So Few Things

So Few Things (2003)


Wild nights—Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile—the Winds—
To a Heart in port—
Done with the Compass—
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden—
Ah! the Sea!
Might I but moor—Tonight—
In Thee!


Come on out, Daniel
It’s one night left in my leave
You might look back & wish you’d spent with me
You know in Elkton that car I told you?
I went ahead & bought it
Not much time to drive it
Thirteen months since Baghdad fell
They still can’t turn the heat down
But I won’t back out now
You don’t ask & I won’t tell
Put your skinny arm around my shoulder

Back in grade school
My back yard was Viet Nam
& we took ‘em on like Rambo & Van Damme
In that same foxhole last night I held you
I think of what that felt like
Think what they’d do to me .. . .
But can’t this Mustang take the rain?
Let’s fly below the radar
Till the black trees turn to green
Windshield wipers call my name
Dogwoods one white blur along the shoulder

What’s that, Daniel? It’s light outside
Don’t you clean up nice though in a black suit & a tie
I’m here & not here, & I can’t say why
Something about headlights
Something about sirens
Though they might not ask you now
Tell ‘em all the story of a man who loved you well
End it with the sound of rain
Falling on the box against your shoulder


Close to three before I cross this mountain
Close to not much here tonight to make front-page news:
The caution signs that flare & pass
The moon behind its reading glass
The downhill curve I took so fast
The shoulder picked up one more black tattoo

Tipped across the skyline down towards Elkton
Wishing what to say to you would just come to mind
I whisper to my listening car
So lost in thoughts of where you are
I brake to miss a falling star
That arcs out long before it hits the ground

If I had some plans
That did not come to be
Maybe they seemed better off as dreams
& if you know me well
Don’t just hear the story I can’t tell
Hear the one I mean

Close to where you moved that night you left me
A highway sign got twisted round to take some back road
So if my magic words should stray
I’ll leave them here in my own way
& pick up all I need to say
The next time I get down by Elkton


Did you get your friend to say he’d
Miss you when you went away?
It’s not love
Walk by taking your pains to hide
All but your best side
It’s not love
Letting him see you give more
Than he gave up the time before
It’s not love
Get worked up about keeping score
& know it won’t be long before
It’s not love

Didn’t you want so hard to be
Setting yourself more than free
There’s not enough desire
To make love out of

Think you’d stick so close to light
If you’d never have known the night?
It’s not love
Letting the mad man win the fight
Just so you’ll be proven right
It’s not love, it’s not love

Can’t see the game for the prize
Can’t see the myth for the lies
There’s not enough fire
To make love out of


Try as they might the young men just can’t turn my smile
I’ll be smiling at you only this time
Let ’em all tell me that fire & ice are out of style
It’s my style to want you only this time
Trying to keep my heart & trying to let it down
I’ve been taking this tune to heart right now

Why’d I try to tell you just how good that felt?
I thought it over now this time
I’m gonna let this story talk all by itself
My part is over now
Trying to keep my guard & trying to let it down
I have taken this dream apart I know
Heat from light & I know
What’s strong from right & I know
My star’s been sighted over these hills again

One by one with the crowd in the night that’s all gone
I’m inclined to want you only this time
One side of me tired & aching for a sound
It’s my line to want you only this time
Late that night with the rain in secret coming down
I’ve been dying to want you only


You say that you’re leaving home
& you’re scared ’cause you tried that before
A week in the big world alone
You found yourself back again
Your family remind you how much they provide
They don’t know what you need to live
They just give you what they need to give
But here & here & here
Say what you want you’ve got it
Here & here & here . . . .

They tell you that’s not like you
They don’t even know who you are
They just see the child they knew
They think you won’t get too far
& some you call friends will do all that they can
To see you fall short of your peak
They’ll try to correct your mystique
But here & here & here
Be what you want you’ve got it
Here & here & here


These weeks stand up like candles
In a fifties Hitchcock train
That roars across a trestle
To the third act in the rain
These weeks are like the pages
Of a diary on some torn-up sea
A traveler might lose
That drift beneath the waves now
Too deeply to be moved

The way the kestrel’s head moves
When it lands to still the view
The way the current bulges
Where the boulder lets it through
This painting on the lampshade
Made of water in a dream you shared
These weeks are a sunscreen tattoo
The childhood song that turned back
& nearly spoke to you

These weeks are strangers’ faces
I find I’ve turned to yours
The heirloom mirror reeling
The moonlight on the floor
& if you let that wound heal
You’ll just be that much farther
From the way you were before
You feel like it might kill you
& you want to feel it more


Now John Kotalekis & I’d just met
& he smuggled rum & cigarettes
Into the field infirmary
Where I lay with my bandaged knee
We watched the moonlight flood the town
& inch by inch we made no sound
& when I raised my head I found
I’d come one or two steps forward underground
All aboard—keep an eye on the sign
that you lay your track toward

By a fishing pole stuck in the sand
I met an absolutely normal man
& the captains of your football dreams
Would look ordinary next to him
The screens were up but the doors were down
You could hear the breakers twist & pound
& when I came up for air I found
I’d come a few more steps forward underground
All aboard—home by home
that you’re headed back toward

Now & again I’ve seen the owl’s wing when it’s light out
Now & again knocked down an open door
I’ve seen an angel in his hide-out
Shaking on the floor
All aboard—when you recognize what you’ve never seen

Andoni & I took a mud road down
From the hills with no helmets on
I could sure use a little of that rain today
But I felt the pull & I came this way
Sometimes it’s strong as a summer squall
& faint sometimes like a creek in fall
& when I can’t climb that wall . . . .

