The Sanity (1967-1997)

By on Apr 13, 2010 in Poetry

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Vietnam War with superimposed soldiers

Remembering Nam, the vets, the regulars
who did not come back.

     Hadn’t the flutes     fragrances     the seasons drawn
in pencilled lines and Telemann     / the fathers
                 in smoky yards     / the villages dressed like Halloween
been scares enough to him     / the sky-high flames
     arranged in drumspeak and guitars     /  in these notes
let loose to play their tricks on cornering?  He thinks
     of the names for wildbloom     / of the stack-fires nights
The Sanity shuts down     — sorting the ashes left     
     when     Time     itself     caves in     — rubbing     away
the midnight volumes and dark stars.  So    what
     if the coffee tastes     like     someone’s cleaning recently?  
So what if the whole sky’s changed    — the faces
     of men besides themselves     — the music that gave him
creeps     the more     he assumed     the dalliance —
     here     where the green had overgrown     / the hard rains
satisfied     — composing     a mind     so local
     it could pick the bonnets out?  For     all     of that rolled
and     odd-sized     stuff     — for     all     the exotic stuff     
     he’s only guessed the use for     — he’s seeing the bodies
off     — 1968     — their     wallets     as empty     
     as stuck beasts     — the bodies lost     in     mis-alloying
daylight     — holding     the future      out to him —
     lost in the blue     and bluer liberties     they’d sighed for.  
And     here     — where     the berries were     / where
     the moonlight     — slipping on bright gourds     — repeats     
the same first names     and     the white noise
     of their erasures     — he samples the lanes     / blue lanes     
/ the summer-to-autumn lives      imagined lives
     had     strained     to figure     — eased     by     the lovely
walk of horns     — and lost in domestic heat —
     in this foam     the moonlight poured     and settled in —
bringing these hearts around     — with     nothing
     glamorous     to to tell you      — and these hearts      
brought home     — to songs     in the old style —
     measured and licked     by     midnight     
          comics and street priests.


     The sheriff’s hobnailing the porchboards asking in.  And
the basework’s stretched for lengths of beltways

     / capitals.  They’re     sending     the bodies     / brothers out —
as if our lives were practice runs     — arranged

     in swaggering trombones     / in the basework’s innocence.  
So     to     the tug-nosed barges     threading river light

     and     to      the tongues of steam     — playing     the grounds
behind The Sanity and Three Crown Barbecue     — this

     mumbled and low somewhat     — chasing the demons off –
naming the quarrels stirred and national betrayals.  Even

     the dark implodes.  Even     this cabby     — drunk and racing
on his guide-star     — screams     the words     to him –

     repeats the words for him     — closing down the century –
remembering the news     and     months-straight

     news     and     absences.  Families     ( 1968 )     and versions
of families like events     — getting the hang of sleep

     in how many different bedrooms.  Tonight     — on this bridge
done     lavender     / this bridge     done     robin’s egg –

     as early as action is     — as ornery as light     / as action is –
he sees how some men pour out themselves     — moved

     by these turns of light     — sees how some children walk –
come out for smoke or exercise     — remembering

     the pants pressed crisp     — the rubbed     horse-muscle
ambitions traded on     — and     any Thursday

     but his own     — the tastes     of     domestic heat —
inviting     such ends     to dreams –

     ends to the heat made up in common beds
and a shared breakfast.


     He feels     / he tastes the domestic heat      — toasted
with Clark’s tonight     
or some other local hooch.  And all the important
visiting    — as early as action is    
/ as early as this last glow     — settled
on rusty limbs and over the beanfield dissonance —
and     over     these     same     
dark-haired or tow-head sensitives     — spooked
and taking numbers     
on themselves     — over the blocks     
with     best intentions
taking tenths.

     But what can they tell him after all     — as     early
as action is     — come     home
as they have     across deep space     — dulled     
by the ends     of     night-travel
/ dulled     by     the roars     of night travel —
as     they     invented it  —
remembering the ruins and interviews —
1968    — the kiosk dreams
/ beneath      
the many billboards’

     This morning the light’s day-lit by the Victoria Hotel —
the fog’s day-lit     — wrapping
The Sanity around and the Three Crown Barbecue —
shrouding the barges     / stacks      
and  all this stacked-on

     And here’s this librettist wintering     — but
lacking the speech     to call that back     
/ to explain the literature     — tipping his stingy brim
to them     — to the wait-staff
well before they’ve leaned and stretched a stitch –
breath-taking     / discrete     — and
to these old men sniffling     — remembering
the bridges     above the sea
and tunnels running under     / the dreams      
like tongues of flame      
and     tongues of flame      — like
a confession     — let go
he thinks    for cheap     / let
go     for     give

     So much for his own post-graduate and sensuous     
slug-fests.  So much     for a cousin’s
company     / for     the dreams     made new     
or     stiffened     by arrivals     / for     
the dark     — split wide —     the fog split wide
and sound enough for him     / the
parlors alive with domestic heat     — bedrooms     
and bunks     — as     bunks
were then    — Time’s spoils     —  the ways     
he thinks of them     — and
kitchens     as out of touch     – hot     
as the kitchens seemed
to him     — alive     in their own     
mulled wines
and     recipes     for
hard sauce.


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Robert Lietz is the author of eight published collections of poems, including The Lindbergh Hal-century, Storm Service, and After Business in the West. Nearly five hundred of his poems have been published in print and online journals, including recent publications in Istanbul Literary Review, The Pittsburgh Quarterly Online, Avatar, Contrary, Terrain, Valparaiso Review, Salt River Review, and Lily. Several unpublished collections are currently finished and ready for publication, including West of Luna Pier, Spooking in the Ruins, Keeping Touch, Character in the Works: Twentieth Century Lives, The Vanishing, and Eating Asiago & Drinking Beer. Meanwhile, he keeps active writing and exploring his interest in digital photography and image processing and their relationship to the development of his poetry.