Saturday, December 11, 2010

TRILLIUM

I would not want to live
inside anyone else’s clarity;
we always come to be confused.
“Who am I,” she asks, panicked,

when logic fails to put a face on sense.
Trillium, I think, shocked
by the purple of the sockets
her eyes haunt.

Chaired alongside me, Mother fidgets.
Her father, dead now forty years,
and her brothers, out of touch,
are the men she talks to,

those present more oppressive
than the passed.
“I don’t exist,” she says,
turning from my silence;

who, then, is the other
that gains robustness
the farther back-lit
memory goes to work?

Presently, she laughs, recalls
her childhood neighbor
bowing, reins in hands, astride his horse
in a yard only she has seen.

Now she can reach to pat my leg,
for I’m here still, where dusk
puts a patina of fine light
on clouds I cannot ease.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

ORTHOPEDICS


The leg is not what you thought it was.
No longer are you walking
to and fro the reconstructed
memories your mind wanders.
Well-lit corridors are a way
outside time, and their stations
hum with voices from around the world.

On your back, unmoving, day after day,
you begin to take apart
what remains of your person.
Someone else can have the sunglasses
and the wallet.  The watch
needs a timer and a reset key.

On one side of the leg, doctors have pulled
skin together with stitches;
the other side’s fish-like design
is a graft taking hold.
An external fixator extends
from foot to hip and keeps in place
countless fractures.

The tree is a painful fact.
The body has been broken
by its puzzle:  pieces of bone
that float in the sky.

You recall the brilliance of this sky
and that it did not let you fall asleep.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

NOT ONE THING

The heart, first to depart,
is soon followed
by the other parts,

falling, as will being,
through the many
sickening distractions.

The stone mouth idles.
The pining lover,
whom you mistook for feeling,

had been heartless
even as a child.
Of what could he repent?

The different days are all
a trial of moods.
Embers may be sifted

from behind the eyes,
winds kindled in the ribs.
Please, may this be so.

May we not break
at the sharp point
or impede

the wheeled vehicle
our sleep has balanced.
Through inevitable

refinement to love,
may we frame fragments
in the generous
number of the house.

Monday, June 14, 2010

DARKNESS HARBORED A FUGITIVE VOICE

Every event has a cause
but the sequence of events is random
and nothing happens for a reason
or by necessity

You might have argued differently
had you believed explanations
for the absence of character
that belied your achievements

Company had eased delirium
Unfamiliar caregivers brought blankets
and pieces of meat to the vigil
they sat as you strengthened

You belonged, after all, elsewhere
It was time to leave your secret place
The hoot owl called to take you back
Sadness tumbled like a river deep within

The shit you had smeared across your face
could have been streaks of painted color
and you wanted to prove fearless
even with your fallen understanding

Saturday, June 5, 2010

DEATH IS AN ANIMAL

There is a word
that is an executioner
and a person
who has heard the word
that lost his head

You have seen yourself act
    like an animal
and would regain, if you could,
    the human footing

You are a part of nothing

The parts make sounds
that put their unity
at a distance

Saturday, May 29, 2010

GROTTO OF THE GNOSTIC ANGEL

The past comes to an end
reversing itself
as we ourselves restore
the future
contriving for remove
a garden
of ornate resemblance

The past is a country
remembered by immigrants
who pushed through cities
trusting to find a sky
that flattened land for grasses
and for the unadorned to plow

Our heat is heavy with water

Alongside stones we nudge
the reclaimed chinaware and glass
travelled to set up house
(and house again)
into a studded concrete shrine
wherein we recognize
our person reassembled

The two who have conspired
to hold each other off
yield there as one,
oafish, unable to stand upright
without a hand to help

Wings, no less unlikely,
catch the eye, averted
from the guardian’s
remote and placid gaze
above the whirlwind
of our parents
driven back through youth
returned to the old country
changed into grandparents

We are left with trowels 
wheelbarrows and truckloads of stone
to revive the grotto
with forms of promise
fulfilled and then abandoned
and hues of restlessness
inimical to settlement

The angel stays implacable,
as if a figurehead at sea

Thursday, May 20, 2010

LIT BY THE SKY

Light crackled
ringing form
huddled beside form
as dancers
might appear tonight
with movement
to uncoil heat

The sky was always cold
before the accident
a slip of ice
off ice ignited
and the slivered fall
brought blaze
to a water landing
where fire floated
the circumference
between birth
and wolflike
memories of time
behind the birth

The forms had stretched
awakening with necks
and shoulders
voices that crescendoed
into wind aroused
to carry skin across
the circle’s flaming moat
for us who wander
shivering and hungry
through outmost dark’s
crystalline enactment

We dress in the fresh wraps
call for our memory
and feel heaviness
collapse upon the chest
as our stumbling aligns
with the indistinct contour
of a dance at far remove
and just now ready
to get going

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

TWO HEARTS

I saw two hearts as birds.
The first, a silver fledgling
in the landscape’s one tree
polished the sky

when it took wing,
and in its place,
a brilliant sun
declined to nest.

