JAY! (for Clare)
Anyone who knows me knows
the blue jay is my totem bird:
I have found his feathers at odd times
stuck between pages of Tacitus
or floating down from a Beech limb
where no Jay had seemed to perch.
His raucous proclamations—high tenor
to a crow, wakens me to winter’s smudge
against the glass. His shifting moods,
his pilfering of stones his dropping of
acorns from a hundred feet
of sky—all that, and then my daughter
autistic, lost to her own smudges
her own ferocious light cries “jay! jay!”
Because she has heard him every morning
at her window
Because he is the “and” that separates
and joins us.
For Wallace and Real Estate
Perhaps the truth begins with a walk around the lake
certainly, not an arduous walk
but, a leisurely stroll wherein you pause
for the dead pike, its gills still livid red
its eye saying “aye” or “I” or
“glassy man in the glassy eye of a pike,
what have your perambulations availed thee?”
Perhaps nothing like this occurs, or, gingerly,
you toe the dead fish and get on with it
What are you getting on with?
The walk. Oh yes. But the way through the world
is more difficult to find than the way beyond it.
To be beyond the world, one simply prays or
starves, or dies, but to be in the world, not above your life
(see: saints and whips) nor below it (see sinners and whips)
but in it—is like teaching toads to dance.
It can be done, and for profit, but why?
Last night, I dreamed I was a neutrino
penetrating the lake. Only my journey
was visible—like a pike slipping through
the shallows, the tri-foil, the lily pads,
the murk of a rainy Monday. What is Monday
to a pike? perhaps a fairer question might be
what is the lake to me? I circle it in a wind breaker.
There are lovely cottages that surround it, claiming
a shore line is capable of trespass, and therefore
trespassers will be prosecuted. It is hard to
walk around the lake. I have to break the law
or go around the houses which have cut off my
view. Can truth and property co-exist?
The dead pike is a murder mystery. No
raccoon claw, or fish lure tells the tale.
These are summer cottages, and it is not
yet summer. Still the dog with the nine heads
froths at my approach. The snake pokes
out its tongue to taste my reality.
The point of vision and desire is the same
but if you cut off my vision, will my desire
be re rerouted? Will I look at the cottages
the way I look at the swirl of a great fish?
And how do I know the fish is great
if only by its swirl? After the final no there
comes a yes upon which hangs the
future of the world. I close my eyes and
the cottages disappear. The trespass signs
vanish. I imagine the lake, and walk it
full circle. The Pike rises to the silver flash
of no one’s lure. I say out loud, the poet
is priest of the invisible. The circle widens.
until this, too, is a lake.
Three Poems in Homage to Nicanor Parra:
1. The Wine Gnats
the wine gnats are very drunk
I used to get drunk
and would fall into holes
as often as they
but I escaped
guess I was luckier
than the gnats
or this, too, is a bottle
and some eye
is staring at me
2. Stars are Cliché
You’re not supposed to
look at stars
or rather you can look
until your neck
but don’t dare
put them in
that’s a cliché
like mountains and rivers
and angels and ashes
and, god forbid, the moon.
But fuck it all:
here’s some stars
right next to a full moon
and the hunch backed
shadow of a mountain
that is inhaling
and exhaling like
a dosing old lady
with her dentures glowing
in a glass on the dresser
Suddenly (forgive me)
I love that old lady
And want to
kiss her furrowed brow
I know, I know
furrowed? But damn it,
It is and a peasant
is standing there
digging up potatoes
he finds her little soul
the one she misplaced
and places it
just so above her house.
It is a star! One of a constellation,
No doubt about it.
Perhaps it will guide me
out of this poem.
Already my work shop
leader is yawning
I love the gold filling
that lives in the back
of his seldom open mouth
it’s the best thing about him.
As for the rest?
No stars, no mountains,
no moons, no rivers
no old lady with a furrowed brow.
How does he live like that?
He may as well be dead.
3. Love Talisman
You held a toy gorilla
over my head
as you circled my
It was a spell I suppose
for you pressed
the toy gorilla gently
in my hand
I’ve carried it with me
the strangest things
have saved my life.
Joe Weil grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was a tool grinder for 20 years, and is now an assistant professor at Binghamton University in upstate New York. He loves the absence of traffic upstate, but hates not being able to get good Portuguese or Spanish food. Weil plays piano, guitar, and, occasionally Irish tin whistle. He also sings. His latest book is A Night in Duluth, published by NYQ books. These poems are from a collection called the Backwards Year. He hopes you enjoy them. You can link up with him on : The Gauntlet, a link to poetry series around the country and beyond (a facebook service he invented for those who want to promote readings and books,etc). Weil is available for poetry and music gigs, with his wife, the poet, Emily Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org.