My Spanish-speaking students ask me where
the English language comes from and I tell
them the Anglo-Saxons. But the conquest
of England by France made their native tongue
lower class, so crude and illiterate
that even to this day fuck, shit and piss
aren’t said in polite society. We’re
ashamed and self-hating hearing our Dame
English is partly French. I ask, “Is there
any French in Spanish like rapprochement
or double entendre?” Adamantly
they shake their heads no, no, till one student
looks at the rest and says, “There’s déjà vu.”
They have to agree: “Déjà vu, that’s true.”
I used to clean cat vomit up but now
I don’t unless it’s in the path I walk.
Otherwise it can stay unlike broken
glass or garbage with day old fish in it.
In less than an hour or less than that
the cat comes back to lick and eat it up.
You have to have the patience to leave it
forgotten as you should an argument
on politics. To change your mind you must
change yourself and some people are afraid
to be someone else. Have you ever met
a racist who’s not stupid? I haven’t.
Sad but true, you can't make a rock into
a jewel no matter how you want to.
Light comes down on Saint Francis through the cleft.
The Illuminator we do not see
only the Illuminated who bleeds
out of his hands. My friend Bill Kushner left
the hospital this morning at long last
the noon sun shining down on his bright pate.
The poet asks himself, “Is it too late
to start again? Should I forget it? Fast
life goes on whether I do or I don’t
make it to the cab at the corner. Fuck it.
I might as well write another sonnet.
Just what the world needs, another poem.”
The poet lives unwanted and then is
wanted when dead. Home is where the light is.
“Teacher, I don’t know what a pig pen is.“
“What’s a pen?” “This is a pen,” some students
say showing them. “That pen contains ink. Pens
can contain pigs. Pig pen. Ink pen.” “Ink is
a noun just like a pen is. How can nouns
be adjectives?” “English is an easy
language that uses one word for many
things. We pen stories and pen the pig.” Now
still seeing some puzzled faces I draw
a swirled tail on the board connecting a
rump to a back, ear, and head until a
pig appears. The class laughs seeing me draw
two vertical lines through horizontal
ones fencing that pig in once and for all.
There was a transitory spider’s web
clinging to a metaphoric branch of
birch that I undid stupidly touching
it as I was going down the mountain
side, the troubled spider in the middle
clinging to a strand of its work in the
wind. Happily I see what I had hoped
to see climbing back up. The web is here
again. Dear spider, you do not know how
glad I am that you’ve done what I’d undone
delicate, strong and glistening. These words
will be a sign post telling the passer
not to reach for your tantalizing string.
The poem touches and leaves it hanging.
I haven’t an idea in my head
except the morning sun behind the roof
has risen high enough to come and soothe
my aching neck. Michael Jackson is dead.
Life is one surprise after another
One could never say shock—We know
something is always coming down the road
eggs and salmon then a flat tire later
on—Whatever might happen on the moor
soon’s yesterday. Dark clouds chill the garden
and wind stirring the pine overwhelms and
blows Americans back to their room.
Farrah Fawcett’s dead too no longer now
on her way out stopping to smell the flowers.
Every snake I saw today turned out
to be a stick, the first one this morning
was big, its head and upper part rearing
off the ground provoked as a besotted
Scotsman ready for a fight; it was a
branch broken from a pine that had impaled
the ground. Another came along the road
twisting itself into what it was
a stick that took its own good time to form.
Right now I see that that could be a snake
down there where my ankle dangles naked
from a rock coiling half hidden in thorns
and shadows but do you know what? That mouth’s
only a stick when I figure it out.
DON YORTY is a poet and garden activist who helped win the battle to establish community gardens in the East Village, NYC. His poetry collections include A Few Swimmers Appear and Poet Laundromat, and he has video-documented the work of hundreds of poets through his blog, donyorty.com. His work appears in Out of This World, An Anthology of the Poetry of the St. Mark's Poetry Project, 1966-1991, (Crown), LiVE MAG!, Literati Quarterly and others. His novel, What Night Forgets, was published by Herodias Press. He lives in New York City.