Last night… 

I wept in a dream

But when day came I said

I slept well—and my boat

Drifted to Hades

With bread and flowers

The urgencies

In a common room

Sunlight crossing the rug

My dead mother

Waving from the reeds

Of Dogs and Dropped Blueberries

I’m in Manhattan in a coffee joint on the corner of Lexington Avenue and Fortieth Street. My guide dog Caitlyn is curled at my feet beneath our table. She’s a yellow Labrador and like my three prior guides she flicks her tongue like an ant eater, looking for crumbs and not ants—though it’s entirely possible she’d eat an ant if it presented itself. My second guide dog Vidal once ate a bee. He grabbed it out of the air. He suffered no apparent consequences. Since every guide dog is different I should say that Caitlyn is a lady and she’d never snatch a bee. The girl has manners. Muffin bits are another matter. Dropped blueberries are fair game.

What’s fair game for me? I wonder. What is the equivalent of found food in a human’s life?

Eavesdropping of course. A man seated three tables over just said to someone via cellphone: “I told you not to sell the thing!”

One wonders what “the thing” could be.

This is an obvious pleasure.

My blueberry.

 

Origin of Dreams

What if a poem was in your left wrist

As it was for Emily Dickinson?

Please don’t think I’m glib.

Poems occur where soft tissue,

Delicate bones and ligaments

Strain together

Without our notice,

Like the imagined wings

We sketch for horses.

I didn’t see you all day—

My love, you went far.

How my day begins…

I still find myself among thistles

Wormwood in the vodka

Last night’s dream burning

In the grate—outside

Schoolchildren walk

Bundled against the rain

**

The sea horse’s coordinates—

Only map worth sketching

\With this chewed pencil

**

Count on me

Says the pea-stalk horse

**

Birches clouds books

 

Yes, Margaret Sanger Would Have Killed Me if She’d Had a Chance, or Thoughts on Certain Statues

In the United States where symbols are so often monolithic it’s easy to ignore how ghastly a statue is because oppressive emblems are commonly believed to be unremarkable. Still there comes a time when some monuments can’t be blinked away. Let’s take Margaret Sanger for example.

Sanger was was a eugenicist. She was an “equal opportunity” eugenicist as she believed people of color and the disabled should not be born. Today she’s mostly remembered as a champion for women’s reproductive rights but make no mistake: she wanted to prevent black births and eliminate the disabled.

Still a bust of Sanger is proudly on display at the National Portrait Gallery alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. I think it is fair to say that if Sanger had had her way neither King or Parks would’ve been born. Certainly she’d have voted against the birth of any disabled child. I’m a member of that group, blind since birth.

The National Portrait Gallery does have a sign mentioning Sanger’s work with eugenics. This puts the gallery’s curators a step ahead of the defenders of confederate statues, most of whom want untroubled devotion to a vicious past. Sanger’s bust stands on its pedestal warts and all. Isn’t that enough?

Perhaps. Maybe we should simply put cautionary footnotes on all our nation’s offensive monuments.

Yet I don’t think Sanger should be in the gallery at all. She actively advocated for the deaths of minorities. This is a litmus test: in life did you stand for human dignity and equality or not? Sanger fought for the rights of women to have control over their reproductive lives. She’s heroic for that. Until one admits she wanted some people in the lifeboats and not others.

I say she’s a vile figure. She lectured to the KKK. That’s a second litmus test. Anyone who spent her or his time in the vicinity of a burning cross deserves lasting condemnation.

The full history of eugenics in the United States is still being uncovered. The Carnegie Foundation, J.H. Kellogg, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Leland Stanford, all promoted theories of racial superiority and advocated for eliminating certain minorities.

Some statues are horrific. They belong in an atrocity museum and not in places of customary veneration. Certainly Margaret Sanger doesn’t belong in the same room with Rosa Parks and Dr. King.

Lines from a Notebook….

It is not possible to jar the soul with coffee

But how I want to—up in the sky with you—

Closer to whatever

I can’t have, and with only a sip.

How easy it is to be a child

In a grown body.

**

I rowed far out on the lake at night

Though I couldn’t see—

Blind outside and in,

Water talking.

**

When I first read the poems of Tomas Transtromer

I too wanted to play Haydn on a piano

After a dark day of toy politics

But I saw quickly “the piano”

Was his horse, not mine.

**

For love be the string and the hand

Be the apple

Or what’s before a whisper

But never be ________.

**

Cotillions of empty, odd pairings of local wines

And a general absence of conversation.

Printed handbills announce silent auctions—

Half lives burn down in clay, sweetie,

**

There’s nothing like watching that sweet old donkey lean down for hay.