Thinking About Not Returning to Work I Read
Lu Yu’s “Leaving the Monastery early in the Morning”
At night I’m so dead
Even murderers stay away.
Zac the cat sleeps
In the forest on my legs.
By dawn usually
I find coffee and news.
Soon my sabbatical will end
Though I’m not quite ready
To greet young minds
Who may wince when
Seeing someone so old.
Tonight it’s beans and wild vegetables
That will help me find
My way back to trouble.
TO RHYME WITH LOVE
Of senators and popes and such small fry
—Edna St. Vincent Millay
It’s not for nothing Plato banished poets
from his republic. The Attic sky hadn’t rained
in months. Catfish crawling in the sewers
with rats among dead dogs. Neither oracle
nor god had advice worth more than rust
on a sword’s hilt, on monuments crumbling
in dry air, as we paced the cobblestones and
preached austerity, but those rhyme mongers,
crowned with laurel, raised sails toward some
island in the sick-green, tiring sea in search
of a new word to rhyme with love, as if
abandonment was solution, so that we,
the elders, build the future from the past
and disregard those poets exiled and
wandering in labyrinths of words.
THE UNEMPLOYMENT OF MY SOUL
I can march on a picket line
in front of God’s Home Office
or sing: brother can you spare a dime—
trudge up and down the avenue
looking for work— anything will do,
a shoeshine box, or dishwashing hands
ready and able to perform God’s work.