Two Poems

August Kleinzahler

Christmastime in Coronado

The attack jets comes in low
over the ocean
past the tennis courts and the Duchess’s cottage,
in tandem
low over the Navy golf-course
headed for the North Island airstrip
then wheel to the left
out over the water again,
the afternoon’s last light
making a movie set of the offshore islands
around and back once more
past the grand old wooden hotel and its cupolas
with a series of watery, high-pitched whups
as they cut back their engines
and disappear over the ridge.

The town seems very still, almost empty, rich.
Christmas displays in store windows.
A goodly stream of cars.
The traffic-lights make a sound too, bird-like.
I often get confused.
The roaring overhead. The traffic noise.
There is no place to go.

Out on the Silver Strand
the joggers and sweethearts take in the sunset
the air overhead as busy as war
Skyhawks, Vigilantes, Intruders
the cargo and surveillance planes
sub-hunters, gunships
Phantom, Tomcat, Cobra ...
It must have given the late President
great succour out there on his island
those long troubled evenings in San Clemente
to see the lights
and track the arc of the distant thunder
as he sat, with a drink, looking
out that enormous window at the sea, the stars
a blur of light from the distant shore.

I have read, of the late President
from those who had been close to him, through it all
that he had in him a reflective
one might even say philosophical cast of mind.
I wouldn’t know to say it wasn’t true.
I wouldn’t know to say.
But I myself have been thinking constantly of America.
Only of late, only here
with the might of the nation roaring overhead
around the clock
spewing vapour from their strakes
going fucking nowhere
and noisily coming back.


How much meat moves
Into the city each night
The decks of its bridges tremble
In the liquefaction of sodium light
And the moon a chemical orange

Semitrailers strain their axles
Shivering as they take the long curve
Over warehouses and lofts
The wilderness of streets below
The mesh of it
With Joe on the front stoop smoking
And Louise on the phone with her mother

Out of the haze of industrial meadows
They arrive, numberless
Hauling tons of dead lamb
Bone and flesh and offal
Miles to the ports and channels
Of the city’s shimmering membrane
A giant breathing cell
Exhaling its waste
From the stacks by the river
And feeding through the night