Where’d the geckoes go,
my daughter said when she got up
& at leisure there at the white table
—a plain man & his beautiful daughter—
we played with it:
Where’d the geckoes go
Where’d the geckoes go
Then she wondered what sounds better:
Where’d the geckoes go
or Where did the geckoes go so
we played with that, contrapuntal,
the green geckoes themselves asleep behind beams,
no deeper beat than their breathing in sleep,
but these beats we tossed between us old too,
my daughter at last choosing Where did & I accusing her
rightly of being romantic, worrying that in that
more solid beat she’d be swept away by the first
tight-skinned earringed conga-player who came along,
captured in the rapt melody first of his eyes
then of his drums then the machine of his hips,
a rhythm she’d never shake, an aged half-toothed waitress
in a beachside greasy spoon who came to that place long ago
& now turns her head at the sound
of anything spoken melodic, extra syllables
be damned. So in a try to save her
from this admirable ignominy I plead
the superfluity of did—it’s not conversational, I say,
though my poetry’s filled with it, calling
syncopation more subtle, less rigid,
but I can tell there’s no case to be made—
none: It’s did, Dad, it’s did.
And she walks away in her new body,
going somewhere else.


Still Life, Man at Table

A man in his seventies is breathing so softly
that even we, a book in our hands
in the late evening light
can hardly hear him.

But we see him: not in our darkening room
but in the room of this page. A page
holds so much, doesn’t it: an old man
at his table in the slant morning light,
breathing silently, his newspaper
spread in front of him, a cup of warm milk
at his elbow. We know that the milk is yet
untouched, will hardly be touched, though
he himself has warmed it, as is his habit.

He is heavy, the wide cheeks of a counselor,
his eyes a little like van Gogh’s, but burdened
with the naiveté of Ophelia.
It is this second for which his friends
—far outside this picture—love him.

In his newspaper he is reading of wars—
and though he is reading of wars,
he is thinking of orchards and delicious
apples, their mottled skin, the sugar they’ll yield.

Does he rise now and go into the fields, or out
to market? Don’t ask that. Put the man
back in the box of this page, contain him here
until its disintegration. Leave him
alone. Can’t you hear
by the sound of his breath
that at last he is happy?