(for William Stafford)
As a boy, I made a blade
of my hand and held it
flush with the window
of our speeding car.
Telephone poles, great
windy chestnuts and oaks, tall
buildings, and green, bearing slopes–
I leveled them all exactly with my wake.
One day, I fear
I’ll have to live in that country.
Mornings, when the first
wrap the trees, I sense
the light those strands withhold–
this is poetry: separating
each thread gently
with both thumbnails
until the light of the visible
blends with the light of the invisible.
Through this bright web
the fly extends its tiny, upturned hands.
both from The Listening Chamber: The University of Arkansas Press, 1997.
The hawk’s small-boned gyre
fevers my shadow. I’ve returned
to this place winter first
found me. Back to a sea divorced
from storm; back to the lake
laced in kelp. Here, I swam
from one side of green to another.
Swawp reeds slowly fingered
my sternum. Stroke by stroke, my name froze
deeper into a feathery current. I received love
as well as I was able. But my heart,
my heart kept spinning.
Vernacular of Snow in Summer
Over my dinner plate’s strewn nebulae
of breadcrumbs, wild summer wrens
pick fresh the freshly picked. Then move off–aborted
somewhere between flies and cloud.
Since your death, in parts of my life, light
imitates scraggling boughs of pine. The sound of a chair
pushing back from the table is the unshakeable voicelessness
of snow–this, an almost tenderness. Before the sky
hatches open into a delirious dark, I am lathered
in the smell of village heat, smell of cardamom, brine, amber–
snatched by malingering bells sounding too close, sounding
like the shape of distance. And along the playa, pelicans
smash ribbed beaks into oceanic currents and waves
pulse with a seam of white.
both from Apparition Wren: Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2007.