To a photograph of Dave Parker


In love poems we talk about eye color.
Your eyes are the color of the virginity that Brooke Shields just lost
And the luxury Oldsmobile she’ll give birth to nine months hence.

In benedictions we ask the firmament for mercy and riches.
For you are large and bearded like the godhead in sanctuary etchings.
Yours is the Sunday hat of fat-armed Baptist aunts.
Its tincture, cocaine in a sunbeam.
Through oral tradition, you taught us how to anger presidents with a lean.

People, prick up your ears only if you want to be deafened.


In sea chanteys we sing to forget what’s been roasted into our muscles.
But do take heart and know that the shore hovers ahead.
Or perhaps that is a discotheque. Or the nearest precinct.
This is why you hum chamber music at the plate.

Gotthold Lessing wrote that wine and love are the only two things
That keep a man from being a stone. In you, though, there is
An artery that has grown through your finger and into your cigarette,
Which it now garrisons with the plushest of blood.
That is the elusive third thing
That keeps you from being just a man.


Your tongue prowls out of what we thought was your mouth
But turned out to be the stoop of a brownstone in Red Hook —
Back when it was dangerous, obviously.


In elegies we lament.
So we lament that the buildings of the boulevards
That housed the best nights ever had or never had
Are long shuttered,
Coins over the eyes of a dead Roman.

(This piece originally appeared at FanGraphs. It has since been revised and made even worse, probably.)

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