Variations on My Life             

                (after Hejinian)


A bit of flesh, enamel, and cloth,
            a child,
                         looked at me like history:
papa seated at the wheel,
                          polished bald,
a tired landscape
             beckoning to a little thing
                           who sings a laugh.

I link to a picture every new war,
             always a beach
                        with chirping and trills,
where birds won't harm my marigolds,
             trees smile and, look there,
                         it's 1969.
How could I ever have wondered
            that such and such
                         is art?

And who needs aging?
            Time was
                        might anyone have been a magician.
Airport time is normative--
             more a freedom
                        than a shore.
When your flight approaches,
             and you are done to order,
                         you can arrange it all from there.

How can anyone find astrology interesting
              when the apple
                         is in the pie?
We work for love,
               for no one more than those who people
                          the silence when the radio breaks.
There is no solitude
                with carrots, radishes, and beans.
                           Little silences hum between the big ones.


From chard and tomatoes
           by a judicious tree,
from peas and garlic
           by the abundant sea,
she chalks down order,
           determines the nature of progress.

Despite the familiarity of roses,
            the certainty of matter,
she does not linger on the birds.
             She is quite the child of immovable fact.
Even elephants at the circus are solid,
              the rings clotted with their knees.

In her search for a hidden city,
            on a coast that never goes dark,
she circles back, loops wide
            where the headland turns the river,
where everything is boardwalk,
             and the dark layered with flowering shrubs.

Her sleepy father stands at the rail.
            He dreams of a worn-out suit
and the larger cars we drove at the time.
            Only now, of course, comes
the comic satisfaction of knowing
             there was nothing he could have done.

On her more faithless days, she says,
             there are some sights still surprising:
say, robins worming in the goldenrod,
             a lull in the activity of clouds,
the old apothecary filling a jar
             in a fit of comprehension.

She juggles sheep for sleep,
             apples for good luck.
She does have a compulsion.
             For eight years or so,
the distance was birds.
             Every bird was really a word.


His daughter wanted a grammar where you wonder if when it's gone you can still speak.

He'd taken his fill of life already and declined his tired mind like a verb.

She waited for the future perfect then spilled the sugar. Goodbye will have been enough.

His desk was seldom clean after his dreams of rose gardens gave the financial districts a thrill.

She lacked patience for quiet landscapes, but her window gave her views of little airplanes.

He insisted the child learn human history, reasoning out lines of verse to drive her forward.

Her ice cubes melted in order and she took to napping, restless as old bottles of pop.

He notified the agent of their plans, even though vacations always troubled his German side.

He balked when, singing at the sunny window, she told him nature is garbage.

Seeing her there at the sill, he knew a man, her lover, would know something on the dot.

Her next song was too sweet in the original, but little sirens went off in another language.

She was dreaming of an alternative to the triumphant bourgeoisie's artful disarray.

Even coffee drinkers worked in the garden for all she knew--the obverse of a 9-to-5 job.

At daylight threadbare sparrows kept telling her of dusty grass and the lilac smell of rust.

He still saw an outward likeness. She had the family shrug, but no head for money.

Unexpected surprises somehow always correlated to ding-dongs out there on the telephone.

She followed the high notes to a thirsty tenor practicing in the next street.

They proceeded to the hidden monument, driving through an incomprehensible tunnel.

She was astonished but didn't care to multiply. She couldn't see a collision at their speed.

         © Lance Newman 2007