I see something of God in each hour of the twenty-four.
— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
In the dark acreage of the house
a whole hill of love prevents the roof
from collapsing. Birds tinge the fringes
of my dreaming. It’s the primordial first hour
before I remember my own face or whereabouts,
when there’s more elegy than light.
Lying there in the semidark,
the woozy second hour,
I try to remember what my life has taught me.
When I peer through the living room window,
I see a younger version of myself
so luminous it makes me pause and really see it
how he’s making use of the world as if not using it.
The discordant third hour flies apart
as the exhaustive free jazz of summer
plays until my mind turns on itself.
In the ear-giving
I think of what’s growing
out of my infant daughter’s listening:
the third movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony,
an apple dropping in the yard
the clock above her crib no longer ticking.
In the allusive fifth hour,
a wind plays the fringe of oak trees along the hedgerow.
Here, I’m more sack of sand on the levee
than Rimbaud’s Sleeper in the Valley ,
more idle yodler than Flaubert
moaning in the solitude of his room at Croisset.
In the world-weary
I clearly see the legs of youth sticking out from under a heavy stone.
In the derelict seventh hour,
I want flesh
that can endure the rain
Who skinned humanity?
Who turned us into smoldering sores?
I spend some of the wizardly eighth hour with my nephew
showing him three stones:
one from Campobello Island,
one from the bottom of the Grand Canyon,
and one from my left kidney.
In the bizarre ninth hour,
I’m Matsuo Bashō with a camera
shooting macro in a stand of milkweed:
a lip’s length away
from blue beetles,
and lonely weevils.
In the wistful tenth hour,
I’m thinking of another hour
when I ate bread and pickles
under Scotch pines
and the thoughts in my head
that shouldn’t have been there.
The wolfish eleventh hour
finds my dog hard
on the trail of ecstasy.
It takes her three days to get back home.
In the terrifying twelfth hour,
faces are never put away forever.
They tumble out of cluttered closets
or startle me in the garden.
Under the scrutiny of the thirteenth hour,
my mother asks if I’m a “junkie.”
In the fog of the drug
I hear, “commie”
and reply: “absolutely not.”
In the stagnant fourteenth hour,
my wife is the pimiento in the olivegreen
In the furious fifteenth hour,
my nephew’s fist burdens the wall.
My neighbor will see him later on
stunning himself against the horizon
like a tiny bug hitting a windshield.
In the bookish sixteenth hour,
I loaf next to the sea in my head.
I keep peering into a world of erasures,
but I can remember smelling Menelaus’s dead seal skin
and the ambrosia under his nostrils,
the tobacco smoke from Captain Ahab’s pipe
before he tossed it into the sea,
and the stench of sulphur in Nemo’s saloon
as the Nautilus propelled through volcanic seas.
In the clocklike seventeenth hour,
each minute comes with its own liner notes
short on revelation.
In the mindful eighteenth hour,
a serene repose.
I know things
on my back
In the cosmic nineteenth hour,
Pluto is no longer just a blip in a textbook
with arrows pointing at it,
but a contrastive body
out there in the darkness.
In the shaky twentieth hour,
my head on a pillow
a home growing all around me
with ample windows and doors left wide open
for the forest
for my thoughts
for the renouncer in me.
In the beer-soaked
I’m made sad by the boy I barely remember being,
losing him in so much space and time,
in so much muck and honey.
In the disheveled twenty-second
phrase of my youth returns:
Your shoes are untied .
An incurable truth.
Was it meant to strike fear in my heart?
Was my mother a chaos theorist?
When she moodily lumbered from room to room,
was she trying to figure out why the universe
didn’t immediately annihilate itself?
Did she interrupt her nightly reading
of Danielle Steele’s Season of Passion
to ponder my unstable granny knot?
In the tender twenty-third
if I were to turn on the harsh bedroom light
and help my wife out of bed,
I would see the ugly rhizome and lateral shoots,
but leaving her there, unblanketed
in the moonlight,
all I see are leaves and flowers.
At last, in the inconclusive twenty-fourth
how many cracks of dawn are there,
how many suns and moons, fires and waters,
how many stones and untold hours?
What else can we do, but diddle away time
at the kitchen table every morning
and wait for that light to burnish the dark acreage again,
show us the ranging hills,
a hundred paths,
and a love we haven’t learned yet?