"Symmetry" & Other Poems

These poems have been drawn from the August issue of the American Reader.


Every tree has two shadows:
one that reels around the trunk,
one that’s sunk in the dirt below.

Unlucky you, with only one
that follows you everywhere you leave,
the gray train of your wending sheet.

—Unless you have a double, too,
who stands down into the undergrowth
with his feet flat against your feet.

Imagine, everywhere you go
he has to work the earth beneath you,
face-first into that heavy weather,

the fossil storm of fallen leaves
that’s always blowing underground.
Lunging he grabs for the roots like rungs.

If that were true, it would explain
too much. We should be glad to be
above the ground or under it.


Sometimes I Smile

Turn on the light: I have to tell you something.
Sometimes I smile before I mean it. Better,
sometimes I’ve smiled before I mean it. Meant it.
You know what I mean?—Sometimes I smile before
I smile, or know I’m smiling, and I mean it,
although I didn’t mean to—never mind—

or maybe, sometimes in the street I rise
my arm, I raise my arm, before I know
who’s there, or who you are, before I’ve raised
the question, why, I’ve waved, or better, waved
away whatever doubts or hopes or doubts
arose, and well before I had a reason, 

waking you—I don’t know what I want
until I wanted to, or you, and you,
I must have known you long before I knew
you wanted, too, but how will you have known
except already, look, our lampshade, it’s a rose,
and look, the light’s out. Quick, put out the light!


Peach Bone

There’s a pearl of marrow in the middle of the peach bone,
the sweetest part of the peach—the only part
you want, in fact, whether you know it or not. 

Come on, you really thought a peach was a fruit?
It’s just as American as you or me,
marbled with fat, like everybody here,

you bet your eyeteeth, ladies and gentlemen,
gentlemen, ladies—that choice, I leave to you—
come on, admit it, whatever you want is meat.


The American Reader stopped publishing in 2015.
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