Jed Allen
Night Pages

Whenever we write we describe ourselves.
- Stephen Dobyns

When I was young
I burned to write.

I wrote my father
up from the dead.

Dark doors slammed,
my pencil sobbed.

I wrote for god
and the hood

and the Nothing hunched
in my heart. I wrote

that little song of shame
you sing to stay the dark.

Love circled the house
but how could I hear

in that roar of words?
I wrote. I died.

My pages swirled away
and stuck

in the dirty trees.
Tell them in heaven

it wasn't right. Tell them
in hell, I never said no,

at night.
Little Song of Memory

What was it I said, or did—or didn't?
Was God in his chair, was it night?

Did I say the wrong word, did I stutter
and burn—worse: did I speak at all?

And where were the others, family
and ghosts, the infamous Sheriff Big?

Was someone—anyone—there?
Enough! It's done, they're dead, yet

still I claw and howl at the dark
door. Christ, child, let it go. For

even if memory yields—says here
for what it's worth is how

it was and is—how will I know
what's real!—for memories bicker

and deal, some staggering off in the
cold to die and others gnawed

by the rats of sorrow and shame
and all you can even hope to find

are bones—under your hair you hear
them clatter—bones of the mother!

bones of the son!—goddamned
bones of the words that bind them
Stabat Mater

O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Mater Unigeniti

At first I wanted to praise
—for the spectacle, you know,

the massy boulevards, the blare
of brass in the rinsed and shining air—

I had come to visit my dead
and talk to the poets, maybe,

if they weren’t too busy, and I’d play
a little piano to pay my way.

We never slept, the poets and I,
oh they were crazy days.

Now I’m back in town
and mobbed in my yard—

what’s it like? who’d you see?
—they pull at my clothes—

is there a list?—No, I say
you don’t understand

—I tap my head—it happens
here, beneath bone, in the dark

Ototoi! they shout, don’t fuck
with us, we saw you board the bus,

we ran your prints—we’ve got it
all—and they fan their pages—in

in black and white—Ho! I
holler back, that’s it! Heaven, it’s

black, it’s white, silent, birdless—ok
I was stretching it—though the guard

I blew in the shadows said
if you stay long enough things

take on a sheen of sorts—and sure
enough, as I was leaving, my mother,

—that’s her picture there, above you
on the wall—who had come to see me

off after our reconciliation—my mother,
who loved me, I’m certain, you could

see it in her eyes—stood
beneath the bare trees, tristis et

afflicta, my mother, we didn’t speak,
not once.

I remember the sweater draped
round her shoulders and pinned

with a gold hummingbird, it shone
such a dark and forgiving blue.