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Poverty Music

ISSUE:  Winter 1996

Full moon and a siren wailing,
the freeway a quarter-mile off,
somnolent, never sleeping—half a cigarette gone,
when up the steps she comes
in search of an edge, the world
a verb in her throat: she is small,
her coat the color of sandalwood, and she weaves
her length in and out the wrought-iron railing
pleasurably in silence,
eschewing the hand’s advance,
showing a sensible mistrust of smoke,
then gone, caught up in her urges, her brief visitation
accomplished the way, tonight,
high-school kids with their throaty automobiles,
down some stretch of backroad,
in one, long diminishing harangue,
say so much with so little.


The world gives up its ghosts,
which walk among us and are us—
neighbors arranged in separateness,
stacked three-high in brown stone,
the rough traffic of days we think we enter
when it’s all an elaborate adieu,
a leave-taking allowed for and forgotten,
like the it in it’s snowing,
spoken casually, yet beyond dominion . . . .


I saw a crack of it, blue,
then the deeper ether.


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