Do not be startled*
Tulip Festival 2011, Albany, NY
Deb says not to be startled—the killing must take place.
Don’t mistake your neighbor’s voice through the fence
for the word of God. It probably isn’t even your conscience
talking to you. Save that flogging for the bedroom.
Confessions on the Washington Park bridge end affairs
before they begin. Red & yellow tulips may stand
close as they want, but they must never touch. Not ever.
Parties spill over stoops onto State Street. Guests on steps
yell to tenants in open windows above to buzz them up.
Our intentions spread like these sounds, like wind,
like pollen. Bodies wash up on beaches just south of here,
yet the calendar days are as tidy as ever, columns & rows
of sleepy air traffic controllers, CIA operatives, old friends’
latest afflictions, the intolerable metal on metal of the husband
sharpening lawn mower blades in the backyard.
How long are you going to do that?
Admit it: When they’re dead, we are glad they’re dead—
the men who threaten us & say we’re to blame. We’re happy,
too, when the tulips go, and we’re finally rid of them,
those prim blossoms mocking us longer than is necessary
for the mess we can’t help but make of love.
The title is a line from Deb’s poem “Hollow Place.” I hope it captures some of the confusion that is any normal change of season. After sprinkling in some headlines and some veiled (?) personal dramas, I hope the result is more connection than congestion. I am happy at least that this feels like my voice. Some of the stuff I did in April felt alien.