Audio: Read by the author.

Every morning without thinking I open
my notebook and see if something
might have grown in me during the night.
Usually, no. But sometimes a tendril
tries a crack in my consciousness
and if I remain only indirectly aware of it
and tether my attention to the imminent
and perhaps ultimately unseeable
sun, sometimes it will grow. Inevitably
a sense of insignificance intrudes: I think
of all the lives in all the places
waiting in their ways
for something to grow out of them,
into them. Is it the same God?

I have a cousin whose political opinions
vile up out of him on the Internet
in the most imaginative ways.
He sports a cartoon mustache like Rollie Fingers
that was a lodestone of enduring awe
in my childhood, along with his gift
for scissoring bricks with one blow.
With his spanking karategi and cowboy kiai,
his weasel-sleek of hair and handlebars,
he was a spectacle there in Midland, Texas,
circa 1973, where the sun slammed
the blacktop and the pump jacks beaked
the background like prehistoric crows.

Always eat grapes downward,
advises Samuel Butler, a corroded copy
of whose “Note-books” I perused
at the backwoods Woodbridge bookstore
that seemed, somehow, already erstwhile,
while my daughters fussed and bleated to be
outside with the miniature cow Mona,
so named because her moo was like a moan.
Savor the best grapes first, Butler means,
so there will be none better on the bunch,
and each will seem delicious to the last.
In truth, I don’t quite follow the logic,
though his conclusion—past fifty,
everyone eats their days downward—
is unassailable.

What else?
That people who can whistle their speech.
My terminal confusion of preterite and predicate.
The meanings we live but cannot have.
Oh, and Mona, who seemed less cow
than concept, really, half animal, half irony,
sticking her rubbable muzzle
through the fence like a Labrador.
We stayed a long while petting the impossibility of her.
We gave her—if you can believe it—grapes
left over from our lunch,
and when they were gone, and we were almost,
her moo blued the air like a sorrow
so absurd it left nothing left of us
but laughter.

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