Two Poems

by Brendan Constantine

 
Night Stand
                              for M.M.

We look at Mars, point at Mars, touch
Mars. You sing, Newton, Huygens, Laplace,
Kepler. I sing, Kingdom, Union, Chalice,
Scepter. You sing, Tycho Brahe. I shout,
He lost his nose in a duel! Got a new one
made of gold and silver! You sigh, Percival.
What of Percival Lowell? We feel bad for
not singing him. Between us we haven’t
the heart. He was so sure about the men
and women of Mars, so sure they built
canals; and schools and armies and
an opera. If astronomy teaches anything,
he said, it’s that we’ll certainly meet
our cousins scattered throughout space.
We drink to Percival Lowell, we bow to
Percival Lowell, we dim the lights and kiss
but softly like neutrinos. It’s too dark
to see the chart anymore. I sing Ptolomy,
Messier, Hawking and Hubble. I whisper
Galileo, Copernicus. You fumble the nightstand
for a candle, strike a match, pull me
down. This light, you say, has traveled
since the stars were in jail. It’s come
all this way to crash with us.

 

A Foundry Gone
                              for Dean Young
 
Don’t worry about how much you are.
Think about ants, what fits in their mouths.
Always remember the land is a roof, always.
Early reports from behind the refrigerator
say the new queen looks a lot like her father;
when she turns her head the television flickers
but nobody stops watching. Stop watching.
Start keeping a record of everything you say
in your sleep. Translate all Freudian slips.
Sorry, that should be, “Stop begging for things.”
Pavlovian slip.                          Ring a bell?
Insects aren’t submissive, they don’t look up.
The queen is served by her masters.The land
moves fast but the dead move faster. Most
people die with ten pounds of undigested
literature in their systems. Mostly ‘coverage.’
Ants can detect artificial sweetening, even
in a corpse. When angels die, every part is
useless. The sun is full of apologies. If you take
a Twinkie & bury it for sixty years, you’ll have
no idea where you buried it. Everyone has
a question that can’t wait. The opposite of love
isn’t hate, it’s a quick survey. The dreams of ants
are broken by starting cars, changing channels,
texting. Most of us have a higher profile before
birth, before the hammer strike of light. Some
day soon you’ll be asked to melt your money
into a single coin. The hard part will be
choosing its face.

Brendan Constantine’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, FIELD, Zyzzyva, Ninth Letter, and other journals. His most recent collections are Birthday Girl With Possum (WriteBloody Publishing 2011) and Calamity Joe (Red Hen Press 2012). He has received grants and commissions from the Getty Museum, James Irvine Foundation and the NEA. He currently teaches at the Windward School in Los Angeles. In addition, he regularly offers classes in hospitals, shelters, and with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project.