Christopher Howell: Three Poems



Don’t leave the bear either
frozen or dancing.
You’ll never know her children
in their red and blue boots, never guess
what the papa bear said to the pig
in that book of animals believing themselves
ennobled by restraint, swaying together
in tall reeds of a farmer’s dream
or a hunter’s wild shaking as he rushes
to lock and load and wake again

Don’t leave the bear
to others
who may fail to bear witness,
as they say, to her momentary genius
and the papa bear’s soul like a drum.
It would be wrong, such absence
of ritual observation. Everything
must be seen
and after that there must be the dancing
and the weeping
and the feast.

The Getaway

          –for Lew (1944-1981)

I stop by to pick you up
     from death
and we accelerate just fast enough

to clear the mob of outraged mourners
     sprinting, bellowing
through their teeth about the coins

we’ve stolen from your eyes. Of course
     we’re laughing,
lighting cigarettes and leaning

into the lovely weather of escape. Maybe
     both of us
have crossed the line and this is how

death starts, with some maniac fracture
     of the rules
of still decay and suffering, outlined

in the contract we shred and toss back
     into all the wind a flat
fucking fast convertible provides. We don’t

know what this freedom means and don’t care
     what we signed.
We’ve got the money and the voice

of Nat King Cole and this immense springtime,
     a backseat full of beer,
and daylight sweet and brighter than tears

and we’re just gone down the two-lane county roads
     where meadowlarks announce us,
where what we wish for has no waking

and no future and no price, and loss
     itself is lost and broke
and hitching sadly back to town.

Bird Love

My wife is on the floor in front
          of the TV set
exercising, her long gorgeous legs

scissoring the grateful air. It is like
filling the room each time her body

unfolds. From the quince outside a cardinal
          looks on, piping time,
utterly in love. And why not love

such plumage as the skin can be? On a morning
          such as this,
after a long night of rain and lightning,

what is more beautiful than a bird
          or a naked woman
bathing in newborn air and in whatever

music she can find? And this love
          the bird in me says
is the exact unsentimental recitation of the breath

and we can’t help it. I know. I look at her
          now, foolishly, from my perch
and I can’t help singing, simply
          (lift flex kick flex) singing
and I don’t care what I sing.

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