for Paul Cook
The illegal ditch riders of the previous night
Will deliver ice today.
The barbers up in the trees are Chinese.
They climb with bright cleats, bearing machetes—
It’s a season
Of low self-esteem for date palms on the street.
My visitor was at the door yesterday.
In a blue sere of a sucker suit.
An I Like Ike button
On the lapel. Holding a cup of sawdust.
He breathed through his eyes, crusted
I was not confused. It was God
Come to straighten my thoughts.
Whole celestial vacuums
In the trunk of his pink Studebaker.
We would smoke and cough.
I sat very still, almost at peace with myself.
He had shot a deer in the mountains. He thought
Last year’s winterkill was worse than usual.
I told him I didn’t know about guns.
Something forming on his forehead—a gloriole
Of splattered sun over snow.
We drank our lemonade in silence.
He asked if he could go. He joked
About his wife’s tuna casserole. As a gift
I signed for him my last paperback.
He left the book of matches. I’ll not enroll
In the correspondence course it offers
For commercial artists. What a relief
That the barbers in the trees are Chinese.
Green fronds are dropping in twos and threes
Around the bungalow, lessons
In the etiquette of diseased parrots. Bill Cody
Said it first, “If there is no God, then I am
His prophet.” Stop it. Please stop it.