The neighbors are making love again, their sighed, resonant
cries drawn out unexpectedly, honestly, into a summer night
that was longing for them, waiting to be filled.
My cats stir and shift on their pillows. And if,
at an exhibition, I am struck dumb standing in front of
Hopper’s “Night Windows,” it is not by the half-dressed woman,
or the breeze that flies out of the painting and lifts my hair,
but by the love that renders them and strips them bare.
My own loves and failures, of which even now it is difficult to speak,
have been forgiven here. I am like the happy man next door.
I can hear him whistling in the shower.
IN PHOEBUS’ CAR
Here Phaeton lies: in Phoebus’ car he fared,
And though he greatly failed, more greatly dared.
Remember that guy who strapped himself into a lawn chair
armed with a B-B gun and a six-pack of Budweiser
and launched himself into the sky with twenty-eight weather
balloons like a small herd of lollipops wildly charging?
When the oxygen thinned, and ice began to form on him
and he had become a puzzling blip on the radar screen
at L.A. airport, diverting several large jet planes,
he shot eight balloons and sank through the smog, and tangled in
a power line. The fire department hauled him down and the
police department arrested him and the reporters
pushed toward him with their microphones to hear what he would say.
When the astronauts stepped out on the surface of the moon,
I was roaring down a bridge with my unhappy husband,
through the empty streets, wanting to see the moment, headlong
to his mother’s house, where, in closets piled with old clothing,
we once hid, and stripped, and arched longingly toward our children.
I screamed for silence, I thought my husband was going to hit
me, I wanted to hear the first words spoken on the moon.
But I’m weary of disappointment. Let’s talk about need:
starlings gathering in the trees outside, gripping the wires,
short-circuiting the TV screens, iridescent as oil,
greens darkly flashing purple, bristling bills and harsh, strong cries.
Eye of the Blackbird by Mary Ann McFadden