Years ran down feelings,
as if the brooding
had not hatched.
The light came on

one night in the kitchen’s dark
when I opened the refrigerator,
which was empty,
except for the frozen bird

that seemed centuries old
sitting there on a platter.
As I reached in
to pick it up,

the bird’s skin turned translucent
and I could see the heart
inside was pumping.
My hands went right in the bird

and I took up the heart,
which was good-sized,
lifting it out
with both hands.

I am holding the heart
in my hands
and it is spilling blood
onto the floor.

The tenderness I feel
mixes with yearning.
I think the red color
of the blood is flattering,

and I don’t want to get
myself in trouble,
taking back
what belongs to me. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

LOCK-DOWN

  “Escape did not promise anything worthwhile.”
                                                    - Chekhov

The rickety door opens out
from a dark room
onto a screened porch,
as far as oneself will go
(resigned to nonviolence)
to make his sense, halted
at sight of the uncut meadow
past low sweeping pine boughs
birds prepare
in the faltering light
for lock-down.
The bent figure of an aged woman
he had once seen buried
continues her ceaseless rooting.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

FROM HERE TO THERE

Go through the wall
when you get back

home a dust pours
onto the receiving hands

your soul becomes substantial
oscillating with the mud

face you wear dry
in the fanned air

between dignity and indignity
you can now inhabit

a long countryside under
construction, ribbed passage, consciousness

of hell as well,
of darkened light

Sunday, April 25, 2010

THE COMPLETE PRESENCE

The complete presence
of almost nothing
- the person vanished -

fulfills memory, embodies
name with face,
voice, and gesture.

Unawares, others trust -
only I am
watching this familiar

relatedness turn duplicitous,
the man seeming
equal to no

more of distance
than umbilical measure,
is, will be,

gone - uncoupled - finessing
recall from indistinct
imaginings.   His silence

breaks the trance
of speech, will
cracks, forcing acts

to hope on
incoherence for movement
toward vital, joyous

enterprise.  The car
pulls out, heads
for the horizon's

necessity of lines,
scraping past perspective's
diminishment, clouds flattening 

feeling, lowering storm,
an entranceway, where
has he closed

the door?  Skittish
at indifference?   Bowed?
The beyond boomerangs,

and the here
come back to
returns life from

what he had
thought to put
behind.  Others.  Estrangement.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

THE DANCERS

This has never happened
that things are the way they are
because they could not turn

The dancers, staged to question,
What could be more real
than the body?, improvise

and individual expressions
become an ensemble’s,
disclosing form through form’s achievement

re-assembling scattered presence
and for the self which is the audience
presenting original emotion

shaped by choice
attention focused every instant
here, where we are, as we are

      *

The dancers
are floored
to start, heaps
that separate
into the limbs
of trunks
tunneling
air, narrowing
proportion
to a wanton
flurry of leaping
motion
triumphant
grace of simple
lines no one
knew were there

