Howard Firkin


They reach agreement in the stray grey lights
of morning once again; another night’s
negotiations over, treaties signed,
and wary lovers wearily remind
themselves of other selves. Keys turn in locks.
This is the time road-sweepers whisk a thousand,
um, indiscretions into features: mouths and
unopened eyes; a thousand bodies fill
the cold moulds of their last night’s clothes and chill;
and faces face back in a thousand clocks.

You should be here to leave now; this is when
most lovers choose to part: too cold for guilt,
too late for dates more certain than again;
when love is turned down like the bloody quilt…


Don’t blame the sun if it’s got better things
to do. Lay off the starlings, too. They sing,
all right, like starlings—certainly well meant—
and if there’s grass, it’s cracks in the cement…
Well, Christ! a city winter after all.
Forget the cars’ exhaust, the fumes that drift
from flues and vents; the air will soon change shift:
let’s let it. Why regret the lack of church bells,
snow-bells, bellbirds? They’re somewhere. Somewhere else.
With you? Somewhere. The wrong side of recall.

The bees are fumbling into flowers there;
each garden has its own blackbird to sing
of lawns and fruit trees, picket fences, clean air;
so who’s to blame if winter isn’t spring…


The moon might be a street light, might stay low
and never move, tough luck for Galileo;
behind the clouds who knows if there are stars?
The gutters play the same old grating twelve bars,
and any passing cab might bring you soon.
A moth is dying in the iron lace;
small fingernails of rain mark time and place,
like wing-beats in the webs no brooms can reach,
like rain, those quiet words of foreign speech,
like rain-shot puddles shattering the moon.

Perhaps you’re listening to your sisters somewhere,
the heady perfume of their common sense;
the street lights flower through wax-paper air
like moons, dissolving into radiance…