Quarantine Visit

There’s an old woman on the porch. There’s an old woman in R.L. Dogg’s head.
She turns up—torn dress, clodhoppers, smell o’ rum, late afternoon and wants
She’d also like a bit o’ food, being that she has none. Or says so.
I’ve never seen her, Liz either: we been cooped up, Dogg in Quarantine,
…………………………..And all that.
…………………………..R.L. Dogg, Poet.
…………………………..He’s got rants in his pants!
So we don’t really know what’s up on the outside—food lines, gas lines, social
…………………..Rebellion—death by tedium,
She wants money (Broke, the crone croaks);
…………….She wants food (Starved she squawks);
And Liz and I look over at our Buddha—rare wood, sprayed gold, sitting
…………….Serene on the kitchen counter (marble counter),
There’s a gold flame rising from his head—wisdom, wakefulness.
…………….Gautama looks on.
She’s hungry (in my head); she’s broke (in my head); and is she coming
…………….Some actual day, actual soon?
…………….For money, for food?
The Buddha, compassionate one, so beautiful,
Brought back all the way from Malaysia,
A decoration, beautiful diversion,
Looks at us now, waiting to see what comes next.


At the court of the Phaeacians, a concert by the minstrel Demodocus. This is the age of heroes, of myth, and the blind bard sings of just that: of a quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles. With a taut-stringed harp in his hands, Demodocus performs with such skill and pathos, in fact, that the court’s guest of honor—a wanderer recently happened upon them—subtly draws his mantle down, concealing his tears.


Their long looks crossing like spiderwebs
cloth. The cloth is beautiful. They stand
in clusters, shaking the snow
from their hoods and hair
though the whole atmosphere
shines with snow, and the ocean
moves darkly under the wind,
and clouds like empty sails.
Clamorous armies are even now
crossing the rivers. We must stay quiet:
the granaries are full. We have to walk
from hilltop to hilltop, we have to think
like stone. Speak like soft white stone.

No Artificial Sweeteners

Flickering so inconsistently in
and into being, footman to the tyrannies
of World Event and Serotonin,
not to mention negative ions, power lines,
digestion, it was very natural
His Darkness should burn a bewildering
percentage of his time trying to self-define.
He measured his usefulness to society
against the baskets of lemons people
leave on the sidewalk in lemon season,
grimaced. It was that season. The moon rose,
the little dogs came out for one last pee
before bed, and above Telegraph, a billboard
flickered: Dave’s Killer Bread. Purpose in every loaf.


It is said a plane has no inside,
no depth — just folds and intensities,
but here I am deep inside this Spirit
Airbus, folded into the bosoms
and paunches of the lumpenproletariat,
the Prince writes glumly in his notebook,
even my desire for intensity is weak,
I guess I’ll have some thoughts on the novel,
how it revalues empty time as luxurious,
not full, even as the value of luxury drops—
kill me. The irrigated desert scrolls past
like a mechanical Mondrian, thins to cut-rate Braque,
and it’s true the sunset is very beautiful
when brief, so tawdry when drawn on—

Pure verb

Lee was playing Liszt on the Bösendorfer,
wrinkling his nose — he still had some beef
with Liszt, but, he said, it would be
a greater shame to let these six extra keys
just sit there — I don’t understand
the Prince said quietly, weeping at the beauty
of the decadent music, the dark pearls
clittering down his porcelain cheeks,
collecting in a small pile in the deep folds
of the Heriz. The tone is more sensuous
in the middle range, Lee said, looking out at
the night as he played. But, mon dieu,
how the keys stick in this heat — packing
you tight with newspaper for the winter
can’t help that, alas, he smiled at the great black thing.


Myself and Rumur in the linguist’s house
tend the cat. She grows long hair he combs.

He says he sometimes cries while he combs
and though I haven’t seen it, I believe it.

The locks all stick: ‘you have to feel them.’
When I’m up till three the ancient dial

of the receiver also glows, tired and pale
as a streak of plankton. The classical station

must be left on, always, lower
than a murmur. It calms Sylvie,

who sleeps all day on the single speaker,
her back to the window,