Rock and Roll: Killiney Beach
For three days I was a stranger in your city,
Pressing my palms to a train window
Watching for the blue glint of the bay.
I thought I might find you in the water’s thin skin,
In the creamy foam, speckled and bearded with wrack.
A place where wanting feels like gritty eyes,
A sore throat and not enough sleep,
A place where the wind scours your hands and your face with salt.
I came as close to the water as the water would allow me.
I picked up as many stones as I could
But they weren’t enough to make me believe
I had stolen some kernel of you from this beach—
This ordinary beach, curved softly as a lip or a thumb.
White houses watched me from the hills,
And an old man pointed the way to the village.
But it’s Good Friday, he said. You can’t get a drink.
I said that was fine, I was used to being thirsty.
Rock and Roll: Boomerang
At home in bright flat America
Red and white halter, blue shorts
Sucking Bomb-Pops on the concrete porch
Thumbing through the Tiger Beat boys
Who hung five on their skateboards
Sun-bleached, enriched Wonder Bread
Singing baby baby baby, teen dream.
They did not move me.
Back to school in dirty November
Brown cords, muddy shoes,
1979, clouds rolling over America,
Like the sun never even happened
Landslide, lowered heads, burrowing in.
Sounds of hoary beards, hot-tubs
Drop-ceilings, flannel and fern
Album-sides on the FM, mountain jam,
Shoveling dirt over whatever
White light, white heat was left.
Walking down Sunrise
The day you came through—
Her radio next to my ear
Woolen mittens, numb toes
Only her and me in the crusted snow.
Someone took a chance.
Shot you from a spire forty
Miles away in New York City,
A bullet to rip through the clouds
Honed laser, beam of red light.
The wind tore you up, scattered you,
Reconstituted you in transistors.
You rose up singing.
FM never heard a free bird like this,
Young and strain and wintergreen,
And sweet stinging strings,
Throat and muscle, wire and wing.
You moved me. Who was that? I cried,
An owl in the ruins. Who, who?
Now winter comes again
but light shines through,
Now the lamps are lit to pierce the dark.
Rock and Roll: On Your Birthday in a Fearful Year
Because to look up at the sky feels dangerous now.
You might draw the notice of the man
Whose job it is to seize your brief moment of joy,
And throw it down, crush its face on the pavement
With a boot on the back of its neck.
Because you can’t stop knowing, all day long,
What lurks on the dark side of the building,
What follows you from house to car to dinner,
A dinner you can hardly taste for the sound of
Whimpering and snarling just outside the door.
Put one foot wrong and the call is made,
Your friend taken away in cuffs. Or
It rains for weeks and the mud slides down the hill
To choke the house. Or the children disappear.
Or the parched woods catch fire and burn.
These are acts of God (these are not acts of God.)
You are not yourself, I am not me,
The truth is not the truth.
But let me inside this dome, this shelter of dark and light.
I promise not to stay too long. I won’t trouble you.
See I’ve waited in the street all day
While the sun burned a hole through my skull
And sparks whirled at the edge of my vision.
Only here are we not afraid to take food and water
From a stranger, even if the food is stale,
Even if the water is warm inside the bottle.
Lead me trembling into the cool sanctuary.
Something like a cathedral, I think:
The choir loft here, the nave there. The hidden chapel.
The holy of holies. An oblong of undulating votive light.
And there, bathed in the colors of a rose window,
Your face, crafted by a God who loves you.
Nothing, nothing in the world is as important
As your hands, as the movement of your fingers.
This has always been the truth.