go outside, maybe
move a rosebush
to the back yard or
clean a window.
under a maple
or in a snowfall.
And this is often
when they see
a nuthatch on its
dizzy route down
a trunk, or
the quick flick
of a chickadee
across the yard
and onto a branch.
They don’t do
much. That’s for
others. They know
how to take things
for granted, know
what to miss.
they make breakfast.
And when the sun
sets, they let it go.
Something new in the air today, perhaps the struggle of the bud
to become a leaf. Nearly two weeks late it invaded the air but
then what is two weeks to life herself? On a cool night there is
a break from the struggle of becoming. I suppose that’s why we
sleep. In a childhood story they spoke of the land of enchant-
ment.” We crawl to it, we short-lived mammals, not realizing that
we are already there. To the gods the moon is the entire moon
but to us it changes second by second because we are always fish
in the belly of the whale of earth. We are encased and can’t stray
from the house of our bodies. I could say that we are released,
but I don’t know, in our private night when our souls explode
into a billion fragments then calmly regather in a black pool in
the forest, far from the cage of flesh, the unremitting “I.” This was
a dream and in dreams we are forever alone walking the ghost
road beyond our lives. Of late I see waking as another chance at
from Songs of Unreason
Like a Small Cafe, That’s Love
Like a small cafe on the street of strangers-
that’s love…its doors open to all.
Like a cafe that expands and
contracts with the weather:
if it pours with rain its customers increase,
if the weather’s fine, they are few and weary…
I am here, stranger, sitting in the corner.
(What color are your eyes? What is your name?
How shall I call to you as you pass by,
as I sit waiting for you?)
A small cafe, that’s love
I order two glasses of wine
and drink to my health and yours.
I am carrying two caps
and an umbrella. It is raining now.
It is raining more than ever,
and you do not come in.
I say to myself at last: Perhaps she who I was waiting for
was waiting for me, or was waiting for some other man,
or was waiting for us, and did not find him/me.
She would say: Here I am waiting for you.
(What color are your eyes? What is your name?
What kind of wine do you prefer? How shall I call to you when
you pass by?)
A small cafe, that’s love…
Two decommissioned highways cross
and continue toward their borders
with the casual certainty
the dead carry in their sample cases.
Leaning against the wind
I notice tufts of fur in the air
and a driveshaft rising from the sand,
then the horsehair of a violinist’s bow
drawn steadily across my neck.
It’s the immemorial feelings
I like the best: hunger, thirst,
their satisfaction; work-weariness,
earned rest; the falling again
from loneliness to love;
the green growth the mind takes
from the pastures in March;
The gayety in the stride
of a good team of Belgian mares
that seems to shudder from me
through all my ancestry.
Doom Is the House without the Door
More than once you wanted me to die.
I kicked the door until its hinges popped.
I collapsed in particle board dust.
I am a sort of door: I know how to swing open
and slam shut. I know how to lock.
You want the house. You want the last crumb
of soul I have left, but I don’t die. I don’t have a body.
I have an elm, fracturing limb by furious limb.
Our tornado summer. My weekly storm,
the heretic assailing the saint.
To swing open: 98° in the barn shade.
To slam shut: you sleep through my glory,
this dawn-constructed confession. To lock:
I do not know. I do not know how
to fill the smallest rooms. Once the sky
could forestall the revelation of the future,
but now I am an orchard forsaken. Ardent.
Ungovernable. Dead branch, fruitlessness, reach
for what I cannot. Not who you were or are,
but who you wanted to be. A wise thing
growing wiser. Ageless heart. To want
was the first survival. To be, the last.
from Indiana Review
Going south, we watched spring
unroll like a proper novel:
forsythia, dogwood, rose;
bare trees, green lace, full shade.
By the time we arrived in Georgia
the complications were deep.
When we drove back, we read
from back to front. Maroon went wild,
went scarlet, burned once more
and then withdrew into pink,
tentative, still in bud.
I thought if only we could go on
and meet again, shy as strangers.
from Alive Together
By the drainpipe beneath the viburnum, just
giving way to small white flowers, the open eye
of a dead robin, wherein the sun, miniscule,
burns through a cloud just above the green
clubs of trees. —Focus sharper in the half shade,
view behind which flight is drowned, two
glances: mine, and its—gone, though a tiny gong
of light still lingers, one I must squint to see,
while the red arm of a wound, its wing will
not veer, never, except into a closer far.
I remember Katherine now. We once kissed
in a barn, then sucked greasy yolks from eggs.
She married a doctor. I threw rice toward long
white veils. Some things you can never hold.
Two glances and a river between no one can
see, and waves like hands, frothy, clapping, near.
Sin of Unrequited Love
In war there are no unwounded soldiers.
We had the problem of youth, the problem of desire,
our testicles pulled tight as empty purse seines,
the starved musculature of the heart.
We watched clouds move from east to west,
but with no real avidity. The sun rose and set.
We ate three meals a day, slept seven hours,
washed and shaved, listened to the radio. Mostly,
we followed orders, but some evenings desire
stalked us in musty theatres called Roxy or Empress
where we watched a film noir starring a blonde bombshell
who wore a tuxedo and sang with a voice like a grenade,
its pin pulled. She couldn’t sing worth a damn,
but who cared. She looked dangerous and life then
was all about severity, the sharp angles of cheekbones,
a white chalk outline drawn around a body,
the spasm of detonation. We said less and less
and spent our days drinking or lying in bed
and imagining our imminent deaths;
but this problem of wanting, wanting to stay, to fall in love
and plant raspberry canes, to swim to the other side of a lake
and stare at things as if they matter.