Acknowledgment, 1964

Could have gone west. Could have packed your things,
who cares that you weren’t old enough to drive.
Could have sold yourself to truckers
and highwaymen, Could have gone down
the dark road between home and somewhere
better, the whole world watching tv and not one thinking of you.
Could’ve got lost. Could have said, “I don’t know”
when the waitress asked, “Where you live at?”
You could have lied and said, “New Jersey”
or “Mobile.” Of course, that assumes
you’d get past Mason Dixon.

You could have seen battlefields:
Gettysburg, Fredericksburg even Chicago
if you waded deep enough into summer. Could have slept
with your head on the ground like your sister,
her ear to the transistor, listening,
listening to “I Want to Hold You Hand.”
You could have said, “Fuck the Beatles”
and left them behind, shooting the lights out
of every stadium, every coliseum.

You could have made girls scream because
you were the stranger under the bleachers, that ember
of the cigarette burning in the darkness just outside their
porch lights’ glow. You could have named them;
Helen, Rachelle, Ida May and in Texas Irene Rosenberg
a girl just as lonely as you. Imagine,

your leaving before it ever got started. Where’s that
girl you married? You don’t know. You were half way
to Billings or Provo or Bend. You watched the cities
of the Midwest burn. You threw bottles and never
cut your hair. Remember the drum kit in Schlessinger’s
Instruments? How you crawled through the broken
window and banged away in the shards of that city.
If they could have seen you then! All muscle
and heart, sweating, sweating no more stupid melody
holding you back. Just the bass line, just the gas line
hissing and your foot on the pedal.

You could have gotten away. The country was different
a boy could walk without getting beaten beyond an inch
of his life, without getting lashed to a fence
in God forsaken Wyoming. Why, God hadn’t forsaken
Wyoming or Birmingham yet. Chaney, Goodman
and Schwerner safe in their beds. Perhaps you passed
by them. You could have passed me by and saved yourself
the whole mess. My mother doesn’t know you yet. She’s
on her back in the grass with some other man’s son.


Rosary Catholic Church

I remember the time she showed it to me. Each bead with a carving of a saint inside, chasm between robe and flesh or the hard line of a walking stick no longer than the leg of a staple. That’s what faith was, something I couldn’t see but felt all over. Like a charge she’d say. Like when they put the wires on my head and I shook and shook. I couldn’t imagine. Most days I didn’t even try. Why not play outside or bring every can in the house to the store for recycling? Much better than working the one thought over. Mother in the bed and if I looked closer Mother with the wires, thin as crickets legs and humming already, before the music even reached her. Mother glistening. Mother glowing with the spirit. All the windows of her mind blown out and the light pouring in so you can’t tell the fire from the moon. And the organ straining in the heat, the groan of the instrument pushed past comfort toward the highest register. But maybe not, maybe such a low groaning that you could feel it without knowing. How hot the pipes must have gotten. Those men in their white suits stepping back from her body so as not to get caught by the current. And this is just one day, she’d say. This is just one day of suffering.


O Mary Don’t You Weep Don’t You Mourn

What is joyful
O what lifts us up
Between the mouth’s
Opening to sing the sound
He tells you to and the sound
Coming out O Mary was a girl
Like all of us at the dances
In the fields with her friends
Watching the one boy
With his hair in his eyes throwing
A ball to his friends
Or at the market where
He brushed her hand just as she
Noticed the way the light made
The pomegranates not brighter
But deeper and wanted to
Tell him O she wanted to
Tell him so over the din
Of the vendors, the cheese maker,
The sheep’s heads lined up
And staring O staring with their
Cloudy eyes at her staring
Beyond him so as not to tell
Him how she’d make a place
For him if he’d just look up
And ask her to.