      *

You carry your feet
with your breath,

lifting the pounding heart
from its cavity,

and ranging with intent
over a prophetic space

knowledge cannot reach
to put a hand on

      *

There are no lights,
but lit by wrist and fingers
upturned faces

display moon masks
until the shoulders drop
and the arms flare

as elbowing wings
bank into a spiral flight
hips pivot through

Friday, April 16, 2010

FAMILY PORTRAIT


Pop songs, on a radio,
scratched at the darkness

Your parents seemed trustworthy,
but nothing was

Doors were shutting
the house was falling asleep

Chance had left you
to wall and ceiling angles

that converged, like feelings,
foreshortening corners

In a dream you could ask
for the unfamiliar woods

where you prowled trees
that wore scalps

and the dead snapped back,
stinging across the face,

as scurry, dampness,
and torch light

conversed with you,
turned into you,

the warrior
who found his breath

No telling how
frightened or captive

the family would look
in the kitchen, in the morning

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

THE MIRACLE

We come upon
and go into
being by chance

participating
in an unfolding
of events
that didn’t happen

Fire is the event
my hatred hangs on

*

One thing happens
and then another

I take a breath
before I need to

and rocket out
of the atmosphere

The Milky Way tilts
level with my eyes,
   bracing me

I look back at the sun
and get dizzy

There is nowhere to fall

*

Years fit appearance

Spring mate flashing white

Bald spot bleaching sky

*

We draw feeling
            from the urges
and take it
   to the miracle

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

HEALING DAY


A white owl with red eyes
lands the sky
in the dense plants

at the tangled leaf
we twist around
the open garden’s edge

pulled to the sounding river
because the back
is a flowing river

rising for us
to meet the light
our darkness has become

     *

The lover, the friend,
and the stranger
each will betray you

the lover for passion,
which is beyond reproach,
the friend for gain,

which will not last,
the stranger for evil,
which has no recompense

With each you must go
willingly, permit all wounds
to bear weight afloat

in any direction,
thread scar toward sinuous
complexion

     *

The brightening light
we wade in
obliterates

agony, powerful
as a mountain,
as its agile lion,

moving past
the owl holds still
until the end,

feathers stitched
to its translucent
healing day skeleton

Monday, April 5, 2010

WHEN THE POEM MOVES ON

The starting point is at the bottom
you get to using words, their tilted
sounds and false show, for support.

Surefooted, laconic, and culpable,
you work past embellishment by girding
image with mendicant emotion,

constructing loss by left to right descent
that altogether disappears
in the inverted sky, an empty bowl

until something happens off the ground.
This is when the poem moves on,
finished with meaning, and there is nothing
     
about it to point at.  The poet goes
back in the articulate house.  Its brick
chimney draws smoke above a gable roof.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

THE FISHERMEN

Things that do not arise
conceive and feed
on memories.  An egret
stabs at a fish in the water.
Then what you desire
(and you are always in pursuit)
takes a different shape

and is remembered
for a pleasure, and knowing,
palm trees, an osprey’s nest
spilling over a utility pole,
sunset’s chill.  Fishermen
were spaced along the shore
like chess pieces in an end game.

You brought rod and reel.
Always, the scout of wind
and water’s advance. 
Old life floats upside down
in the tossing swells,
and just beneath the surface,
silver anger glints, like a lure. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

SHAPE-SHIFTER

                       who changes ways
                                       n
                                       e
                                       r
                                       g
                                       i
                                       z
                                       e
                                       d
                                                            by melancholy,
                                                                        ambition’s
                                                half life,
           
                        must hold desire fast                        well past
                                                            amorous tradesmen
                                                       pocketing authority
           
         *

            life/might
            make/much

clumsily articulated                        peeves
                                                                        are no end
                                    against is with

         *

            the breath of an animal

                                                imagination    a winter old

opening for light

          *

to recognize as mine                                    ideas so foreign
                        as to seem some other’s

                                    and what assent I gave
            I now retract

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

SCAFFOLDING

The top of a building steps up
to the bottom of the sky,
lifting its dream bones off the ground.

Clouds patrol the coffin top
and the afternoon sun drops
over the sides, hitting the street
with a wail that gets lost
in the traffic and people.  

Workmen are taking down scaffolding
and untying the blue tarp enclosure
that billows, like sails before a wind dies out.

Onlookers point to the building,
at its reflective glass,
which charges perception, 
picturing pieces of straightforward light
bundled into a fragile sky.

Monday, March 29, 2010

STRAGGLERS

The roughened barrier of skin stops the cold
and the blood continues to drip
through scant sums of flesh, numb thought,
the frozen earth begrudges air.

Use has exhausted the abandoned plains.
We trudge across their sheen
like the remnant of a scattered army
struggling with diminished weight

to forestall embrace by ice.  
The sky runs its factory of heat
at such great remove only a trickle escapes
to warm the garnets set in our chests.

These are the tiny transmitters of feeling
bodies herd to recover.
The breath you can see is a thin blanket
for the seed-bearing sleep of invisible forms.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

CACTUS

The desert has kept its promise of peace
made to the son who accepts the havoc
his presence brings to hostile ground:  

wind-scattered rubbish, metal scrap,
rusted and twisted into beguiling shapes,
and the off road vehicle trails

that cross heat-cracked gullies of creosote
and boulders spewed by infrequent storm.
The place he comes to isn’t named

for divine encounters, and he wrestles
not with angels but with less remote
forefathers, who vie with him for the red

flower atop the cactus barrel.
They claim resilient ornament
to justify the pain they bring to others.

The son hears his father pronounce him worthless
knowing that the grandfather listens
and confirms the judgment;

the evidence is all about him, failure
to go it on his own and make with little parts
a semblance of the greater whole

and he within it.  On the night his silenced
mother tossed her mind in
with the screech and howl of dark distances,

she made her final argument
in his defense, entreating
an inscrutable issuance of old flames

and fresh rivals that flapped for her
on the clothesline stretched outside her home,
ghosts from way back in the inoperable brain

who threatened and cajoled, and like the father,
her husband, were most severe when feeling
came before them stammering, and the cold
chill of stars feathered fright, speaking strangely.

Friday, March 26, 2010

THE REAL THING

So much of what we do
could be done differently
and more to our liking.

This makes us angry,
and we argue.  Then one 
has the fortune

to notice feeling,
which is the real thing,
had been growing all the while.

