After school and homework–pencils, paper
–kiting until supper-time, and after.
Newspaper and sticks and mucilage, or
tape in a heavy wind. I send Sunday
comics into aerospace. Hank Aaron,
classified ads, the headlines that Martin
Luther King or Bobby Kennedy is
slain, that LBJ won’t run again, that
ice cream is bad for you and that’s the scoop.
I put them all together in a frame
and watch them float away, only a line
between me and them, and sometimes it breaks
or the wind rips the paper or there’s not
enough tail or too much and the things loop
and loop and loop into whirlpool, then hit
the ground. Which is much harder sky to the
sky’s airier earth. So I follow what
I’ve helped the wind suspend, and make repairs,
adjustments, and try again, as though I’m
testing wings, as if I’m the one for flight.
Yet I never see myself up there, air
-borne, but I hold the line against the breeze.
It’s at the limit when the flying’s best,
when the wind that is now nature pulls you
or yanks the string from your grip or pulls out
the tent-stake where you’ve thrust it in to tie
flight down or rubs and rubs the string
and you look up to see the creation
limping off, no more pride to it, no shape
but animation. Then you have to choose
whether to track it down after it hides
behind trees and houses or let it lie.
Gee, I should’ve put a message on it:
If you find this kite please call me at
926-3444 and tell me
where you found it so I’ll know how far. I’ve
have followed on my bike, abandoned wheels, walked
through the woods to where my hope has risen,
have found it in trees, on housetops, over
power lines–and, occasionally, on
the ground. Where it began anyway, a
wooden thing exploded into splinters
and shreds. This is the end of me, I think,
the way I’ll come down one day. God makes new
what’s old, they say at Sunday School. If you
believe. I believe, but I haven’t thought
about the finer points of what makes God.
When I’m old enough to do that, I’ll be
deceased. Now I believe I’ll never die.
So I rewind all the string I can and
tie untethered broken ends and repair
old kites or salvage the frames and the cross
-pieces and put together something new
that’s partly old and send it up again
and somehow I go with it and I hope
for a few hours of nothing. While I reel
it in I realize how long that takes
–but only when I’m doing it, crossing
wrist over wrist, making the circle one
revolution at a time until it’s
in good hands. What comes to me is that it’s
easier to let it have its way, which
must be God’s way, or death’s–and sail out taut
-lessly. Then pursue it or let it ride,
though that’s such a lot of line to follow.
It’s what I can’t see that keeps me looking.
I love to listen to the radio
–all those voices that don’t know me and don’t
know (but hope) that I am listening. Friends
I don’t have to see who don’t know I’m their
friend. Which I’m not. I’m a good listener,
however, and a democratic one:
I tune out one for another, then turn
him away for someone else (I won’t say
somebody, though I know that there’s a tongue
for every face I can’t see, only hear).
And my very favorites are far away,
come in strong–at first–then fade to fuzz, ears
and antennae like mine too weak to woo
them for long. It’s just as well. They dissolve
like asphyxiation, emphysema
of the airwaves taking spirit away.
Goodbye, old friend; life goes on–I finger
the dial: here’s someone fresh to listen to,
and his or her great product: news, Jesus,
Rumsfeld, baseball, Chevrolet, thunderstorm,
Emergency Broadcast System, Tampax,
Limbaugh, Savage, Bohrs, NPR, Dubya.
Before I can wish that they’d go away
they do–poor reception on this end, cheap
radio, sun long gone and the moon high
and signals like a thousand points of light
(is that what George Bush was talking about?)
or bombs bursting in air or that flurry
of stars when you get up too fast and go
dizzy. They say, whoever they are, that
shooting well beyond the solar system
are the old radio and TV signals
that began many years before my birth;
and that, somewhere out there, aliens are
tuning into The Lone Ranger, Fibber
McGee, Amos and Andy, Jack Armstrong
The All-American Boy, Uncle Miltie,
I Love Lucy, Mr. Peepers. One day
they’ll hear what I’m hearing now, if I was
really listening. Perhaps I am–all
that babble one language and one discourse,
one epic going out into the night.
And I didn’t write it, not exactly
–just programmed voices of invisible
chums (on Charon, someone’s hearing FDR’s
reassuring My friends–and you are my friends)
and created a cosmic Spoon River
Anthology. These are their final words,
if not their last, and every night they speak
their piece until I kill the radio
and the white noise of nothing answers me.
If that’s not the voice of God, I’m static.
About the Poet