|Jul/Aug 2002 • Poetry|
More Books Upstairs
To whom could I turn?
Invisible quail in the Pine Grove
among Lady Slippers and
mushroom houses under pine needles
a big old dog to go walking with
Watch the house fill up with light
at dusk when the air
suddenly turns back
remembering how close it is to the sea
And the noise we would always hear
or surf hitting the breakwater
And that golden light forms a house
or perhaps a rumor of a house
where the light is never brighter
than a candle or an oil lamp
And where we turn about in
small movements, slowly established
like building something to last,
wide pine boards will sag and shine
after a century
And me, I bring this to you
the golden part,
my children, an offering
like a promise of something
wonderful, something far and new
A sign, a wooden sign black
with gold letters
that I attached to an imagined door
just barely ajar
An invitation I would always turn to
for my family
or rumors of family
Queen Anne's Lace
It is a member of the carrot family,
my mother would always say.
A weed, and an interesting weed.
She scoured all of life for the forlorn.
She celebrated nature's little mistakes:
the missing-tail sparrow,
that turtle with three legs.
Whatever passed before her bird feeder window.
Queen Anne's Lace has a disparate flower
like sewing together celery and snow.
It grew behind the restaurant,
in the cracks between the wall and the street
where I worked my first job as a busboy,
and I threw away those damn chrome teapots
that were too hard to clean.
A woody stem that is much too long
and the long summer life that stems
from a flower that is a cradle
for your thumb and sometimes
a tiny nest or a crisp crochet.
When I met you first you shared this, too.
And we made tea from the root
bitter and some vague honey
and you put the white flowers
in a glass on the table by our bed.
The hot slow air rolled over them and us,
stirring magic, a subtle bouquet,
not like the usurped lilacs,
all grapes and white chocolate,
but very far and thin and beautiful
like that space between your earlobe
and your shoulder.
You show the children the tiny flower,
almost black, darkest indigo,
that is at the very center of each umbel.
You make glasses of food coloring
to trick the feathery white lace
into pale blue, pale pink.
Sewn together, but only loosely,
vaguely, like a galaxy of stars
that is only defined by its distance.
Look too closely and it dissolves
into a liquid dispersed with motes,
a section of winter air and random snow.
I long for summer and Queen Anne's Lace
far from this dismal March,
into age and cynicism and
the endless parade of broken things
I am starting to imagine out the window.
This odd bouquet
perfect in its place, whether
down along the River Road
or clustered by our mailbox
will be emblem enough.
And right for me and you
Around in Circles
He cuts out little squares of newsprint
and places them so, on a face, with hands.
You suspect things already.
He is teaching a child to tell time.
You have fallen beneath majesty
to be here, a place of liquids and energetic bonding.
Potions become chemistry, if
it would be nicely explained to you.
At night, green leaves rattle in a brisk wind.
Each leaf sheds oxygen, round and in abundance.
Like frog eggs, most will not survive another cycle.
They will combine with iron and hydrogen and flesh.
You must believe how rapidly this spins
around in circles.
You can't watch it; your head won't follow such motion.
And here it is, you suspect things.
Business among and above you
defines your cells perfectly, with rigid
rules not widely distributed
or shared with you.
Remember the Analemma
with no hands, a calendar of eights?
Nothing to watch go around and around,
left to conclude the day's measure
with impulse and shadow?
It's like that. It's like this:
the difference between high and low tides
is different from one place to the next,
even from one cove to the next.
You can't explain this, even
like a priest to a child
without help from oxygen, or the moon.
The White Grace
Describe these sections and segments
arcs filled up with white
I will dwell at the top for brief moments
with no time to grasp at golden rings
or tap apples with my feet
The gate which in summer
the wind would swing
is now hard frozen
to an even stronger force
and soft, amazingly
like when I wore your glove by mistake
and your hand intersected mine
to a swing tune
Indistinct and white
this sheet holds all my wanderings
as this cold winter embrace
You look over my shoulder
your breath on my neck
just barely imagined
like mice under snow
Now there are birds again
little ones, at first
Like the starlings
not from stars at all
Who must be here
because something else is gone
Where they fly
where a wing wields weight
the wind will not incur
A solemn glide through air
We are creatures of the air
You have not named us
for lightning or the sun or stars
A fair place, where we are
You call us only for that moment
when, hand outstretched
we might approach, reluctant
and yet still you will say
we were yours
Before my father died,
he would walk to the back of the house
and watch the steam rising from the dryer vent.
He would stand for minutes, watching.
I only know this
because he told me on his last day.
He confessed his comfort
in seeing that.
He liked it when he went to Canada
to Lake Louise.
Forty years in marketing,
he remembered a swan carved out of ice.
He remembered standing for minutes watching it melt.
Years ago, in fall
I heard him over the hedgerow.
Oh, I'm sorry.
He was raking out the underbrush
and had killed a small turtle.
He stood there
talking to the turtle.
I'm so sorry, he said
and went into the house.
I help my son write a poem about dogs.
He tells me he only has four minutes to write it.
I don't question this.
I am thinking about the dogs.