As You Were

As you were, boys, the captain in you said
The reb to get the best of is the one inside your head
It’s fear of fear, boys, you told them, trying to hear
The thrill those words put in you fresh off the boat last year
For all the world this war has shown you
& all the bones the brass have thrown you
How you wish these boys had known you as you were

This stubbled acre, in corn a year before,
That swollen ships bore eastward to feed the Irish poor
It’s all in frost now—a crust of mud so deep
The feet of Irish soldiers walk bleeding in your sleep
Still you’ll set their lines advancing
As long as they do all the dancing
& leave you when the smoke clears standing as you were

The harrow of the sun drags the sky out into view,
Though it’s still too dark for you to call it gray or blue
Pass out sprigs of boxwood for pride against the chill
Let Lee believe the woods themselves are charging up the hill

Think on back, boys to Galway in the fall,
You told them trying not to think of anything at all
The fields of Fredericksburg crash down like a tide
The one who runs the hardest is the highest one to ride
But if it be to God they’re going
Or where the winds of fire are blowing
You’ll leave this field as far from knowing as you were


I took on dragons in my youth—
Cheered on by pages slew them—
& held my gleaming chain mail dreams
While all my friends outgrew them
At eighteen still I felt a thrill
No doubt had ever shaken
& so I came to seek my fame
So sorely unmistaken
The days fell out end over end
Cast up like coins on the sand
More than I knew how to spend, everywhere

Every crowd I strode through proud,
Head high & never swerving
& those who fell, I told myself,
Had proven undeserving
Fortune’s fist at my one kiss
Lay down so open-handed
It seemed to me I ne’er need see
My hard heart countermanded
Courtiers all called out my name
In sighs that all sounded the same
& no raging foe but grew tame, everywhere

Though I’d bear nor want nor care
One need was my distraction:
Some odd jack who’d watch my back
Whose own I’d stand for watching
A costume ball one Carnival
I spied your fiery Grendel,
& as I watched my fingers sought
My broadsword’s wooden handle
A bird nest I’d found in the ferns
An uncommon word I had learned
I just caught your face as you turned

The faces blurred, or all but yours,
Your smile so freshly angered
I would as soon have quit that room
& turned our heat to languor
Until in just one misspent thrust
I failed to miss my target
& from your pale green costume scales
Withdrew a real-life scarlet
The dark summer leaves now defend
A light none could hide from me then
& I never saw you again, everywhere


I would pull your weeds by candlelight
Just like you show me if I can
You’d have thought by now I’d get this right
Still like as not beside the pile I’ll find impatiens in
The tangle in my hand
I would clean your pie safe dish by dish—
Those back-up pans your house outgrew
& the best intended Christmas gifts,
Then, look, behind them all that vase
You brought by hand from Spain
I broke & tried to glue
Warm square of sunlight passes
Wipe down the dishwashed glasses
I hear, hear you in the Revere ware

I’d arrive some late night by surprise
Wait till next day to get unpacked
I remember where you keep the key
Still, more & more with every year I find what I forget
To do is put it back
Walk through the darkened hallway
Both hands out before me
I hear, hear you in the Revere ware

Though whatever I give to you
Turns out just like something I’d give myself
As boys’ gifts tend to do . . . .

Even here my would-be graceful words
Pile in my hands like contour sheets
Full of bulges where there should be folds
Till all at once I feel your hands come next to mine to make
The wayward corners meet
Bare feet, sunburnt tiling
Backsplash, kitchen island
Eight bells, chimes the rack of Revere ware


I’m a gettin’ up guy, I’m a gettin’ up guy
That’s how I am, don’t ask me why
If you’re stayin’ in bed don’t talk to me
Cause I’m a gettin’ up guy, I’m a gettin’ up guy

Nor pounding head nor pouring rain
Is gonna make me late for work again
If you get in my way you’ll wish you hadn’t
Gotten in my way—‘cause I’m a gettin’ up guy

When I say it’s time to shower & then get dress
Do I know what I’m talking about? Yes

‘Cause there’s a world out there like a big blue whale
Just waiting for me to grab it by the tail
Opportunity passes some people by
But it doesn’t pass me by ‘cause I’m a gettin’ up guy
Guess I’ll be one until the day I die
I’m a raging bull & I’m building up steam
I’m a gettin’ up guy