five

 

DONNA’S SLEEPING


Helicopters, fly away
Donna’s sleeping
Rumbling trucks
Don’t shake the house
Donna’s sleeping
Little boys across the yard
go in and eat your dinner
Take the dog with you
Donna’s sleeping

And she murmurs in her sleep
and pulls the blankets higher
and higher still
Bad dreams, fall apart and
float away, do not attack
her peaceful sleeping
Nightmares, gallop off to
hell, I am keeping watch
and I will beat you
with a stick

I am old and I’ve been tired
but I am standing guard as
Donna’s sleeping
I’m watching for the first
blink of a waking eye
A smile or an alarm?

I’ve spent thousands of nights
and mornings and noons
watching Donna sleeping
and I have requisitioned a
few thousand more
Let’s turn out the light, love
Come, we’ll go to sleep

 

 

 


END OF THE BUSINESS DAY 1975

I looked in every file and folder
under the fax and behind the
Xerox, I retraced my footsteps
and pawed through the waste
paper and finally
I found what I’d done with this poem

So I folded it in half and then in
quarters and then to the size of
a matchbook
and I put it in my breast
pocket and I gave it a pat
and I turned out the lights
and I locked the door
and I ran for my life

 

 

 


F TRAIN TURNS WITH A SNARL

The F train
once the aristocrat of subways
sung of in splendid poems
of my own composition
has become a mad-eyed
reviled renegade
No longer does it wander
peacefully through the
quiet streets of Her Majesty’s
Own Borough

Now it sulks for hours
in uncharted alcoves
emerging grudgingly and
gulping in passengers
only to cover them with
smoke and sneer at them
in darkness and I --

once called by a critic
“the poet of the F train and
the F word” --
try not to stand too close
to the platform edge
The token booths are empty
so there’s no one to
answer a question or a
complaint or a shout for help
Some fucken system

 

 

 


MY BLOOD

My father, who was afraid of my mother’s craziness, of her screaming and paranoia, told my sister and me that we had to deal with her, that she was our responsibility because we were blood relations and he wasn’t. He had merely been married to her for fifty-five years, just passing through. But he was my blood relative and I carry the inheritance in a dented bucket.

As the technician prepared to take blood from my arm -- four tubes this time – I said that I envisioned, in a dark sub-basement of the hospital, a huge iron vat of my blood, trembling a bit as though something was trying to break through to the surface. I could tell she was wondering when to call for help.

I’ve never been scared by the sight of my own blood, swirling in the dentist’s spit bowl or soaking through a Band-Aid, but I was stunned the first time I stood up after surgery and blood came pouring from the foot-long opening on my abdomen. The bad-tempered physician’s assistant jumped back. You almost got my dress, she whined. But then: glub. She was drowned – and the blood flowed through the halls, down the stairs, into the cafeteria. Blood sandwiches were served. Hollowed out and neatly folded, I floated back onto the island of hospital corners, waiting for someone else’s blood to replenish me.

 

 

 


NAVIGATION

In Soho, we’ll stop at Gourmet Garage
Tell me how to get there, you say
But you go there by yourself all the time,
what do you do then?
Oh, I just wander up one street
and down another
until I bump into it


                                 *

Wandering the forest roads near
East Hampton we reveal a genius for finding
wrong turns that do not lead to highways
street signs or evidence of human habitation
I think we’ve seen that tree before
Look, there’s Galen’s house
right where we left it half an hour ago

                                 *

In Santa Cruz, we leave the wooded campus
Turn right, onto the ocean highway, I say
We’re headed south, strip malls on the right
beach on the left – five miles, ten miles
Uh-oh.  Wrong ocean.

 

Contributor

Robert Hershon

Robert Hershon has written 14 books of poetry, most recently Freeze Frame and Goldfish and Rose.  He has won two NEA fellowships and three from the NY Foundation on the Arts.  He has been co-editor of Hanging Loose Press since its founding in 1966.

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