David Graham
Against Summary

         We are what we repeatedly do
          —  Aristotle


Malcolm has fallen asleep again
with dire headlines rising
and falling across his chest.

Deirdre is a wife frying one egg.

Jeff speaks babytalk to a deaf cat.

Eileen spends most nights these days
not getting laid.

Her sister Charlotte is the opposite,
though you'd never know it
to see her standing so still
in the doorway, a deer
in deer-colored grass.

Michael and Stefan talk
for an hour and a half
each Sunday morning, splitting
the charges carefully.

At the end of a dog's leash
you'll usually find David,
smiling absentmindedly
at a sidewalk stain
or a cloud snagged in an oak.

Marco is adding up the receipts again,
still looking for an error
he's sure he made years ago.

Kayla thinks she may be that error,
but Marco? He'll be the last to know.




Shadowing the Train

          — a few 4x4s for Ashbery


1. Some Distant Friendship

It happened that there was some difficulty
opening the door at stage left for her magnificent
exit, which everyone had been anticipating since at least
Monday. We clapped, of course, for her noble failure,

which was savory as Argentina. At about the same time
a map was flapping in the breeze as if in warning
and we--or at least yours truly--could not easily guess
which aisle offered the greatest hint of pleasure.

So of course I stood pat, eager in my dithery way
to be greeted as the true friend I always felt
I could be. This did not sit well with certain people,
or rodents I should say, meaning no disrespect,

but I understand if he takes it that way.
No matter. The merest drool on a baby's chin
is music to my ears in the crazy mood I'm in.
Or was in, if you want to get all precise about it.


2. This Really Happened

Once you've sprained your ankle, and I mean but good,
the temptation passes. It resembles nothing
so much as the second movement of Mahler's 3rd,
but I wouldn't expect you to know that.

So many things must be left off the exam!
Still, a rooster that hearty should be used somehow,
everyone seems to agree. The tilted streets,
the newly installed crime protection lights

are a good start, I have to give you that much,
but meanwhile the horse of history gallops off.
That's typical, though. What's a little harder
to wrap your anger around is the clink of coins

in the collection basket. No one had any idea
the senator's wife could be so generous
and yet utterly clueless. I admit it was charming,
but that and a buck will get you a coronary, as they say.


3. Several Favorite Anecdotes

"She had more forwarding addresses
than a Fifth Avenue whore," Grandpa liked to say.
He never could quite master the vernacular,
but he had other virtutes. A Tuscan villa was one,

even if it was grown a bit disreputable with publicity.
A warning, as if we needed one, of lost spendor
in the key of three o'clock. He never could say no
to a decent Chianti, I'll grant him that,

but a fellow wants more out of life
than a postcard of a canary at a strip mall,
no matter how exquisite the detail. Sure,
I could tell some tales, but that would help how?

Anyway, long story short, the preposterous costume
fit me to a T, so I slipped it on, and headed
for the nearest bus stop. In hindsight, yes,
I'd have to say that a map would have come in handy.


4. Lessons of The Past

He walked around in a delicious daze, mostly,
because he didn't understand half the things
his father said. Don't be a candy ass.
You make a better door than a window. Jesus H. Christ

on a cracker.
And because it was August,
and the mosquitoes knew it, he could never quite
pull that trigger. We might have enjoyed
an hors d'oeuvre, if that's the right term, but too late now.

Wading into the shopworn night was pleasant,
all those clicks and odors, yet after a while
she felt the river of it tugging at her pant legs.
Not entirely worth it, actually, or so she said.

The sun, of course, was already on the agenda
and not even a cry of Bingo! could change that.
As for the greater mysteries and their withheld remarks,
well, even his Dad was mum on all that.


5. Novelty Items On Sale Now

If in a sense all poems are about language,
tra-la, we're only halfway home, I am afraid.
For what is the language about? I'm serious, I think.
You may say it's about its business, you old fraud,

but that's a hey-nonny-nonny we've heard before.
Of course I too savor my own hoo-hoos, just as a king
surveys his kingdom with self-forgiveness to the max,
but in the final analysis, don't the stones all tumble down?

Or so the History Channel tells us. Not that I would know,
really, since the last time I checked, all sales agents
were busy helping other customers. As if that's
any surprise. I'm mostly content, most of the time,

with my handful of grapes, my dust bunnies,
my smokin' little quartet wailing the blues.
But am I blue? Don't the moon look lonesome?
It depends on who's singing. But I don't have to tell you that.