Sleet Seasonal Supplement — Summer 2011

Jim Moore

At 7 a.m. Watching the Cars on the Bridge
How to Close the Great Distance Between People
Two Flute Songs
The History of Roses

At 7 a.m. Watching the Cars on the Bridge

Everybody's going to work. Well,
not me. I'm not
going to work.

How to Close the Great Distance Between People

Do it over coffee,
like fish that appear to be talking,
but are really eating to stay alive.

Two Flute Songs

I want to become thin as a flute song
which goes in to the delicate inner ear
and coils there, holding in balance the lives
of everyone I love.

It's late and the furnace goes full blast
filling the room like a good joke.
I read aloud, pausing for rain.
If my pipe were alive
I could not hold it more lovingly.
Soon, I will make green tea
and pray that the flute song I barely hear
is not a signal for dawn
and is not a record, nor an answer
to any questions I might pose it.


They are so alone in the mist,
the two geese in the Japanese woodblock
that fly in front of the full moon.
One of them hunches his back for better flight
like a runner at the block, his wings arched to work full force.
The other one
glides; moves by some unseen power,
maybe the moon's pull shoots him along through the faint clinging mist
like a boat, oars up, drifts through seaweed.
And their claws!
Sharp, scaly, ready to drop
on some helplessness,
plummet through mist like pickaxes
detached from their hands.
They are alone in the world that supports wings,
the world of moon-shadows and thinning atmospheres.

My first night in Crete an old fisherman and I shared a bed.
"It's the custom."
Old broken pipe going, he looks at pictures in a magazine,
then puts it down. Sighs.
I look straight at him,
he puts his arms out, palms up, meaning:
"No language." Saying,
"I am at the river and must cross. Do you know of a boatman?"

The History of Roses

7 A.M. first frost, the nurse who works all night
walks home, feet splayed gingerly in two directions.
Last night the old man who sells papers by day and flowers by night
sold us roses, five for a dollar. And the world
sways a little on its stem at how people have to shuffle
      to survive.

And now there are roses on your desk, concentrated slices of dawn,
darkened, folded into layers, veined and bunched together,
coil of soft petals above the delicate green leaves.
And the history of roses is the history of the work whistle,
the florist for whom the holidays are a nightmare,
whose children are asleep by the time he's home Christmas Eve,
who stands alone in the kitchen he remodeled and eats a dish of ice
before he goes to bed: he is still young when his first heart attack

There is no end to the history of roses, to blooming and quiet,
to what withers and returns. All knowledge hurts:
and when we walk out of a theater and buy roses
there have to be tears and oceans and blind trust
in the clot of a dark red substance on the end of a cut stem.


If I stood like this each evening near nightfall,
stood silent in June next to this olive tree,
if I could breathe in time to its breathing,
to the in of fading light, the out of oncoming darkness,
what fear could death then hold for me?

“Two Flute Songs", “How to Close the Great Distance Between People" and “At 7 a.m. Watching the Cars on the Bridge" were previously published in The Nation. (Watching the Cars on the Bridge" is also sandblasted into the Boston subway system somewhere). “Late/Later/Latest" is reprinted with permission from Lightning at Dinner, 2005, Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Jim Moore's book of poems, Invisible Strings, was published in April by Graywolf Press.  He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota and Spoleto, Italy and loves all kinds of weather including SLEET.