Text of the Poem

(Poetry for Students)

  These unprepossessing sunsets
and aluminum-sided acres
retain us like problems
more interesting than solutions,
solutions being perfect 5

lots of condos, the groomed weather
of elsewhere. Well, we must love
what we're given, which is why
we get stuck
on the steel-wool firmament 10

of home. Since it's the nearest
partition between us and what,
we choose to find it peerless.
And maybe why we wish
to lean our heads on the dense rocking 15

in a particular chest, as if the only
ocean lives there or a singular wind
swarms where that heart begins.
Sometimes a passing friend
becomes a mascot in our lives, 20

day in, day out. The thought of this anybody
affects us like a high
pollen count, inspiring a suffering
not unto death, but petty.
Having a crush is the expression. 25

And we do feel pushed over, compressed
by chaperones we half-asked for.
Take me, take you. Say someone quips
"Your favorite so-and-so got drunk
and said to say hello," I accept it 30

as a secular blessing. I glow.
Glorious things of thee are spoken!
There should be a word for you
muses of unreason, like "vector"
since vectors have magnitude 35

and direction without a physical presence.
And the second meaning is "carrier
of infection." Don't we resent the way our minds circle
unfavorable terrain for easement, 40

like jets above imagined runways?
Yet we like to be immersed, no sweat, in solutions
cooler than 98.6 degrees,
which explains the lure of fantasy.
"You never wanted," people say accusingly, 45
  as if glut were gladness
rather than a bargain struck.
But what comes to live here—burrs
through clay, brown negligence—
comes to live without 50

certain fertile perqs. High-tension
wires droop their rules
between harsh Eiffels in our yards.
Eyesores at first, they quickly become
backdrops whose presence nests. 55

in every residence unseen.
And when a line falls, the field sizzles
for a million inches without a sign
of flinch. Yesterday the elder
out back up and tumbled. 60

It wasn't hit by wind or lightning,
which made the sight of it—suddenly
half hanging on the barn
like a besotted lover on the arm—
more frightening. The trunk was hollow, 65

devoured by some tree disease.
In a few hours the limbed fluttering
looked normal on the lawn,
and its jagged profile fit
this make-do neighborhood of farms 70

run in the ground by agri-biz:
The three wilted pickups
in the yard, the tire of rusty geraniums
and sign that reads Beware
of Dog where there's no dog— 75

the tree looked right
at home among them, metaphorically
on its knees. Like others,
I mistake whatever is
for what is natural. 80

You know the commonplaces. How people think
women are good
at detail work when that's the only work
they're given. Or how
the city's invisible 85

engines jiggled our coffee
till we believed quivering a constant
property of liquid.
Everything happens to me, I think,
as anything reminds me of you: the real estate 90

most local, most removed.
As on the remains of prairie
the curving earth becomes a plinth—
from which we rise, towers
of blood and ignorance. 95