Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Anthology: a collection of flowers

You thought bees’ wings made that hum
but the buzzing is breath,
the body lined with vibrating flutes.
That’s the kind of information I love:
photosynthesis in asparagus, sperm
that can smell lilies of the valley,
how to solve for the hypotenuse, I love that,
you should have heard the roofers laugh
as they sawed into the rafters.
Maybe it’s best not to care
whether they understand the comma.
Like big deep heavy shovelfuls of snow
is grading papers, scraping
along the sidewalk you know
is buried there, somewhere,
a firm argument under the fluff.
Aren’t thirty years enough? Forty?
Surely all they’ll remember is Laila
putting me in a grass skirt
to teach me hula. Use a paper bag
until it softens and the seams
give out, getting old’s like that.
Weird to think your ancient teachers
are still around, even now!
Mr. Kotary! He was just a kid
teaching trig in that disastrous school,
throwing erasers at us.
That was back when teachers broke
blackboards to get our attention.
Now humiliation does the trick—
rationing bathroom passes.
What is it they want to teach?
What is it we want to know?
The PhD told me after the last surgery
he woke up having forgotten everything:
dimensions, formulae, how to paint in the lines.
Goodbye tenured appointment. Hello
world-class wine-making. Some losses
are like that. Terminal velocity
softens the fall. The cat can drop
thirty-two stories and skitter away.
Can the same be said of a cow?
When the candidate comes to campus
what are we looking for?
Questions circle the room
close to the floor. We conclude
whoever invented the desk chair
should be hog-tied to one,
a sort of medieval punishment.
That’s another thing I love, Middle English
like a foundling wrapped in wet nappies
it took a whole country to keep alive
just by talking. Chaucer,
you had me at “Whan that Aprille,”
I’d have leapt into bed with you,
even a lousy bed. Despite the years,
underneath our strange apparel
we look much the same.
My students are too polite to point,
I never know what they’re feeling.
Are they feeling? Ruth Stone remembers
the old curtains in the place
where her husband hung himself.
It’s not a test. Maybe words
have leaked gas and the poem won’t start.
Maybe it’s me, closer to the end
than to birth, dreaming of death.
Harold, I’d like you to draw me
big again, next to the vanishing tracks.  

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