David McAleavey

 

MR. JEFFERSON

Mr. Jefferson.......we read for Mr. Mader's.......and what he would do
(Mr. Jefferson).......was read what things he wanted;.......when he'd feel like it
he'd find a new one.......so he'd have 18 books out.......spread over his floor
oh they were big books.......leatherbound they'd stay open.......he'd stretch out and read
a personal trick......like JFK, speed reading.......they gave us machines

a clip-board sized box........fit down over some text page.......and a sliding bar
you adjusted its speed.......I once got to a thousand.......I'm slowpokey now
not my mother though.......in the old silent movies.......she'd be embarrassed
read the captions fast.......always first but unable.......to stop laughing first
I like a slow text........so every text seems slow.......Heaney's Sweeney or
Jameson's big opus.......now I'm sure Byron loved her........a gift's a good thing
Becky for instance........she gave me a book on gifts.......what I'll give her back

more than jam you know........more than a dictionary.......such an interrupt
I'm sure it's pleasing.......I threw all those rules away.......used my story box
don't usually.......still quite puzzled about Bec.......reciprosity
don't worry I will.......have to go beyond the lines.......terrible dangers
those squeaks and chirrups.......it might almost be a game.......let's see how to play

 

MAYO HAM & CHEESE

mayo ham & cheese.......mayonnaise, jambon, fromage.......lettuce, tomato
two slices wheat bread.......golden delicious apple........pack of snack crackers
iced tea in the fridge.......(instant) or if you prefer........instant lemonade
they're feeding us too well.......not that I'm getting worried.......I'm enjoying camp
I think I'll come back.......that's better than misery........better than despair

someone claims Braque said:........I should be utterly lost........if I knew where I
was going
; and that If........you know where you are going.......you will surely not
get there
was said by.......Leonardo; that Tolstoy........said What you may not
have above all in.......making a novel is pre-........conception
; and that
Picasso once said,.......I find first, seek afterward........someone else says it's
Brancusi who said,........Things are not difficult to.......make; what's difficult
is putting ourselves.......in the state of mind to make.......them.
--these give us hope--

kind of you to ask........yes, my heart's a checkerboard........with some darker parts
you have spoken well........we must be more wary now........too much is tacit
& then violent........has your lover never beat........or bit or scratched you?
let us pray for peace........that peace may descend from clouds........of full divulgence
& then when we play........no one needs to take the role.......of mere dumb body

 



KISSING EMILY

kissing Emily........hanging out with her sisters.......kissing her sisters
could have been funny.......or tender, or macabre........but it was tender
they talked in stanzas........four-liners, based on haiku........Emily did it
her sisters did it........can people be too wholesome?........these were fine people
not drinking buddies........but maybe that comes later........we were just kissing

all my dreams were mild........in one I became aware.......I'd been there before
that's great isn't it........a little sinister too........you've needed something
you've been finding it.......but till now you've kept it closed........or let it be vague
not to moralize........anyway I was anxious........thinking about Ann
if I'd been thinking.......about Bill would I have been.......bilious? or if
Hilary...but that's.......obvious & I don't choose.........that but to turn back
there are these caverns........pliant and decorated.........kept for, kept for me

here's a deep folly.......finding meaning in brushwork........oh it's there all right
a Corot maybe........stood on an Italian porch........held his own palette
stroked ochre bits here,........here, here and caught rocks and roof........in a net he left
catching us again.......our nets seeking his sought nets........the landscape of dream
we're here, we've been here.......another's gesture-record.......pointing, pointing out

 

HERE'S HOW: GATHER YOUR

here's how: gather your.......seed-roots-berry assortment.......dry it in the sun
a star's aloofness.......assembling & combusting.......happens to shuck "light"
in inventory.......has the year brought anything.......but bad news and books?
find a nice flat stone.......maybe two feet long, one wide.......but flat's important
phone call re: divorce.......played a game with death's letters.......morose denial

the gate is tilting........clunk: the dog drops his big stick.......their window's still dark
find another stone.......one you can hold with both hands........having a flat side
the campground's assigned.......enter this stream where you please.......faking dictators
now's a day of rest.......unweaponed himself at last........eating irises
here's how: they quarreled.......soon enough the land they owned.......returned to nature
it's OK to ask.......you wanted South African........you got Chilean
crush a small handful.......pound & push & pull again.......till you get ground meal

brought his lexicon.......organic food supermart.......big-prize radishes
too busy to think......able to do wave physics.......to love opera
to detect a lie.......both parties drowned while struggling.......slipping into neutral
the ball fluttered by.......a long and desperate kick......the stands now empty
mix in some water.......put it on a stone near fire......this tastes great tonight

 

ALL RIGHT OKAY YES

all right okay yes.......totally affirmative.......agree and approve
dumbing down hold back.......not really remedial.......a few precautions
not making progress.......completely puzzled, confused........can't say how to cope
accept these limits.......an institution's the best.......come see us some time
now an old lady........in a coma fifty years.......nothing going on

--Dear Sirs: Please defer.......life. Yours truly, Unsteady.........Can I have a stamp?
Can anyone here.......lend me an envelope and......a stamp? Thanks a lot.--
earlier today,........I asked the girl at Hardee's.......a hard one. I said,
yesterdayweate........hereandmysonlefthishat........diditgetturnedin?
what she must have heard.......was, will you marry me love?........because what she did's
impolite, called staring:........behind her the fried chicken;........all around a buzz;
her new register,........the tray she'd prepped for my food,.........and me like a troll

repeating myself........at different speeds until.......turns out she had it
and wanted something.......which maybe marriage would bring......if she wants it to
-- Dear Sirs: I'm sorry........but your neglect of this case.......will be unpleasant
for you and for me.......until you resolve to help.......Yours truly, a Friend --
then scattered applause.......then shuffling feet, murmuring,.........and we're out of here

 

COULDN'T FIND THE SPOT

couldn't find the spot.......bushwacking too strenuous.......logging road just stops
yes a background noise.......it might've been Panther Falls.......might've been the wind
found a Coke bottle.......a dumptruck load of firewood.......slow fire of debris
oaks and oak saplings........black ends of down trees orange......with bracket fungi
save it for later......nicer to use cared-for paths.......also it's lunchtime

walked around the lake......deer on the grassy pasture......a weird-looking mountain
"skirted" a muddy spot......meaning came close, not too close......lazy rain begins
what was your insight......rolled down the whole earthdam slope.......contra naturam
play over purpose......the dam's important purpose......children especially
try another thing......scary puppets out of socks......matchbox hamster case
wrapped, aluminum....../baked those taters in the coals......./words that never end
matchbox for coffin.......one parakeet named Sandy.......a story of apes

heard praise of voodoo.......lift your feet and run away.......bounced up at the end
hides himself at home......the plot really hasn't changed......now they're going to
that's a chimney tile......made so it won't freeze and crack......not to believe that
distract me within......building models of failures......until a Rube Goldberg
what a cartoonist.....drew crazy inventions and......now he's on a stamp

 

David McAleavey is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Holding Obsidian. He is also the editor of two anthologies by and about Washington writers. Since 1974, he has taught at The George Washington University. Currently is the Director of the Creative Writing Program, and he was for a number of years Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Published in Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 2001.

 

Read more by this author:
David McAleavey: The Whitman Issue