When love eludes me totally it smears
itself like frog spawn tamped between my toes
from careless wading. Well, these frequent times
(they are no strangers) hurl me into brawls
I seek with authors, painters, stevedores
— with all who're man enough that I can joust
against them without first or second thought.
I fight them fair as they fight me. No loss
of contest, money, fame — no future scars —
mar them or me in any mortal sense.
Not even if in battle we meet death.
We circle proudly, cowardly or stoned
and rock-faced heft each other's fighting weight.
With women it's not difficult at all
for me, forgetting contest, to enmesh
myself in every maybe, chase each turn.
I watch with them the bowler, not the ball,
am often stumped by simple toss, and try
too hard, too often, and to no earthly use
to plumb for meaning in their wished-for smiles.
The men I see I don't see save as signs
of what can be achieved or understood.
With girls and wintry ladies I suspect
the universe's reason to exist.
And find it. Then the gardener drains the pond
and tracks my insights homeward on his boots.
Bull Song appeared in Möbius in March 1998.