We loiter in the cobblestone alley,Beans, Clams, Yom-Yom and me,smoking punk. Snip the wiry stem,trim the nubby end, scratch firefrom a zipper then pass the stink around.William Penn designed these blockssquared off, brick, crosshatched by alleysto prevent the spread of fire. So fireruns down my throat, reedturning to iron inside my lungs.Yom-Yom has an uncle in Bucks County.Country boys sneak behind barns and puffon cedar bark. Smoke’s the only thingwe have in common. Smoke when our breathmeets cold moist air, though no smoke ringsin winter, while sullen cars drag gray on graydown city streets or country roads.Someday I’ll smoke Camels, my father’s brand,then Gauloises to prove I’m stronger than himin burning whatever’s inside that won’t sleep.Stanzas
At the Cole and Carl dog-run park,mutts and poodles sniff grass,couples laugh, the N-Judahsharks from its tunnel. I’m druggywhile my doctor fools with dosagesto stagger my soul’s bad chemistry.I need a looser world and words for it.Last night I watched the Dog Star burnblue then frosted mercury. Late Show
station break, I write lines like these,looking for exacter, plainer poetrywhile more stars appear. I hate mornings–my bed’s a mudlake writing pulls me from.Poetry’s muscled homemade demonsits on me and asks: “What next?”A mockingbird sings from its nest,dark or light the same, singingend to end, while the kitchen lightcurls me over short, easy books,dumped crosswords, and Vanity Fair.
Then life’s casual rush stops,everywhere I lookthe lymph in things goes dead,though the world still shines the same.Medicated to this willowed balance,I don’t weep now to see dogs runor wild fennel bend to windskiting a tern from its brilliant marsh.I don’t get sick with fright to hearan eyelash click across the street.Little lab-rat gods rattlingin my jar, keep me close enoughto smell dog fur and fresh-cut grass.Take away whatever you want,but deliver me to derangementsof sweet, ordered, derelict words.The Wedding Dance
Indigo sequins trashthe circle’s center,and she knows that,dancing there,she’ll outlive everyone.Women jitterbugged.Men clutched sweatySeven-and-Sevens.Roast beef sandwiches,cream soda, red-eyed heirsskating sawdust boards,somewhere a bride and groom.At our table, my father(“Let’s break this up”)grabs my arm and gimpstoward the dancers’ circleand its untouchable one,where he light-footssnappy fat-man moves,happy storybook dragon,boilermakers on his breath,sexed up, cutting the boards,while itchy at the edgeI blur into forgetfulness.We’re never really free.Because he’s not dancing,but stops at the sizzling edge,watches, bums his bad legback to our desolate table.What pity if not born to livein a world you’re born to?Rim shots knock for us who aretoo far to see her turnand laugh inside the circle,her alluring moves for usand anyone who dares.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Chinese Apples by W. S. DiPiero. Copyright © 2007 by W.S. Di Piero. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.