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Portrait by Alice Neel
I'm not sure there will be walls
or eyes
but if there are
this portrait may be wondered at.
Let me say then at once
so that no mystery develops
why-although he holds a manuscript-
the poet is not reading
and why-despite a mood of gloom-
he seems to smile.

He is looking not at the fire-escape across the way
nor at some starscape: aeons, lightyears further-
but at an Alice Neel
in a green smock
(no relation to the one
who poured his coffee an hour before
and chatted about her Civil War grandfathers);
this one, this other one,
thrusts into him deep, deeper, as if with her long brush,
takes it out dripping,
puts it down wet on the canvas (which he mustn't yet see),
raises the brush again
and bends toward him: peering, peering as no one has before,
as if he were a new sea and she an inspired shipman.

So, wishing he could play back that plummeting stare,
those impatient brows,
as the sea would-
he looks;
and, wondering whether on this snow-bright noon
her cunning, caring, saltwater eyes
have caught the very bottom-
uncomfortably he smiles.


 Poetry Northwest; Rumshinsky's Hat and House of Buttons

Dogs
Looking foolish next to the tree in a one o'clock rain:
umbrella aloft, the leash in my other hand-
I wanted my late-coming neighbor to understand
that dogs are worth the expense, inconvenience, and pain;

their tails are truthful, no coiled rebellion beneath
a loving look; they are quick to kiss you, and quick
to fetch for you, and-should you raise a stick
threateningly-they are quick to show their teeth;

and better still (but this I never revealed),
when you bring downfall home, the death of a hope,
their nonchalant manner does more for you than a drink;
and best of all, when triumph's to be unsealed,
such lack of respect they show for the envelope,
-your fingers halt, the brain cools, and you think.


  Rumshinsky's Hat and House of Buttons

Homecoming
Having both daughters at home does not give me
a very merry Christmas. Tall in the hall
they brush past mythic photos of their small
selves in camping days. Though they do love me
(in some new way now), it would ill behoove me
to fold them in my arms: satirical
silences from their scholarly eyes would fall.
Even their songbursts, their fits of laughter, grieve me.

Outside my window through the wide sky swarm
clouds that seem to know more than they are saying.
No comfort this night, when hailstones lash, to hear
both daughters breathing safely: what of the storm
next week? what of the storm next month? next year?
how will they be dressed? where will they be staying?

 New York Times; On the Way to Palermo



Bibliography compiled by Donald Gilzinger

Aaron Kramer's web page is maintained by Sue Gleason
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Page updated March 17, 2006