.

I slough skin and clip nails, scrub iron pans of fat,
Pick up blue Doritos bags, purple soda cans,
Some disorder obvious, some imperceptible.

Alpine

1.

Heat humbles those who stay below.
…. Fireweed furs the trail’s edge.
We make for a far-up peak, aglow
…. In sunlight. The high ledge

Disappears into cold white ahead.
…. Once we’re past the tree line,
Snow-fields begin to spread
…. Up the mountain’s spine.

Constellations of moss campion
…. Rear amethyst arrays
On heaps of Precambrian stone,
…. Flaked tan and warmer clays,

Some crude and high as burial mounds
…. Upraised from the moraine,
Barren but bound and bordered round
…. By blooms of leopardbane.

2.

Our Monotonous Sublime: Robert Lowell’s Notebook Poems

By Ernest Hilbert

Lowell before the Notebook Poems

When Robert Lowell began writing the poems that would appear in the unusual and still controversial volume Notebook 1967-1968, he was generally celebrated as America’s most famous living poet. His patrician profile and the details of his personal life were familiar to any educated American. Time magazine hailed him as “America’s greatest poet.” What may strike some as odd in 2017, on the centenary of his birth, is the very notion of a genuinely famous poet, one who confidently dispatched letters of political protest to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson and expected replies. In other words, the world that formed Robert Lowell and heaped laurels upon his brow, including two Pulitzer Prizes, has changed dramatically and irrevocably.

Recessional

My father would leave the salt-encrusted Ford
Unlocked, the only car in the winter lot,
And draw a key for the heavy church door.

He’d click on a light over the organ,
Where it glowed in black like an angler fish
At the entrance to a cavern on the ocean floor.

His eyeglasses lit white from the bulb,
Bearded, he eased his bulk onto the bench,
Rifling folders of music in manuscript.

The huge old organ rumbled chorales,
Roared enormous chords, stopping midway
Through a passage, consigning a long resonance

Lesser Feasts

The house is cold today, a deep-rooted fortress,
Foundation blocks of Wissahickon Schist,
Micah sparkling in late December sun,

A hull becalmed between two storms, iced recess
And an expectant clearness between mist
And sleet, as if a brief peace had been won.

For soup, I rend the Christmas turkey carcass,
Yank slick, sturdy strands apart, though some resist
My hands as jellied fat, warmed, begins to run.

The hard world yields little we may possess.
Our newborn opens and fastens his fist.
Happy, we sort a small steading for our son.

Fool’s Fire

1.

Lights out. From bed
I look out the window, a bare

December view from
The crown of Squirrel Hill.

The moon’s arctic cuticle
Points to our silver linden,

Its leaning silhouette
Gaunt and unleafed.

Burled limbs knot heavily,
Haunted by summers.

Through its dendritic reach of branch,
The gravel cutting of the SEPTA line,

The looming red-brick wreck
Of the HERMAN Iron Works,

Then the slow murk of the Schuylkill
At low tide, wind-rumpled mud flats,

Cemeteries asleep above the banks
And the unnavigable garbage bogs,