A Dome Larger than St. Peter’s

The night before the fatal storm

I’m speaking Russian in a dream

Brisk walk by the lake by Gordon Lee
Brisk walk by the lake by Gordon Lee

of fleeing the suburbs to evade

your latest crime. Defying law

and sense, you erected a dome

larger than St. Peter’s, whiter

than the capitol’s, atop a hill

in a forest of raccoons and skunks.

The storm could topple us both,

erasing our homes and leaving

a stink of unsolved mysteries.


That dome frightens me. Eerie

as a skull, it looms above the world

and outweighs the other matter

of the universe. You built it

to scare me into speaking Russian,

and it worked. You don’t believe

I’m speaking Russian right now?

The storm approaches from the south

while cold air pours from Canada.

When these forces meet, the power

will fail and roofs will collapse

and the tree-fall will render travel

impossible for several days.

You’ll gloat safe in your condo

while I gibber in my basement

in a language I don’t understand.


The dome rises like cumulus clouds.

Beneath it, ghostly parliaments

debate the futures of nations

thousands of miles away. The dream

has already absorbed me, leaving

a greasy residue. Zoning boards

all over America hate you,

but you’ve gotten your way forever.

The oncoming storm will swerve

to spare you. Sheltered beneath

your sepulchral dome, you’ll drink

cup after cup of sugary tea

while I’m busy suffocating

in the weather of your mind.

October Snow

All night the lisp of snow off the roof,

heavy wet October snow heaping

in the trees, bending them to fit

a secret but public agenda.

The cats cower as the snore

of tumbling snow enlivens the dark.

I lie awake and trouble myself

with fears shaped like dirigibles.


A house sold fifty years ago

haunts me, room by room. Books

spilling from broken walnut cases.

Mirrors smudged with the ghosts

of everyone who’s ever lived here.

Upholstery tunneled by mice.

The seductive reek of mildew

oozing from damp-stained ceilings.


An old woman in a nursing home

has hired me to clear up the mess

so the house can sell. Donate books

to a church sale. Give the furniture

to a fellow who restores and sells

at small profit. Dump everything else.

The naked interior needs paint,

as soon as roofers patch the leaks.

Halfway through the job her children,

grown thugs, demand I leave

the rest to them. One night later

the house burns to a mess of cinders.

The snow piles up two feet deep,

a record not only for autumn

but for all the years I’ve lived here.

How will I clear the driveway?


The dark puzzles in snow-mist

ghostly as the flex of dimensions

that like time bend and double up,

struggling to make ends meet. The glare

of a snowplow doesn’t cheer me,

but remembering that sad old house

parses a distance otherwise

impossible for me to cross.

A Halloween Tour on Horseback


Because I’ve got the weekend off,

I escape the daily round of chores

for a Halloween tour on horseback.

Slouching men sneer as I pass

on my tall white mare. Unemployed

for decades, they smoke and curse

and vote against politicians

whose promise to create more jobs


threatens their status quo.

They despise the horsey set

whose daughters go to Wellesley

and marry boys whose genitalia

weigh less than pairs of moth wings.

Despite my appearance on horseback,

I don’t belong to the gentry.

Having lost my driver’s license


for driving while deeply bored,

I chose a horse for conversation

and warmth. Parked at a general store,

I feed the mare Rice Krispies

and nosh on a couple of Ding-Dongs.

A knot of those slouching men

stares at the ground. Their faces

have clenched so tightly curses


can’t slip through their toothless grins.

Across the street on a fence,

a row of jack o’ lanterns gape

at the slow world passing. Tonight

kids will drape in costume and prowl

for candy. I’ll park my horse

in a riding-school stable and pay more

than the B and B would charge me.                          [stanza break]




Horses outweigh people, of course,

and Halloween threatens with pranksters

who often become cruel. Maybe

I’ll sleep in the stall. Tomorrow

we’ll saunter home through villages

crushed by early snow. Wood smoke

exhaled by sleepy houses will sting

my nose and make my horse snort


as she pauses to snack on pumpkins

smashed like daydreams in the road.

Our tour will end with a sneeze,

a hot bath for me, a rubdown

for the mare, and a few snapshots

to explain where we went and why,

despite the unseasonable chill,

we came home drizzled in sweat.




This Old Truck

Yellow VW bus by Gordon Lee
Yellow VW bus by Gordon Lee


Why did you buy this old track?

Bald tires, dead battery, worn out

from a lifetime of heavy service


at our favorite gravel pit.

You’ve emptied our checking account

to buy a dump truck too clumsy


for you to drive in public. Jump

started, it coughs oily white smoke.

Needs a ring job. Needs spark plugs,


ball joints, paint, and a muffler.

Rumbling down Main Street, I feel

too blue collar to marry you.


Maybe that’s the idea: get me

behind the wheel of a shabby truck

and bring out the old-fashioned male


that lurks in me like childhood trauma.

Drink beer and swear at football

on TV. Vote Republican


to keep minorities in their place.

Smoke cigars that reek like sewage.

Slap you around so you run off


with a fragile, spiritual fellow

who could be our abandoned child.

No, I can’t apply this paradigm


without laughing at those cigars.

The truck grumbles up our driveway

and stalls under the hemlock, snuffling


gouts of oil and antifreeze. I spread

kitty litter on the spill and prop

a For Sale sign on the windshield                                           [stanza break]




and hope someone macho enough

for this truck takes it and you away

to wallow in gravel together.





How The Idiot Ends


So you retired to Virginia,

to the Blue Ridge where villages

look shabby as New England’s

and tourists get lost in the fog

of early autumn mornings.

And you’re complaining that the dead

you left in Boston have followed you.

With their colorless smiles they bag

groceries at the general store. They pump

gas at the surly garage, or stamp

library books with green or red ink.


They can’t work computers because

their feeble electrical fields

would fail in a slush of digits.

They can’t drink beer with rednecks.

They can’t lecture on topics

that have arisen since their deaths.

Ignore them. Paddle your canoe

up modest rivers, study the birds,

and watch the coal drags shudder

through Clifton Forge as they track

east along the Jackson River

to terminate in Norfolk. Maybe

I’ll retire, too, and watch the trains

shoulder between the mountains,

gray diesel exhaust weeping.


Maybe I’ll retire a few miles

north or south of your famous view

420 by Xavier Lopez
420 by Xavier Lopez

of misty valleys receding one

after another down to the plains

where Richmond grumbles and fumes.

You won’t distinguish me from the dead

you lured from Boston until

you catch me reading Dostoevsky

aloud on your porch after midnight.

Don’t worry, the neighbors won’t complain.

They’ll want to hear how The Idiot

ends; and you, after scolding me,

will be glad to hear it again.


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