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Notes From A Gutted House

ISSUE:  Winter 1984

Waiting to remember theorems,
isthmuses, and litmus tests,
I dozed through school
and dawdled home where
the parent wars went on
in an arsenal of booze.

Besotted sergeants
dreaming cadences
I couldn’t hear, they woke
geared to fight.
Day after day, I wanted to find
them charred, orders half-singed
at the back of
their throats.

Now a plume of smoke writes its last
command from the gutted house.
The combatants are released. Fall’s
sequences repeat a downward drift
of intervals and leaves, hickory, gold,
garnet in the tupelo. The same red
chevron in the oak is a tanager or
a cardinal phrasing its song as my

burnt-out masters cool their
heels underground. And waiting
for parallel lines to meet,
for brackets to vanish
in algebra, I crane my neck to
sight-read the birds, the small notes
of their flight streaming like music.


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