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Five Poems

You dwell at green lights
longer than expected.
Thoughts that had gone far
are slow in returning.

You pause before a panel
of highly reflective metal
and stay there, half in love.

A thousand dwellings,
all of them strange:
dripping of a faucet,
yawning of a cat. 
On your way to the bathroom,
the squeaking of bats.

The moustache and the pipe,
so dreamlike in appearance.                                                       
You have to live a while
to understand such things.           

Reason is persuaded
by peaches and cream.
Anything held to a mirror
makes you want to dwell.
The gentleman moon-moth
in his cloak of white silk,
the courtship of earthworms—
who can say what’s real?

The dream surrounds us
with the grace of the strange.
Snow falls sideways,                                                         
and the owl flies so low
it’s mirrored in the pond.
The trees are covered
with sleeves of ice,
a window by its light.
We are near a dwelling,
Horseman, pass by.


My Dog Is Wild

He scratches the earth
to bury his bone
as others do paper
to bring up a word.

My dog is pleased
when I scratch his head,
but has a wild insistence
that he is the master
and I’m his servant.

He sleeps like a bog,
but now and then
he runs in his dreams
after something.
I can see from his teeth
the excitement.

I sit on the bed in my house
on a street they forgot to name.
My red dog runs through the night
until he breaks through.

It’s then the night brightens,
In truth and in trial,
as if it were in flames.
My dog resides in a world
that dims and flares and dims.

We do what we must do,
in and out of the cycle.
We stand together, howling,
at the bleeding station
on Peephole Street.

We’re mirror-image beings
of a post-philosophical age.
Our summers are loud with bees.
Our winters crack to pieces.

We are not distracted
by the traffic of sun and moon.
In the palace of our retirement,
my dog whispers to me,
even the earth is passing.


The Fish

The goldfish swims in its bowl
near a window facing the street.
It’s 1959 and Peggy Lee’s “Fever”
passes through the open window.
It’s two in the afternoon forever.

Perhaps the fish can see the street
with its slow-moving cars, 
the man smoking Chesterfields
on his way to church,
and the prim little boy walking
with a white mouse in his hand,
a gift from his maiden aunt.

Circling in its bowl, it seems to see
the giant standing in the room,
wearing the bluest dress her mother could find.

Perhaps the fish is coming up with a theory
relating to one and zero,
unity and difference.
But no, it only swims and eats,
with no concept of escape or recreation.

It’s got it good, in its way,
the way we got it good,
our clothes pressed for school,
father released from jail
and working again in his shed.

The world also goes in a circle,
tilting away from the sun.
It’s out there looking for something
but comes back every year
with little for the finding.

Time, too, goes in circles,
on watches only the old people wear,
the ones who think they’re short on time
and go to the bank for conversation.


The One Who Will Come Has Come

“The one who will come has come.”
—Ghassan Zaqtan

The rain has rained, and the storm has stormed
over the tiendas and used car lots,
coursing into the rivers and oceans; in thunder
and sonorous calm, they have come and gone.

In Tlaquepaque, the old men who sang
“Sabor a mí” and “Contigo”
have returned to thoughts of their wives,
as if they were still alive.
They smoke a bowl and lie down for a nap
that could last the rest of their lives.

The one who will come has come.
She speaks of the new sadness, sadder than the old,
She knows of a new realism, richer and deeper
than the one we are living.

She signs you up for the new sleep
and the new risk-taking,
but it’s an ancient lovemaking
that arrives once a week. 

Like the mouth of a woman thinking
the most uncomfortable things,
like a word meeting the object
to which it most belongs,
the one who will come has come.

Rivers pass, clouds pass,
and the rumble of cars is eternal
on the street where your family lives.
A mountain passes as only a mountain can,
so slowly you’d think it was still.
Hours turning into weeks,
these also pass, quite pleasantly it seems,
and later, the hours we no longer have.


What Worries Me Is the Final Dream

“What worries me is the final dream”
            —João Cabral de Melo Neto

You’re plunging over Uguizu Falls
in your shark-gray Stingray
because you turned left at the river
and kept on speeding.

It’s the longest fall ever,
an eternity it seems
since the last cloud passed,
but you enjoy the views
intermittent in the mist,
and, beyond, a glimpse
of distant farmlands
quilted in green and yellow—
what a beautiful world
you have lived in!

So this is the moment
of which the poets speak,
when time won’t pass
and it won’t back up;
when your syntax hovers
in a neutral space,
engaged in all directions,
and the banquet
of the sentence pauses,
all its dishes in the air.
For as the legend has it,
poets are always falling
into their own reflections,
entering into that famous silence
most of us never experience,
being noisy and all too factual.

In this, the present tense,
there’s little need for history.
What matters now is the counting
of each nerve cell, as perfect attention
crowns you king of half-heaven,
where the wolves of appetite
devour the bluebirds of instruction.
The names of the new man and woman
will be announced, says the announcer,
after the Stingray passes.

Will you be the new man?
The mirrors of the stream are asking.
Here and here, in the places
that the present likes you to be,
you straighten your tie
and quickly conceive of a speech
soon to become immortal
among the new people.

You are falling to a standstill,
relaxing back into riot,
and now you open your mouth to speak
the words here and here.
And here is a diamond silence
in which the waters rush
powerfully, like a train.

Paul Hoover will have three books published in 2018: the poetry volume The Book of Unnamed Things (MadHat Press); an Italian translation of his novel Saigon, Illinois (Carbonio Editores); and his translation with Maria Baranda, The Complete Poems of San Juan de la Cruz (Milkweed Editions). He teaches at San Francisco State University.