Three Poems

By W. S. Di Piero

Them Again

I don’t have to call them,
I never know when they’ll buzz,
the pests, then they can’t
stop talking, like taxi static
on the phone behind
whatever living voice
I’m trying to hear.
And now they’re back.
A headset twitters
near the famed Korean
who rides our bus repeating
“Remember me, remember
me to everybody” that
streams into wingbeats
when blackbirds slap from trees
and pretend to leave. I never know
where they’ll be, my skittish
talky dead, in dozens sung
by girls skipping rope,
Mama told Papa don’t be so bad,
or deer bounding down court,
Get back, pick him up!
They talk their talk
and claim me: my father
who hardly spoke at all;
a brain-fevered friend
cussing Jesus in tall cotton;
another who lived to quarrel
and still can’t shut up,
like fanatical mosquitoes,
ladybugs clogging the screen,
or gossipy mob of moths
stuck to the underside
of our incomplete existence,
batting their bright wings
at our brief blackbird world,
so much noise and so it goes
when this big-nosed redhead,
before getting on,
sucks and dumps his smoke,
jet-trailing through the door—
he hacks and he hawks
and he sets them loose again
to crowd me, saying the same
senseless things they say.


Night Lights, Providence Amtrak Station

On the platform, sick with myself
for reasons I hardly recall,
—in the tunnel’s whippy trash
the oncoming locomotive lights
looked intimate and mothy—
I thought (of course) I’d jump,
to see what I could see.

But my angle reversed itself,
and I remembered instead
driving the Schuylkill Freeway
past 30th Street Station, looking in
at shed, silvered rail yards,
mousy lights, switching tracks
like tracer lights arcing forth
all directions to some other where,
when I considered the thousands,
the loved and the estranged I never knew,
emerging from the underworld,
unhappy, unfree, but on the move.

On that dark, low-ceilinged platform,
I knew, or convinced myself I knew,
that if I fell into those cataract lights
and stopped, the way we fall
in dreams until we stop,
I might see the face of God,
because I’d see all things at once.

I tell you now what held me back
was the image of you, earlier that night,
pointing to a full moon briared
in a beech tree’s circling branches.
There it would be, once a month,
unconscious and available,
alive, as we’re alive and here,
in stark, lovely, godless repetitions
good or bad, sustaining us, as is:
circle, light, branch, recurrence
to hold us in our place in time.


Cab Ride Downtown

And salted was our food
in snowy April, a long board
and friends in Spanish Harlem,
shot glasses, skirts slapping knees,
and my old-style artist friend
snakes his arm to the bouzouki,
then starts to skate his hand
across the butcher paper
and sweeps you into form
right there: “Just a thing,
you know? A nothing drawing.”
The belly dancer’s working
a little too hard and thereby
shows inferior artistry,
and for her next act
knocks a waiter’s tray
that splashes you, I mean
the picture Paolo made,
with burger grease. Only a few
curved and straight lines
—like hill and horizon, the nature
of you, your fairness and light,
we all said, gestured just so
into life, and you said Look
at these stains, three times said it,
remember? Instructing yourself
in disbelief, inside our cab,
snow still falling, April holding on,
you holding the ragged page
you’d restore overnight
with sufficient salt,
so when you said
Ah, well, nothing’s perfect,
there were things
still left to say.

W. S. Di Piero lives in San Francisco and teaches at Stanford University. He is the author of eight books of poetry, the most recent of which is Brother Fire (Knopf ). He is also the author of four volumes of translations and three collections of essays and criticism on art, literature, and personal experience.

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