Paul Carroll, poemas American poetry


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Paul Carroll, American Poetry

Football Weather
As a kid I tried to coax its coming
By sleeping beneath light sheets
Weeks before
The funeral of the summer locusts in the yard;
Then when Granny peeled down the crucifix of
flypaper that dangled from the ceiling of the
Magic wasn't needed any longer
To fill the air with pigskins. The air itself
Acrid, lambent, bright
As the robes of the Chinese gods inside their
house of glass
In the Field Museum by the lake.
Even practice could be fun—
The way, say, even sepia photographs of old-time
All Americans could be pirates' gold
Like my favorite Bill Corbus, Stanford's "Baby-
Face Assassin" crouching at right guard, the
last to play without a helmet on—
And the fun of testing muscles out
Like new shoes; the odor of the locker room
As the inside of a pumpkin;
And the sting of that wet towel twirled against
bare butt by a genial, roaring Ziggy, Mt.
Carmel's All State tackle from Immaculate
Conception Parish near the mills;
And then the victory, especially the close shaves,
could feel
Like finally getting beneath a girl's brassiere
She'll let you keep
Unhooked for hours while you neck
Until the windshield of your Granddad's Ford V-8
Becomes filled by a fog
Not even Fu Manchu could penetrate. Jack,
Next football weather my son Luke will be in high
Bigger than I was and well-coordinated—but
Couldn't care a plenary indulgence
If he ever lugs a pigskin down the turf
Or hits a long shot on the court. At times, I wish he
So he might taste the happiness you knew
Snagging Chris Zoukis' low pass to torpedo nine
long yards to touchdown
And sink archrival Lawrence High
45 years ago come this Thanksgiving Day. Still,
He has his own intensities
As wild as sports and writing were for us:
Luke's the seventh Rolling Stone,
His electric guitar elegant and shiny black
As a quiet street at night
Glazed by rain and pumpkin frost.

My Mouth Quick with Many Bees
My mouth is snow slowly caking that stiff pigeon.
My mouth, the intricately moist machinery of a plant.
I have forgotten if I ever had a mouth.

I have two mouths.
One like warm rain;
or wind manipulating the worn limbs of an elm.

My mouth knows nothing of music.
Or of the oils of love.

Its shape is the shadow of innumerable pigeons;
its words, at times, their bones.

My eyes too know of shadows.
And of the delicate hairs of my grandmother's heart.
And of the plums of puberty.
And the shadow of the eggs inside the woman who moves
immemorially through clover
past the wheat field and alfalfa
and the 1890 Roman Catholic cemetary near the farm in Palos

My eyes know of the blue shadow of the one desire.

The mind does not;
it is an animal, ignorant, ambiguous, talking,
as it must, with many voices.

I walk toward you as if wading through the waves in somebody
else's dream.

I walk toward you as if wading through the waves in somebody
else's dream.

I shall survive this death, even though the heart is
a shadow of a bone.
Or thick glass.

My mouth quick with many bees.


Ode to an All-American Boyhood
To Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsberg, James Dickey

Were you guys lucky, too, to caddy, the light
on freshly-sprinkled fairway delicate and bright as eye of an
Indiana owl
or glitter of fish flickering in the Shedd Aquarium of the
the tough but tender touch of leather socks covering the cobra-
headed clubs, the crack
of brassie on golf ball like whip of mule skinner filling all Death
or to anoint oneself in grease and oil, sweating
beneath the belly of a car or truck in the pit in Shimskis' Garage
in Homewood;
or to find felicity at Marshall Field's as a stockboy numb and
dazed by rawboned, adolescent lust, stumbling about
beneath a pyramid of boxes past models cooly on parade
among the customers all day, filling immaculate brassieres
with flesh like fortune cookies and in silken Oriental half-slips
as I sweat like Sydney Greenstreet examining the statue of the
Maltese Falcon in his hotel suite;
and to fight, like a goddamn fool, in Navy alleys behind
black-and-tan saloon in Minneapolis, my iron ring, its
longhorns, slashing, can open up a cheek;
and to sweat out a basketball game of one-on-one, the comments
cryptic and intense as a fragment by Archilochos;
and to pitch papers onto porches on a bike route as if your arm
were Bobby Feller's blazing corncobs at a knot-hole in Des
to cut the uncut hair of graves beneath an R. Crumb "Keep on
Truckin'" sun large as a lemon drop, and to hawk cufflinks
made by Swank as well as cashmere sweaters from the
Shetland Isles, to scrub as if they had the London Plague of
Robert Greene dying in a bed of straw in Cheapside Gran
Canyons filled with dirty dishes in the Phi Gam kitchen in
Bloomington, to tool around behind wheel of Checker taxi as
if it were a chariot in a race in Babylon, to tote the 85¢ YWCA
Blueplate Special to the widows of the ghosts of pioneers, to
mix drink behind the bar as if concocting cocktails for Long
John Silver and Blind Pew or Bathhouse John and wee,
shrewd Hinky Dink, to create a 100 half-moons in a night by
manipulating the control box in this elevator roomy as a
shoebox purchased by Paul Powell here in a hotel with its 50
bags full of the fleas of Illinois—
this great, unique chance to hear the language where it lives.

Fall a scrimage of yellow leaves today
All over Lincoln Park
Like the mask of the Yellow Mule who travels between the next
world and Tibet inside its house of glass in the Field
Museum by the lake.
I am carrying the night.
I am carrying it as if it were a dark blue dish with stars
for the dinner of the Dalai Lama.
It is the sky two nights ago;
Its voluptuous rich blue looks almost black before the word
for blue had been invented;
The clouds like continents, like huge, majestic prehistoric
creatures moving in a dance;
The stars are brilliant ants. They may have died
a billion years ago.
I feel so happy. It is as if I'm with my wife who's making
sculpture miles and miles away on Ada Street.
I like everything about her.
The way an angel, say, might look upon this early autumn scene
and love everything about it for its reality—
These trees flanking the lagoon at Fullerton are quiet as green fish,
The pale khaki maple leaf lying on the ground, its veins
intricate as the practice of a Tartar cavalry,
Its delicacy like the penis of a cuttlefish,
The grass pale lime and brown as dreams when they are turning brown
Is almost ghostly,
The way the family album on the table in the livingroom has
a gallery of ghosts.
There is only wonder.
Like the wonder in the worn thighbone of the dinosaur
We're allowed to touch
As often as we want on the Main Floor of the Field Museum.
I bike along the lake and watch
The whiplash of the waves and think,
I didn't have to be here in the first place: I could have been
a star:
Or cuttlefish. The shadow of that tree. Or been one of the
bees of oblivion
In any ordinary orgasm.
If there were no moon our hearts could take its place.