March 11, 2005

freedom hangs like heaven over everyone

The Heavens
-- by Denis Johnson

From mind to mind
I am acquainted with the struggles
of these stars. The very same
chemistry wages itself minutely
in my person.
It is all one intolerable war.
I don't care if we're fugitives,
we are ceaselessly exalted, rising
like the drowned out of our shirts...

The Risen
-- by Denis Johnson

How sad, how beautiful
the sea
of tumbling astronauts,
their faces barred
and planed and green amid
the deep.

I see them dancing in the kindness
of a broken answer,

by the light
of the jukebox
by the light

of our fiery homes.
We are that sunset.
The angels envy us.

like a mother burns
like an evil flame --


the angels stand up inside themselves.

Man with Wooden Leg Escapes Prison
-- by James Tate

Man with wooden leg escapes prison. He's caught.
They take his wooden leg away from him. Each day
he must cross a large hill and swim a wide river
to get to the field where he must work all day on
one leg. This goes on for a year. At the Christmas
Party they give him back his leg. Now he doesn't
want it. His escape is all planned. It requires
only one leg.

The Buddhists Have the Ball Field
--by James Tate

The Buddhists have the ball field. Then the teams
arrive, nine on one, but only three on the other.
The teams confront the Buddhists. The Buddhists
present their permit. There is little point in
arguing it, for the Buddhists clearly have the
permit for the field. And the teams have nothing,
not even two complete teams. It occurs to one team
manager to interest the Buddhists in joining his
team, but the Buddhists won't hear of it. The teams
walk away with their heads hung low. A gentle rain
begins. It would have been call anyways, they
think suddenly.

Dear Reader
by James Tate

I am trying to pry open your casket
with this burning snowflake

I'll give up my sleep for you.
This freezing sleet keeps coming down
and I can barely see.

If this trick works we can rub our hands
together, maybe

start a little fire
with our identification papers.
I don't know but I keep working, working

half hating you,
half eaten by the moon.


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