g d 30

Anyone who ever wrote three consecutive paragraphs

and admitted it

has been told by uncles, drunks, and coworkers

that the stories they’ve lived


would put all best-sellers to shame

if only someone

would set them down on paper.


Billions of stories

die every year

untold, unread, unheard.

wexler b

For those who live at the end of the line,

New Lots Avenue or Dover Plains,

Bay Head Junction or Babylon,

the names of their trains and neighborhoods

bear the magic of destination.

In Danbury, Port Jervis, Port Jefferson,

the tracks don’t stretch to infinity

in both directions; they stop

at stones or steel. Sure of seats,

commuters dream their way to work.

When the sun is gone, they’re the last

reaching home to rest—at Netcong,

Ditmars Boulevard, Greenport,

Far Rockaway.


ante up 6

My father didn’t read like the rest of us; he played

Solitaire, dealing through the deck again and again

by immutable rules, toward the strange end of “winning”

at the game. We knew he was home if we heard the rapping deck

as he straightened the cards for shuffling. Isolated, pointless, it seemed

like his life. The British ascribe virtue to the game by calling it


Patience. There’s no reward except completion of the pattern,

skill less important than the luck of the shuffle—whatever

happens, you can blame the cards—and thus it’s a paradigm

of existence. Sometimes, instead of working, I sink in addiction

to the computerized game, moving and clicking the mouse

till my arm aches. I try to control myself, to keep


from clicking the Solitaire icon, which will summon up

the cards—crisply pictured, almost real, waiting

for clicks to reveal what’s hidden. W. H. Auden

asked T. S. Eliot why he played Patience

so much. Because, said Eliot, it’s the nearest thing

to being dead.



The dentist, having filled my tooth, tousled my hair.

I had not had my hair tousled since—well, in fact,

I couldn’t remember ever having had my hair tousled.

I don’t mean having someone romantically run

her fingers through my hair. That kept happening.

4 am in paris 9

I mean the way a grown-up chuckles and does it

to a child. Perhaps I wasn’t the tousling type,

but not everyone would see that on first acquaintance,

and some just like to tousle children’s hair

as they go along on the sidewalk or on buses.


Besides, though it’s hard to believe now, I was

a very attractive child, with hair brighter

and fuller, very touslable. Curious that I can’t

remember an uncle, my father, or a family friend

tousling my hair, not even once.

teeth 2

So when, as a 27-year-old with many

mature responsibilities, I felt the dentist

tousling my hair, I was puzzled. I’ve never tried

to guess his motive, but it was good to have

a moment of warmth in the dentist chair.


t lv 12

There’s a time when the night sky changes

from black to blue that’s just as dark

but things in the distance are more distinct

and you see that what you were looking for—

a lover, an answer, a break, or sleep—

is not in this night for you to find.

But no one goes mad in this quarter-hour.

This is the time to rest from your searching,

to buy a cup of coffee and then go home

to lie on your bed and listen

to the people wake who search by day.


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