My kitchen is filled with men in black suits
I ask one of them to tell me the story of Batman,
as I know the outline, the bare facts found in comic books,
but not the deeper mythology.
Their spokesman listens patiently, says:
“We can only tell the true story of Bruce Wayne in plainsong.”
He assembles them as a choir. They tune, begin.
The low, solemn voices of men rise and fall
as the tragedy of Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne
As I wake, I think: this melody is not plainsong or chant.
It sounds a bit like nineteenth century hymnody
like “Abide With Me, or “Lead Me Gently Home, Father.”
I sat yesterday at the scene of a previous poem,
listening to a unctuous woman recite M. L.
Greenwood’s God Bless the USA,
cringing at how poorly she scanned it.
Poetry is often the refuge of people stuck
between an old truth and a new expression.
and I respect what they’re grasping for, and I’m proud
to be an American
So I played marches with the band,
sitting under a tent in a parking lot
and listened to a recording of I Am the Flag
the high school JROTC played through speakers
connected to someone’s iPhone, while they
passed a folded flag to anyone
who wanted to touch it.
The ritual would not have been diminished by
Quaker silence, an undeclared question.
He played taps again under the tree,
a sweet, sad, eternal bugle call.
How soon the sound turns to gibberish, the
way form follows meaning into blind alleys. Listen:
I just got through playing Bach suites on
the wrong instrument for them, the wrong way,
most likely, but as it was it was meaningful,
as it was.
Written in response to a dVerse prompt: write a quadrille, using the word sound.
I look at file dates and think
that was four years ago
and wonder what’s happening to my mind,
what keeps happening
the accelerating rate
things keep changing
One month to the day
is when I finally dream of him alive
not counting half-awake forgetfulness
I should tell Dad about
We are both in hospital sharing a room
perhaps it is another accident
my reasons are vague, the mild, hopeful complaints
of hospital dramas where the patient goes home
And I cannot remember our conversations
In the dream, I can’t remember how I got there
which sounds like something serious, actually
Dad and I actually talked, five or six weeks ago
about how tired he was of the hospital
I recalled my own stay, the connection
even I knew was limited – but all I could offer
I almost got away with it. He grinned
“but you were getting better.”
He didn’t know what kind of body to expect
he just hoped for legs that worked.
And it’s only when I wake up
that I remember Dad is gone
from the hospital for good
Dad is gone for good.
When I turned my iPhone back on as we taxied to the gate
preparing for a dash for my connecting flight
a voicemail had arrived:
The following is important information about your flight
which has been cancelled due to an earlier cancellation
due to weather in your area.
And this is how they told me I’d be emerging from the airport
an abstractly secure place with seemingly no connections
to the city around it
and negotiating with a native american woman
driving a Honda Odyssey with Super 8 vinyl lettering
do you have rooms?
And still I felt safer there than I’d done the day before
in a sterile concourse lacking only the words
FOR YOUR PROTECTION
on the sterile walls. Only the voice of some Orwellian god
droning every few minutes in the interest of airline security
all passengers are reminded to…
do nothing as you would do in a normal sort of world
and yet the interesting conversations with strangers
are so often in a seat
strapped into an aluminum tube and hurtling toward something.
I only learned today that the local anesthetic
my dentist used for extracting part of a tooth
and building up a partial, stumpy bit
of composite resin
in preparation for a later, larger
extraction of cash for a crown
is almost certainly not novocaine,
a generic term for Procaine
since the trade name Novocain
lost its battle with “ubiquity,”
before losing out altogether
to upstart dental anesthetics
like Lidocaine. I may never have
been injected with novocaine
in my life, as it turns out.
But my point, before this research
led me astray, was the feeling
or non-feeling, of a golf-ball-sized
part of my mouth. Hardly seems
important any more.
All fascinating dental drug facts from Wikipedia. I’m sorry I looked it up.
…Ranks of books
On the sides — old Miltons, Tolstoys, Wuthering
Heights, Ackermann’s Oxford. A holograph
Copy of Keats’s “To Autumn”…
— from The Dream of a House, Reynolds Price
I find myself in medias res
as one always does in dreams
in a small office, such as
an associate professor
at a branch campus
like the one I attended
In real life I have
a home office
my office at my company’s office
an office under construction at a new location
an office I can borrow at my company’s main office
and the use of a co-working space downtown
So it’s not surprising that I’ve forgotten about this one
since it doesn’t really exist
but still I kick myself for having done so
and wonder why I rented the co-working space
which really does exist
and what would have happened
to all these books, every single one of them
a Penguin edition, bearing an orange and white spine,
had I not remembered them, or this wonderful view,
this forest outside a picture window.
Still dreaming, but starting to suspect,
I think of Reynolds Price’s poem
The Dream of a House
and compare my middlebrow taste in dream books.
But the principal motivation remains,
the recurring theme in these many
fugues of the subconscious
This is yours, understand. Meant for you.
I wake before being taken to the closet.
My sons march on the same earth
I practiced on a different century ago
but that was before I tried writing a novel
getting married, watching
Remains of the Day.
I can’t recognize the place
because the new band room
and a fence has been added on
and so much grass has grown
As shown in a movie like Lost in Translation
best experienced with headphones, the way
sounds of a strange city come at you wrong
out of phase
are what separate you from the self
that worries about the past and future, which
liberates you for a moment
which must nevertheless be saved up for,
and paid with interest.