Archive | August 2011


–To E., again

My gray-faced friend,
You were with me
Again in the cloudy morning.
Surely still sleeping —
Perhaps dreaming,
You found that dark gate
And slipped past
The boundary wall
To sit and wait with me.

Don’t speak now.
The echoing words
Tear my paper heart.
We could scatter the pieces
Into the wind —
They will be a prayer,
To comfort
Your ache and need.

Unlike —
We played to pretend
We were stones.
And uncracked,
Rigid —
We would never yield
To the slow erosion
Of water and time.

But again, we were wrong.
Misled by mirrors,
And the soft brown eye reflection.
We could never be so cold
Or hard.

We were the furrowed field —
The unbroken seed —
Rain collected in a cup.

I could not let it be,
This wound.
Raw and ragged edge,
I felt blood
Spread like iron
On my tongue.
And this might have been our mistake,
But we sought these scars.

But wait now.
The unknown friend’s
Whispered words
Are crossing too.
They might heal it,
Or numb it
With sympathetic tendency.
(Now all of us
Hide behind words.)

I lose myself in the early song
Of the mourning dove.
And you,
My gray-faced friend,
Blacken the mirror,
Tell a story,
Send it into a bright light,
Speak it in the nighttime,
Then try to sleep it off

Try to deny it,
To sink it
In stimulation —
The fist,
The flask,
The false idol
At last.
All the while,
We both refused it,
But it never became

We were
The romantics.
I came to know this of myself —
The found,
The collected,
The mundane, holy things.
And, as the sun cut my eye,
The hands danced round her face again
And I listened to your echoing words —
A lamenting I never looked for —
And, tentative,
But growing more certain
(Though surprised, to be sure),
I came to know it of you, too.


Sunslant in August

How to Call the Wind

First, find your place,
And look for her there.
Loosen your eyes,
Extend your ears.
Memorize contours —
Her body beneath grass,
Beneath snow.
You must let her in.
And in letting her in,
You also must
Make your way,
Into her sanctuary.

(I dreamed your hands,
Your breath at the back of my neck.
Taste this, now.)

Then you must wait.
And you must wait.
And you must wait for her to speak
She will stir at last.
She will begin to leave them,
These clues
At the side of the road:
A buck in the willow bed,
Hawk on a high branch,
Circled sun,
The grass
Gone to seed,
And so many words

(Drink, now, love
My eyes.)

Slow your steps.
And wait.
You must be willing
To stop —
To wake.
In every turn,
Kneel before her
To worship this —
The flaw.

(I left them there for you,
These clues.
Don’t close the door now,

At last you will know
It is time
When you hear them —
The birds will begin
To sing it:
“He sees.”
“He sees.”

Under the high blind eye,
I made my way
Back to waking.)

Then —
Begin with what is already present,
And work to increase it.
She will come,
At first,
When you whistle.
Then — growing into
Something beyond this —
You will find
She follows.
And you cannot escape
Her embrace,
Her breath.

(I grew afraid,
My friend,
Of sleeping,
Because I did not know
What waking would bring —
The truth?
The lie?
But in the end,
I want you to know,
My belief in this
Never ceased.)


I put it forward,
At last —
Unable to bear
The lonely hearth.

I sharpened the blade,
Lit the fire,
And rowed my boat
Out past the reef.

I began to take it in again.
Opened the windows —
Let in the wind,
The sun in my hair,
The rocky shoreline receding.

And sitting there,
Amidst a lullaby of lonely voices,
I wondered
How so much darkness
Could gather beneath the slanting sun.

Let them in,
Stoke the fire,
And put the kettle on.
Uncork the bottle
And pass it again.
You should know by now,
My friend,
The futility of a locked door.

If it comforts,
Clothe yourself in quiet,
And find the one thing
To anchor you to earth
(Lest they trick you
Into riding along
On their own dreams
And backroads).

Blade against wood grain.
The stirring of the pot.
The cool herbs to be added
Just before the end.

This music that they make —
Let it in.
Like to like,
Gather them here.
Let them feast.
(It is the only way
To heal this,
Wary watcher.)

Their thousand cuts will sting.
But how much worse —
The aching of an untried heart.


And it always was
This way,
My clear-eyed girl.
A reason remembered
For clouding the vision:
All of these confessions,
Thrown away like
Torn paper.
And you,
Sweet friend,
Grew to need,
Their unfolding.

Pocket them now.
Take good care
To conceal them,
They will be —
As they always are —
A torment in the night,
A telling,
And something to hold,
When the wave overwhelming

Their lonely words —
The creeping branches,
Encircled the sleeper.
And the weight of
All that wood
Concealed from view
The clouded brow.

A need for retreat
To the darkened room
And time to remove
The splintering thought —
The thorn.

How to cut your way
Back out of it
Became the new distraction.
Or would it be
To wrap that blanket
Around your bones,
And listen to
The receding echo
Of all that sadness

What you need,
She said,
Is to learn this:
And to close the door

There will never be a way
To be,
Without this wounding

Shut it out,
Do not let them in,
These careless voices,
She said.

But still
You sank.

Forgive them, love.
Forgive them, at last.
How could they know
That the roses they bring you
Cause so much

If She Sang…

Maybe it is better
Never to know you.
But your breath
Clouds the mirror,
And words are hard to come by,
These days.

She began to gray,
And grow wild,
In waiting
For the drawing-in
Of September.

And she watched
The grass grow
Heavy and brown
And drop its seeds
In the dew.
She listened.
It was all she could do.

Too open by half,
But it soothed,
And she began to break
The code.

The nights grew cool enough
At last
To turn dew to fog —
How long, it seemed,
We had waited for them —
Those sunlit clouds
Rising from the creek.
And the whispers

Notice these
Strange similarities.
Coincidence of thought —
And all that birdsong
That echoes through the thing.

Pieces fell into place,
She recognized that voice,
In everything.
She tripped along the track,
And because the heart must have an object,
And because she was not looking
(Hunkered down,
Head beneath her wing),
It began to choose
Against her inclination.

She fashioned this
Unlikely friend.
And crooned quietly
Over her creation.
Like any new mother,
She worried
About an arrow too true
And winter drifts.

Pull back from it, now.
Keep it checked,
Watchful for unreason.
Write it down.
And write it down.
And write it down, again.

Infused with the never-to-be requited,
She tried,
In vain,
To apply the careful,
Of thought and reason to it.
But lost,
As ever,
All she could do in the end
Was open the window
And listen,
Then record it —
This code —
And allow its reading
And re-reading
To become a salve.

And she wished,
For you to find that bottle
With its curling brown paper.
My unknown friend,
She wondered
(Though she feared it)
If her scribbled messages
Might reach you,

But It Is Enough

It was your voice
That pervaded
The late-summer morning.
So I planted my feet
In the earth,
To listen.

Wheeling hawk
And warning jay —
The sumac stand,
Poised to erupt in flame —
A cricket-cicada chorus —
The silhouette trees
In early sunslant —
And those swallowtails,
At last,
At work
Among the thistles —
Their wings ragged,
The winding-down of days.

The whys and the wherefores
And the answers
From the thought-circuit:
To nourish,
To create,
And to rest at last
Like worn stones
In blackened earth.

But why tell

To be here.

To consume,
To be consumed.

The storm-beaten swallowtail,
The finch in the woody edge —
Calling through the cattails,
The cool, beckoning breath —
No need to even whistle anymore.

It is simple.
It is so, so simple,
(Or so he said).
In spite of all our words —
All our weeping —
We are for
What we are for —
That is all,
And nothing more.