6 Poems, Including “Unsolicited Advice to the Class of 2020”

If You See My Ego

Do not approach it.
It has been known to
lash out when startled.

I Am Not the Body

I am not even the mind.
I notice. After breathing,
everything at once. The hard
plastic wheels of a stroller
scraping the gravel and a
solitary pine needle pulsing
in the breeze. What Wallace Stevens
knew about the soft spot of the
palm and the exact moment the moon
crept through. A deep pink Delta rain
making noise, measured in Hz. I am not
who you think I am. An intelligent,
loving, laughter-inducing possibility of
being my next breath, bobbing in the
darkness of the sea, flowing like blood for its own
sake. I am not the body. I am not the mind.
I am a kernel of wheat. I am the grass renewing
itself. I am my grandmother’s lace, planted in
the garden, facing the woods. I am the cracks
in the floor and the loneliness of a tire swing
swaying in the thunder. I am what Elizabeth Bishop
knew about the warbler singing on an altar of
creeping snowberry and hyacinths. I am where the
butterflies dare to land. On my chest and near my heart,
I am the apology you accepted implicitly, and the
aftertaste of those emails, sticking in the crevices of
my gums. I am not who you think I am. Awake in the
belly of a poem, I am Jonah. I am joy. I am Vulcan. I
am orgasm. I am fire. I am why the universe is so cold
and silent and empty—yet it arrives each morning at my door,
like a bouquet of tulips—and why elephants console each other,
and the red fluorescent eyes of Buffalo leaning on a steel railing.

Unsolicited Advice to the Class of 2020

Grip life the way a father holds his son’s
rib bone after a car bomb in a Baghdad market.

Treat it with speechless
respect. Awake each morning in its belly,

licking the krill guts off the rubbery
intestines of your own ignorance.

Chase life, as children run after dragonflies.
Unlock the jar and hold it like a prisoner of evolution.

Be joy burning fiercely,
in your own solar interior.

Stand tall in the place of something wild and forgotten,
like an ancient Sycamore unearthed by lightning.

Desert your own mind if it begins to flood. Be a heron
fishing, alone beneath the bare abundance of clouds.

Eat your daily bread. Forgive and rise. Go where there is
no religion but God and moon and land and sea, and the

gathering of others who are ready for you. Are you ready
for you? Believe in your next breath, anointed by the elements.

House on Outer Stowe

In the backyard by the tire swing
and electric cow fence, we laid
next to something precious and alive.

Under empty, diamond-clustered
clouds, a sun sagged below the
Tug Hill Plateau and we knew we were alive.

There, I would fall asleep on a burlap
pillow with sewn heart-shaped patches,
a bubblegum wrapper and lucky dime

in my pocket, the one I found below the
deck, where the moon barely creeps in.

You probably kissed my forehead, and studied
me with that look you once saw in yourself.

When I Visited

If the drugs were working,
It transformed her smile into a dress of corals,

As if her eyes belonged under a black light.

The kind I had when I was 16, smoking pot at the edge
of a pillow,
Just to smother
the smoke.

A Cancelled Appointment

I speak and my words disrupt
the entire universe forever.

I touch and my fingerprints burn marks
in the earth that will outlast mountains.

I hear your voice, and my thoughts wait
silently at the edge of the womb,

so cold and empty and silent,

as your new friend said she knew something
about this pain, and to call if you changed your mind.

«RELATED READ» POEMS BY JOHN GREY: Strolling, Frank’s Story, Remember These Words»

image: George Payne

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