I live near Boston and teach philosophy at Boston University. Besides academic pieces, I write fiction (when I’m up to it) and poems (when I can’t help it). I use a fountain pen—my link to tradition—and write to music. I’ve published essays, stories, and poems in a wide variety of journals. A new story collection, Heiberg’s Twitch, is forthcoming.
Up from lonesome enseamed sheets
naked as the delving thrush outside
to the false cool of tile, gush of
water, lustration of brush,
the bitter hope of shaving;
thus begins the day, humorless,
inane, accompanied by the prattling
exigency of the morning news.
For world events it’s a sluggish month;
time oozes and adheres like heated tar
and history’s on hiatus. As for me, I’ll
drive nowhere, fly no place, visit no one;
just resume yesterday’s offensive, a
desultory assault on a deserted fort.
I’ll look on the summer green at every
window; admire the stillness of dangling
leaves going about their proper work of
languidly turning light into maple.
Farmers sow not just wheat but hope,
fear fissured clay, dread turbid mud.
Crops are carried on a tightrope
over abysses, drought and flood.
High summer’s war is out of sight,
camouflaged in mold, veiled by grass,
where insect Hectors fly or fight,
live dangerously and die fast.
Defeat is weather not event,
a dull commitment that persists
like marriage, chronic pain and rent,
like scars on a suicide’s wrists.
Narcoleptic, he cannot keep
awake. Even though it’s defeat
that makes him drowse then fall asleep
at 2 p.m., he blames the heat.
Warm heavens clear above nocturnal eyes
scrutinizing turf for grubs. Still sometimes,
glancing up, he’ll see what children do on
summer nights lying down on some hillock
in a field, feel awe at all that much and
ache, as from a stitch of guilt, fumbling for
Posidonius’ cosmic sympathy.
The wisest of our forebears divided
the sky into bears and heroes, sought hints
to harvest prudently or hastily
conceive an heir. On such a night as this
in Babylon, in Nineveh and Xanadu,
some grave savant must have forgot his job
for just a while, ceased grubbing for advice,
made giddy by the luminous chaos.
For a time it wouldn’t matter if the gods
made the weather, if weather forged the gods,
or if the king will win or lose should he
attack at dawn. Now as then the July
moon floats on a July pond, skunk moon like
a mother’s breast, new as her infant’s
fingernail, glabrous as the murdered epileptic’s
pate, limpid yang yoked to a liquid yin,
self-contained lodestone of butterflies.
On such a night, beneath such a moon, who
wouldn’t yearn to be a Chinese poet
in a skiff, tipsy lunatic of tides?
“In July” first appeared in Cumberland Poetry Review
From above it’s rational, here below
nearly mad. He’s trying to learn French,
spills coffee, swears; she’s aiming a screed
at the right-wing radio; others, not
loving their kids just now, let alone mankind,
are numbed by a loathing grown routine.
Up close it’s freedom, from on high sheer
necessity. Clogging arteries,
metal platelets coagulate on the
boulevards. We Sinatras would do it
our way, but every Frank is squashed
into a file, beguiling only helicopters.
Yet even the commute has its romance
and wordless tragedies. Up front a
couple unexpectedly kisses,
two heads wed beneath a red light; in the
stagnant rush hour of the soul a bald
man strikes his poll twice against the wheel.
Each locked in our private chambers of
imagery, we apprehend the confines
of our freedom, the glutinous grids through
which we creep. Which is more terrible,
order or snarl? the preternatural
pattern or this rising sap of rage?
©2015 Robert Wexelblatt