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Sample Poems by William Greenway

Black Ice

Like the best of worst things,
I never saw it coming.
But it saw me.

My bifocals,
the heavy tread of my boots,
my still-quick reflexes,
it just laughed at.

The fluff of a feathery morning,
the melt of midday,
the rainbow puddles of evening all
devolved into this cold black hole
of beauty that, like Rilke's angels,
could clasp and kill.

Perhaps my tweed cap,
from Granddaddy's village in Wales,
saved me, cushioned my head
when it snapped back to slap
the black pavement where cars
were parked all day,
their candy colors warming,
dripping, and drooling in weak sun.

I crawled on my hands and knees,
groping in the snow for specs,
new cell phone, hat,
calling out what I thought
I never would:
help.

And then, oh, what have I done?
over and over, since my wife
lay stroked and helpless
in a hospital room upstairs.

All night I drank gin,
called friends to wake me for
what could be my final hour,
staring at the mirror,
at the dark disks of pupils
to see if they would dilate,
or deepen the pool
I might fall into
if something brittle didn't
bear me up from that blackness
that has no reflection
and no bottom.


Aphrodite

Ha! So you are, after all.
Just found out about that grandpa
in Paxos, did you? I knew it,
called you Greek so many times
when your black ringlets
and olive face hovered over mine.
Although, okay, I admit
I also called you-depending on
the candle-, summer-sunset-, or winter-snowfall-
light through the windows-Mona Lisa,
superimposed upon a sepia Tuscan landscape,
or a Gauguin, especially when nude, lying
on your brown belly, almost a bloom
of orange (your favorite color)
frangipani behind your ear,
flowered sarong cast aside and lying
on a bamboo floor.

Me? I'm still Welsh-
white, a poor man's Burton
or Hopkins who only gets you
in screenplays: Bathsheba bathing
on the roof, an aged Menelaus
before Paris comes along,
Mr. Christian after he steals
the Bounty.

Two years now, and all have tried
to part us, foes, friends, the
circumstance: they thought
mere age and its differences
of time would matter, but we've
shattered all their creaking wisdoms.

O, Salome! Dance
for me the seven veils again,
and I will give you any head
you want.

O, Love! How could they
have so badly underestimated
all your predestination.

O, clear-eyed Eros! And not your little
blindfolded Roman archer friend.
It's how you know
that all is right and true:
when it's not a choice you've made,
but a choice that has made you.


Dreamed I Dreamed You

long before we met: Quattro-
centro face, Mona Lisa lips
hovering above me on my back,
black ringlets veiled around
my sight,
blocking out the useless light.

This was a while ago,
and maybe a longer while
for you to travel to this place
from wherever time and space
you were.
I suffered days from those
lush dreams, sure,
in thin daylight,
no one would ever come.

Yet, here you are.

I'm not saying I believe in all
that reincarnation crap, but,
'fess up, gentle reader, you do.
Ask lovers how they came to meet:
you'll hear a story of God,
who brought them both across
the continent, or cosmos,
over distance, through dimensions,
to Youngstown, Ohio to mate. Fate
it was, followed like Magi
the star of a dream they had
of each other that came true.

Like me and you.


Pathetic Fallacy

for Mindi
There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
-Tennyson

She's worried that this, our wedding day
of pelting rain, is an ill omen, the way
high winds and black clouds on the beach
when I proposed to her last summer
augured typhoons of disaster, too.

Hard, at times, not to believe the world malevolent.
Hard, at others, to believe benevolent
when falling leaves foretell a white death
or the first few drops of a spring rain
forecast monsoon floods
and soon.

Still, I said the winds that day
on the beach were blowing all
the sadness of our past away,
and that this rain today
is the tears of all the years
to come
paid in advance
and in full.


Buying the House


The realtor opens the door by cracking
a little safe on the knob,
and you enter this vacuum, this
vacated silence, trying to imagine

yourself sprawled on your crappy,
spruce-green corduroy couch
midway in the picture window, fragrant
fire crackling in the cold hearth,

a TV shouting and flickering
the walls blue-green.
But from which corner,
you can't decide yet.

Maybe under the cheap Picasso print
or next to the bar
you'll stock so you can say
name your poison.

Then you plan some sort of exorcism,
of the widow-real or grass-
the divorc'ee, or the suicide, maybe with
something exotic, Moroccan or

Mandarin bubbling on the stove,
steam like a genie corked
in this bottle, a fine wine waiting
to someday be decanted.

Instead, he'll live here forever,
unrubbed and inurned,
all three of your wishes
ungranted.


Second Mortgage


So far we've had only two fights:
when she scrambled eggs with a steak knife
in my nonstick fry pan,
and when she put my cured, cast-iron,
cornbread skillet in the dishwasher.
But hell, when I was twenty-nine
I didn't know nothing either.
Dumber than a bag of hammers, I
had to be raised by another woman,
who taught me not to wear brown
shirts with brown pants,
like some UPS driver,
where and what the clitoris was,
that the food in New Orleans beat
Atlanta's all to hell,
that car loans and credit cards
are of the devil,
and that when you move into a new house
the rugs you lay on the floors
still have the sweepings underneath.

Now, this new woman is teaching me, too:
to think twice before I utter my
"you-might-wantas"
and my "you-might-oughtas,"
to say nothing that doesn't have
the shade-tree shadow of love
above or beside it, and to keep
my hotheaded, oven-door mouth
shut, and likewise the screen door of humility,
which welcomes the cooling breezes in
but keeps the flies of friction out.