We never saw the audience we served.
Downstairs in those steel kitchens, in the loud
bucket brigade of orders, pots, and shuttling
of dishes hand-to-hand, you couldn’t hear
the murmurous conversation of the rich
at lunch. But you could feel them, scented, laundered,
sitting on your head. You could feel it right
through the floor, feel it so well that when
we ran out of mashed potatoes once
and Cookie skimmed some off a garbage pail,
slapped it on a plate and dealt it off
to Hernandez, the Head Chef,
who flourished sauce on it and shipped it on,
our kitchen practically spluttered to a stop—
a glee we somehow managed to tie up
the moment the manager strolled in.
I juggled the bakery’s steel blow and pans.
My buddy, Frank, tackled the garbage-can-size
stew pots, wept his sweat back in them
as he’d disappear head-first, wrestling them
down to reach the bottom
and bark the black crust.
Once you’ve served below the ground like that,
making the world materialize graciously above,
where hunger is a problem in chamber music—
once you’ve made chamber music in the kitchen,
if you love chamber music, you must love it
knowing what it means.
Through the open
Seven needles in a haystack
snatched by ear out of the moving
prairie, like you
already fading, passed, gone.
If I could find it, it would be
points of sunlight glancing
off a brooch so near shades
of gold in these moving
grasses I could scarcely distinguish
it from the grasses. Like you
it is always gone.
The bird pulled it off like a string
of catches on this flying
trapeze which keeps swinging
back. If birds’ songs simple mean
I’m here! I’m here!
then why a song so baroque?
How many notes did it have?
Which notes were extra?
In the Beatles’ “Blackbird”
You can hear a meadowlark, its song
canned as the slow-motion replay
of a pass reception on TV:
Love studied into pornography.
The bird falls off a see-saw,
hesitates, picks itself
back up on the rising board,
completes its song.
It does it again.
I prefer the song that eludes me,
This one which we are passing,
Banjo music picked out
Through wind and distance
Already falling behind
Gone and not gone.
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