Three poems

How to have a child

Begin on the day you decide
you are fit
to carry on.
Begin with a quailing heart
for here you stand
on the fault line.
Begin if you can at the beginning.
Begin with your mother,
with her grandfather,
the ones before him.
Think of their hands, all of them:
firm on the plow, the cradle,
the rifle butt, the razor strop;
trembling on the telegram,
the cheek of a lover,
the fact of a door.
Everything that can wreck a life
has been done before,

done to you, even. That’s all
inside you now.
Half of it you won’t think of.
The rest you wouldn’t dream of.
Go on.

How to shear a sheep

Walk to the barn
before dawn.
Take off your clothes.
Cast everything
on the ground:
your nylon jacket,
wool socks, and all.
Throw away
the cutting tools,
the shears that bite
like teeth at the skin
when hooves flail
and your elbow
comes up hard
under a panting throat:
no more of that.
Sing to them instead.
Stand naked
in the morning
with your entreaty.
Ask them to come,
lay down their wool
for love.
That should work.
It doesn’t.


How to do absolutely nothing

Rent a house near the beach, or a cabin
but: Do not take your walking shoes.
Don’t take any clothes you’d wear
anyplace anyone would see you.
Don’t take your rechargeables.
Take Scrabble if you have to,
but not a dictionary and no
pencils for keeping score.
Don’t take a cookbook
or anything to cook.
A fishing pole, OK
but not the line,
hook, sinker,
leave it all.
Find out

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