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POETRY By Geoffrey Rips THE ART OF POETRY FATA SUSANNA, DON’T YOU CRY Ain’t it a shame, David said, meaning the two women there walking on the curb as he brought the truck around a corner, meaning they were young, their dark hair caught the light, and he was married and I was soon to be and for us they came too late walking on that curb. And another time he said, Ain’t it a shame, meaning for all my education I could not back a trailer through a gate to be unloaded, couldn’t cut a straight line with a torch, couldn’t load steel pipe for hours with the August sun in Texas hanging on me, could never know the years he spent drifting full-muscled into manhood. The world is so peculiar. In the pipeyard under the caliche is the black dirt and under the black dirt is the limestone that holds the water they are always drilling for and under the water somewhere deep is burning rock, meaning that what we need is always just beyond us, meaning that so much of our own lives is just beyond us. And by the pipeyard runs the highway that also runs by my grandfather and Uncle Ed where they are buried in the black dirt just where Uncle Ed used to wander when he got old walking to the pipeyard in his sleep. Ain’t it a shame. Even the great thoughts are just beyond us, not that far off, just through the dirt somewhere, just rattling in the mesquite. You see, my father writes poetry where the trucks lift the caliche dust that settles on the cold black steel. Nothing is too far away that it cannot almok be summoned back, even the lost thoughts of the living, even the dead thoughts of the dead. Out of reach but not so far. Ain’t it a shame. The ghosts almost come alive. MEDITATION The blind man stands on his stoop in the rain. He is old and huge. His hands are bigger than my head. The rain falls. It falls on him. He stands there, holding the rail like someone staring far into the distance. Bill Rips is a San Antonio businessman. Geoffrey Rips, his son, edits the Texas Observer. And the blue moon sits behind the new moon. What sad strength. My father long ago resigned himself to the end of the world. “It won’t be premature, just soon,” he used to tell us. “I don’t worry about it for myself. It’s fine with me. But for the rest of you I hope I’m wrong.” Ever since I can remember: standing always in his khakis with a peach pit under a live oak tree. On the other hand, I once heard a Chinese poet say, “Breaking into spring everywhere hastens my old age.” I almost got it once, surrounded by sixteen-year-old girls, their tongues lapping. I almost got it. Not enough spring left to go around, though. The plaster crumbles. The walls inside the plaster crumble. Spider eggs and I-beams. Taxis cruise the. Sinai breaking into prophecy. A wilderness of lost fares. The last wave of a hand from Teheran. IT CAN’T BE DENIED Life is larger than any two people combined. Life is larger than two people. Three even, even if you put them front to front and front to back. Life is bigger than that. I walk around the city. I see so many people step over each other. People lie in the street. People lean out of windows on the pillows they are airing,. And there are people hiding in apartments. And two children who sit together on a stoop and cannot speak. And a woman gets up from her chair and walks back into a shadow. Life is bigger than all of them. You can count them: One man ties his shoe. One man eats his supper behind a cafe window. Count them: a woman stops at a corner and turns around. A girl hangs by her knees from a railing. See adding and subtracting, multiplying even, but still not life. This one and that one and that one. The subways are filled. The doors slide open. No one leaves the train. The skyscrapers sag. There is a face at every window, and where there are no windows, there is a face. I could go on forever. Life is life and more than life. The stands fill up. The people are shouting. No one goes home. At this corner, at that corner crowds wait for the signals to change. The traffic moves. The traffic stops moving. Inside the buses lights go on. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31