Sleet, Snow, Cinders, Ash
I heard it early pinging on the AC unit in the window,
as ambulance sirens—eternal, ever-present, on-the-go—
rallied round our neighborhood in Northeast Washington,
en route to the scene of what?!, where all deeds bad are done.
Then off to the Hospital Center a few blocks up the street
from our 1928-style-of-no-interest row house, replete
with all the poetry I can dream, read, steal, conjure, love,
mostly today this poem, which lacks a 21st century tough-
ness, describing how the pelting pellets turn to silent snow,
the way I’ll someday turn to silent cinders and ash thrown
carelessly, on the Cape, behind our cottage, into the wind,
to get me that day into the marsh for which I’m destined
as the wind transforms me into a storm of white, like snow—
that’s the image: to be a bazillion flakes over North Truro.
I’m Just Saying
that if I had it to do all over again I’d be a meteorologist,
not a TV weatherman, but a weather soldier
deep in the trenches of the National Weather Service, part of the
anguish of big government the GOP might say, a noble
cog in a great wheel the Dems might say, though I might say
that although I’m not happy and I’m not unhappy,
and though I’m definitely not both happy and unhappy either,
anguish and nobility would lend to my forecasts sonority.
Anonymous in a beige fabric-covered cubicle with several
computers tuned to satellites off in the cosmos,
I’d fill my colorful screens with pixels of planet Earth wearing,
like an old aunt’s downy curls, those pearly clouds that
highlight the blue, brown and green particle that is our home,
which we are chewing on like termites do a fallen tree,
though I would just comfort folks with scientific detachment,
“Expect sunshine today; it is written all things must pass.”
Without hope my boss would dispassionately grasp new patterns
when I’d email her my annual global reports. “Good work,”
she’d praise, darkening my cubicle door. Then she’d add my name,
which would be Ralph, I imagine. She’d say, “Good work,
Ralph,” and shoot me a friendly wink. Then my boss would send
me off to teach in the “Clouds In The Classroom” program,
where I’d show my students Power Point presentations of all types
of clouds, knowledge that would deepen and dignify their days:
Cumulonimbus, Stratus, Altostratus, etc. They’d grin at the nebulosity
of their small lives. And then I’d have to get back to my cubicle.
I’m just saying if I had a do-over I’d be your normal hero, a serious man
who wears nondescript ties that change daily, like the weather.
Reading Frank O’Hara Again
Alas, I cannot find the part where I feel it’s possible again.
I only find the parts I’m not looking for (though they are
just as beautiful), how the trees “take off their leaves”
and the snow “fills up” his scarf,
and how we’re given
in this life the comely forms the Ancients adored, or rather
how persons love each other so as to make those forms.
Surely it’s yet possible, as my joints dissolve, and my lungs
incubate the branches and buds of a microbial tree
on whose limbs swarthy birds perch anticipating lunch.
Still possible to again become “the center of all beauty”
(that’s the part I cannot find). To become one with a trunkful
of poems, being myself the being who made them. To roam
again the enchanted city of youth.
Imagine: old weather-beaten me
sorting my handsome poems, all day Saturday into night.
in memory of D.H.C.
David giving up—rather, David making a choice
to die sooner instead of later. Most certainly
to avoid being plumbed in a hospital bed for another
six months. Naked. Irrigated by tubes. Anyway,
to die. To be the absence he is now, since he is not.
So, when I stop by the package goods store, on Rt.6,
his favorite place to browse the good cheap wines,
I never run into David anymore. Except
in my mind, which acts like my heart. Like today
at the library, “Science Tuesday,” the Times
spread across the table. A phantom David absorbing,
“To Mars in 20 Years,” “Inside the West Nile Virus”—
Patric! I was just reading…In the emptiness, more
empty, I stupidly think, than even the Buddha knows,
I wish he were really reading, telling me of fantastic
voyages, inward and outward, the Times decoding it all,
like the Rosetta Stone of all mythologies, scientific
and not so scientific. The world we both loved,
the way we loved the good cheap wines in September,
the backyard long into evenings, mosquitoes long gone.
♥s as Punctuation
Touching ♥ how they talk about their love ♥ as if they weren’t
just mid-century specters in my tattered old anthology ♥
How tender their alchemy ♥ O’Hara Orlovsky Ginsberg ♥
intent on turning the penalties of love into poetry ♥
It is as if they each retreat to a secret place of real life ♥
life beyond life ♥ Not a closet ♥ but just their bodies ♥
away from the love-crushing ♥ mind-mauling ♥ heart-eating
machine which is the Real World ♥ good heavens ♥ is
the Real Us ♥ we self-appointed shepherds of planet earth ♥
How small I’ve been to have run from such suffering ♥ which
made straight the way for each ♥ into their secret places ♥
How sad to have envied such suffering ♥ to have spelunked
the twisted caverns of pure darkness in my own cranium ♥
to have searched for discomfort that might become great poetry ♥
my flashlight not even real fire on a stick ♥ good heavens ♥
How normal to practice such wishful thinking ♥ How normal
I haven’t paid the required secret attention until today ♥
this unusual day ♥ the day I stopped aspiring to be normal♥
So ♥ I punctuate my poem with hearts ♥ while O’Hara Orlovsky
Ginsberg present their hard-earned joy-hearts for inspection ♥
Old Auden wrote how it makes nothing happen ♥ good heavens ♥
He writes in my mind ♥ You make nothing happen ♥ good
heavens ♥ So I decorate my poem with hearts ♥ but lucky ♥
I have you ♥ spouse ♥ who loves ♥ O joy ♥ who goes about
with a shock of red hair ♥ like Holden Caulfield’s hunting cap ♥
who saves the neighborhood children ♥ who makes them do
their homework ♥ who saves me ♥ who tells me ♥ Lose the ♥s
O acts of will ♥ good heavens ♥ O’Hara Orlovsky Ginsberg ♥
self-absorbed as they were ♥ never nixed their love ♥ I vow ♥
Me too ♥ to you my thunderstorm ♥ who washes our gutters
clean ♥ and O my catcher in the rye ♥ I think I’ll keep the ♥s
Patric Pepper has published two collections of poetry, a chapbook, Zoned Industrial (Poet to Poet, 2000; 2nd edition, Banty, 2010), and a full length collection, Temporary Apprehensions, which was a 2004 winner of the Washington Writers' Publishing House Poetry Prize (WWPH). From 2008 through 2013, Pepper was President of Washington Writers' Publishing House. He continues to serve WWPH as Production Manager. He is founder and editor with his wife, Mary Ann Larkin, of Pond Road Press, which published Tough Heaven: Poems of Pittsburgh, by Jack Gilbert in 2006. His work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Cape Cod Poetry Review, Confrontation, District Lines, Gargoyle, and The Innisfree Poetry Journal. Pepper had a 30-year career as a manufacturing engineer and manager. A native Washingtonian, he lives in Northeast DC and North Truro, MA.