Surrounded by a division of gulls,
                        shrieking and yapping
                        like Confederates at Gettysburg—
my feet ecstatic in the muddy sand.
An ocean liner with laborious elegance riding the water, my imagination robust, putting me aboard
to walk the decks with a woman who’s auburn hair actually does dance in the breezy, hot air.
Remembering the boy in school
who was often admonished to avoid the slightest hint of slothfulness—
“Good thing you never went along”
the woman says, taking off her summer dress and going to lie on the cabin bed, looking over my shoulder at the cornucopia
of stars the late night has produced, effortlessly.


                        We talked politics so long and so hard
                        that we finally quit to concentrate
                        on the constitution of the sky, noticing
                        the buds on the trees growing, the sun
                        confidently starting to show itself.
                        We decided to cook slowly until days end
                        and toasted our wine glasses to the red
                        cardinals and Cuban doves who’d flown by our 
                        windows, turning and soaring with the grace
                        and guile of jet pilots every revolution adores.
                        We put the political books back on the shelf
                        and went to bed and dreamed of tomorrow
                        which we believed would be a few degrees
                        better and allow us to sleep in late and in peace.


                        if there weren’t famous people
                        who would feel neglected?
                        --Du Fu

                        At least fame, having
                        never paid a visit, won’t 
                        get the satisfaction
                        pulling this on me.
At least in my lone night boat I won’t be as lonely as at a party, in a crowd of star-struck devotees.
At least I won’t need to account for my wisdom or lack thereof, any stupidity defended by my legions.
At least I won’t feel betrayed by the cosmos, believing no one understood whatever genius I thought I was.
At least I won’t ever feel so abandoned, such anguish, I’ll disappear into the fog grateful, quietly as a dragonfly.


                        The letter is imaginary but the woman who wrote it is not:
                        I saw her on television, standing beside a brunt-out building,
                        waving as if she had seen a friend or a lover coming her way
                        after months of separation. In her letter she documents the travail
                        and tragedy but also mentions how sometimes after a shelling the light
                        will waft through the streets “like a thin blanket of magical honey”
                        and the moment a red cardinal appeared, claiming its part of the rubble.
                        My friend saw a red cardinal land and preen on the windowsill 
                        of his hospital room, minutes before he was wheeled into surgery.
                        I’m waiting for a red cardinal too, confident it will come in my direction.
                        The letter ends “One day you’ll bring me chocolates and I’ll greet you
                        with roses”—I fold the letter and wedge it between the pages of a great
                        book, another author who tried to sneak in a handful of grace amidst
                        the divisions of sadness, doing his best with the only weapon he ever had.