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Pompeii

Rich city on the Sarnus, comfort of
Commerce and ease of prosperity,
Abundant food and sun, did you not
Find lives full of work and pleasure,
The heat of lovers, the cheer of friends,
The happy noise of many children, your
Days bright and soft and flowing like
Gossamer spun from Mediterranean
Cloud, each moment as fleet and
Fragile as a kiss on a sleeping cheek,
Though durable in succession; and
You trusted and dreamed until the
Hammer fell not single but legion,
Making death a universal grief and
No one to mourn, the light dazzled
Water of your happiness choked in
Ash, time made mineral, and your
Stone ghosts come to haunt us with
The cataclysm of our everyday lives.

At The Vintage Fair

Do they go to funerals and rob the corpse?
Then return to the house and after a decent
Pause for punch and finger sandwiches,
Strip the closets, rifle the drawers, sweep
The cabinets, plunder the cellar, riot in the
Garage, and end by carting off the chairs
Before we are done sitting? Is this mournful
Debris all our legacy? Does all our passion
Finish less than enough to fill a juice glass
(50 cents), all our thought no more than a
Brittle paperback hopeless to be read one
More time before it crumbles to dust? Are
These dull things the last of secret and
Mystery? I will make them more. That
Rusting toy longs for a child’s hand in play.
That amber broach dreams again of rising
On the breast of a woman who thinks it
Beautiful. That pot endures in hope that
It will again feed a family and that chair
Stands upright in expectation it will again
Give rest to a weary man. That ring will be
Saved from the jumble and for a few dollars
Slipped on a young finger in a pulse of love
That will last a week, a month, but will live in
Memory fifty years, kept in an old drawer then
Swept away to the jumble of another sidewalk
Table, confident of another finger.

“Texas” (three fragments) | Poems by Massey

Turbines tumble tumble through the hot air,
Like the wings of the archangels who chased
Night and chaos over the rim of the world in
The wrath of God’s creation, and came to rest
In the soft light of the first morning of Texas.

There today the light before light with everything
Quiet except for the birds screaming in the dim
Trees and your thoughts wandering after those
Who have died or who are serving overseas or
What you’re chasing and what it pays and why it’s
Necessary, before you rise and dress and in your
Car rushing rushing with all the rest eight lanes
Of impatience furious to eat the endless distance
Between bed and the towering diamond-blue glass
Fortresses of wealth, the office parks with graceful
Trees and glittering fountains, the new merchant
Plazas on the new black roads, the box stores, the
Strip malls wearied by sun and subsistence, the
Cinder-block workshops, steel-tooled and machine
Oiled, the trailer-offices squatting on the site of
New prospect or old defeat, ragged air appliance
Rasping out feeble cool against vinyl-metal heat,
The heavy industry fairie kingdoms cracking crude
To naphtha kerosene paraffin diesel sulfur and tar,
The glinting purgatories of health, the dingy rooms
Machine bedded and ravaged age, the grey cubicles
Of counseled grief, kitchen, corridor, laundry, house
Children, house children, house children, eight lanes
Of hunger blood throbbing through interstates and
Access roads, vivid desire and dull necessity in metal
Boxes rushing everywhere, life mind heart rushing,
Until day ends, retirement eases, or death comes to
Tally his final accounts.

        ***

Nature loves all her children hard, but she loves her
Texas children harder; sends them with a laugh and
A kick out the door to find something for supper.

This rich land will wrestle you, take your youth, take
Your strength, give you cash in cattle, cotton, corn,
Sorghum, and wheat. This hard red earth more scab
Than skin will yield hard living if scraped, pierced,
Worked in dust and heat, through relentless sun,
Asphalt fume, with truck and tool and no excuses:
No one to catch you if you fall and no one asking
To be caught.

        ***

There’s no fair fighting for our hard machines:
Time and earth will take them, concrete, circuit,
Polymer, steel, with one puff float all into endless
Mind, soft seeds blown from the dandelion head;
No fair fighting for our tender bodies, time frail,
Flesh blood bone souls man woman child, all
Floating, angels tumbling tumbling through the
Cooling air, the soft light, the last evening of Texas.

A Declaration of Immutable Poetic
Principle For Now and All Time

Let us write no more poems of love and
Resist pale sadness when it rains; not
Moon when the moon shines brightly,
Pen no paeans to the soulfulness of pain.
Let us take off from our lovers the lingerie
Of verse; muse no meanings in mysteries
Universe; not be lonely in the winter or the
Dark; forsake all use of Alas Alack Egads
Forsooth and Hark. Let us save our political
Opinions for the newspaper column inch
And share no personal confessions that
Make our parents wince. For God’s sake,
Declare no heroic ideals in terms of high
Vainglory unless the intent is to strut and
Fret in a manner masturbatory. Most of all,
When some sharp eye spies contradictions
Unresolved, let us reply with sheer disdain,
Sir, we are not equations to be solved!

The Money Girls

Beauty is marketing to the
Money girls and they spend
With lavish precision because
Big dreams need big budgets.

Seal-sleek hair, shinning pumps,
Pearl earrings, suit and skirt,
All elegance and no sex they
Interrogate their prey with
Smooth questions; and when

Your answers satisfy they slide
Their treasured secrets from
Leather cases softer and more
Durable than flesh, click-clasp,
Showing what you long to see:
MBAs and GPAs, KPIs and ROIs.

Will they be content after they
Eat the world and don’t grow fat?
Will work and reward fill the void
Or just gild it over? I can’t say, but

The money girls will spend their youth
In acquisitive pursuit, and if those years
Go to hard waste, they can’t buy them back.

.

From the Fall 2014 edition of Apeiron Review.

 

Pop Songs

When you get old, the only way
To fall in love is with a pop song.
Every other love is settled or too
Much trouble unless your pain is
Desperate, your luck unlucky, or
Your impulses poorly controlled.
There are no other enthrallments
For the blood. The hottest kisses
Grow tepid in hundreds repetitions.
The climatic orchestral tingle lessens,
The taste of fine cool wines dulls, and
Blazing lines of genius aren’t quite embers
Enough to keep you warm. But the pop song
Is that impossible girl who might have been the
Unknown unknowable thing you wanted once in
Another lifetime and for ten days she consumes you
Entirely. All your feeling is hers and you have no desire
Save to drink and drink the heady elixir of her voice.
Then she is gone: the champagne bubbles of her
Enchantment all winked out. In youth, embrace
The girl who puts your head to spin. In age,
Stick to songs from Carly Rae Jepsen.

At The Turtle Club

You’ve bought a thousand sunsets and
I can buy just one. Why do I feel richer?
Is it the gaudy colors of your jacket and
Cocktail, both so false and candy-bright
They batter my eyes like punches, while
The luminous washed sky, greens pinks
And oranges, blues resolving to purples,
Purples resolving to deepest velvet black,
A soft cloth on which the night scatters its
Stars like loose diamonds, goes unattended?

Run Spend Tumble Burn

What shall we do with our wild hearts
When they strain and pull their leash?
What shall we do with our wild hearts
When they break prudent budget with
Reckless extravagance, throw crystal
In the air to see it sparkle, burn down
Houses for warmth? What shall we do
When our hearts will sleep under stones
In neat rows, feed lawns without weeds
or flowers? Let them run let them spend
Let them tumble let them burn.

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