Two Poems

August Kleinzahler

My Life in Letters

There you are,
looking like the Khan’s most favoured concubine,
but in a London doorway,
cigarette and beige Aquascutum, smiling,
at me, it would seem,
all ardour, woundedness and hope.
How would I not have adored you?
And you … and you …
‘Dear August …’ Oh, no I can’t, please …
The carnage …

Drifts of blue aerogrammes:
I tried phoning last night …

If I could somehow make a single balloon payment
to rid myself of all this,
or with a click, like Adobe Reader downloads:
Clear List

Worse still the weight of kindness –
tumuli, drumlins, lava heaps of kindness,
everywhere, choking the landscape …

Must I just now be reminded:
how much, how often, how many, and unprompted?

Dare I pretend to be worthy?
I would be a monster.
Monster? you say.
Please, I am too inconsequential …

I’m sorry, I’m sorry …
STOP IT, WITH THE ‘I’M SORRY,’ DAMMIT!

No, no, I have disappointed everyone.
Even those of you who might have believed otherwise,
trust me, you were mistaken.

40 years, 20 marbled letter files of proof:
I stand here before you, the accused.

1975

Even the crickets are unnerving me tonight
and the smell of camphor in the warm room
worse still; my woollens will outlast me.
Home again, from points north, west,
a suitcase full of useless books and no prospects.
There’s a folk song that goes like that:
insipid – pathetic, really – without the music.
This appears to be a condition I shall not escape,
a gravitational field to be suffered through all my days,
like some wayward, doomed alien.
At least the folks are asleep. Getting along in years,
they shrug. A shrug means peace.
The stomach knows, when the clams are bad, or worse.
Perhaps that is truly the site for love,
or where love takes root, finally, and sets up shop.
I had imagined something much less uncomfortable.
The dirty aureole across the Hudson is New York.
Jets sink into it. Here, on the cliffs opposite,
trees whisk themselves. The wind freshens for rain.
Even George Washington, on the lam from Howe,
hid out here. He ate and ran
south. Ask any ghost along the Hackensack.
It’s late, very late; that I do know.
Mother’s bought new bed linen for the occasion,
described on the package as ‘duck egg blue’,
so clean and cool I could be afloat on a lake.