(Color is now deftly handled.)
And sometimes what we feel
as real is not.

Weren’t we excited
by what we thought true
(we flashed with excitement)

and chagrined to discover
new feelings still grew?
(A continent, almost,

had come into view.)
No longer would we like
what once we had liked

(Who finds truth “unchanging”?)
and we puckishly explored
our changing minds.   

(Their spaciousness seemed lush.) 
Really, what was true,
and we agreed,

was always otherwise. 
(We wanted to be honest.)
Circumstances intervened.

We were helpless to act,
made to settle, where we were,
and do what we had done.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

THE TOAST

You see blood on the keyhole
at the side entrance to a person
within whom you live

Doubt turns you away
and gives the stigmatized
body time to heal

The gaunt face calls you back
the weighted chest lets you in
the party is going strong
suffering is out in the open

More and more you leave
words for those who can use them

On tiptoe you sneak past
the big room
where you could be elated
and climb the stairs, dropping
your coat with the others

The forehead lifts its balcony
over a spilling lawn
of glasses raised in your honor

Beyond the lit necessity
you see into shadows
of sweating trees
where your restlessness labors

Your hand moves slightly,
returning salute with intention
to make good on escape

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

WINDOWS

The sky is a rain of ash
and mind a passing traffic.

The apartment’s humming hasn’t stopped.
When the windows are left open,

our feelings can get out
and let themselves back in.

We might name the most familiar
but cannot say which ones

others will have stifled.
The view stacks rooftops,

like patio chairs, past brick
facades, and in a close by building

we take innocent movement
for a signaler’s intent.

He passes through rooms with open shades,
retrieving words

that mean for us to touch.
The needs we conceive

seek expression:
responsibilities, like fish,

and happiness,
the simple hydrogen of light.

What we don’t want
gets started as a mattress.

There just isn’t room
for bending back excitement,

or moving apart.  Our skins,
pale from remorse, 

glow, and the dry air
leaves us short of breath.

Monday, March 22, 2010

CYCLOPS

The busy eye, by God intended
as a third for every mother,
a help for safekeeping children,

instead mislaid by chance, alone
upon a wombless monster’s brow,
token of solitary strength,

blind force, loosed from afar, friend, 
we countenance these strikes,
forged drones that target households

whose measured gaze falls short
of clouded heavens
and the wavering horizon’s

unmerciful confinement.
Accident confounds design.
The artist has a vision,

then a child.  No end of love
will finish both aright, no reach
of heart engage detachment.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

GLENCOLUMBCILLE

Waves resound at the edge
            of sky and ocean’s
                        great expanse

braced for the dark gather of clouds
            pressing from south
                        of where he stands,
 as if at watch, on the treeless bog
           
            The person
                        who is his own ancestor
imagines voyaging
            from the known to the unknown
                        through a storm shroud,
            muscling hope out of promise

                        Rain spatters sounds
coming toward his loss of sight
            like revelers
up narrow streets, past the house
                        close to the road

            The strange visages
that take momentary shapes
                        are familiar
the way a mirrored gaze
at a wash basin
            will sometimes recognize the monster
                      who falls from the cliff

He could leave
                        the sheep
            grazed hillside,
the white sand beach,
            and the sweet burning peat

            walk back
through the tiny village
                        and past the general store

while patches of blue 
                        push out the sky storm,
            and a rainbow arches up
                        more rain, until it lightens

A person finds himself
            in both departure
                        and return
where the sea is a fallen down ladder
                       

Friday, March 19, 2010

TREED

The man who has climbed a tree
waits in the branches with clouds
for time to come back
and pick up its minutes

The meeting won’t start
    without him
and he’ll keep his distance
through the swarming snow

    *

In a house, looking out
    on the weather
others have confirmed
the plausible

You imagine things
as they truly are,
embarrassing and harsh

You are white linen,
a tattered moon patch
on a black tree limb

Thursday, March 18, 2010

FIRST EMOTIONS

She puts birds to sleep
in the trees by night
so her travels
will not be disturbed

To meet promise
at dawn's return
she eludes the hand

You reach
into a child’s dream
for the egg that flies

Inside its shell of color,
she watches, through passion,
to see that it is fruitful

Egg that eats the lilacs
and swallows the wind
before birds have sung

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

THE STORY OF THE WORLD

The world is wind
            and sounds that fight
                        through wind

            The small thoughts I have about myself
                        make an off-key disturbance
and the industrial
                        hum and clang
of the supermarket
            by the busy road
                        has its everyday pitch

Sometimes, the world quickly changes

You drive out to the country, go for a walk
            by a lake teeming with white-caps

                        Wind has released
            a strength so frenzied
                        that you stumble
as enveloping noise
            puts you out
                        of yourself           

At last, you are alone, faceless
            at the beginning of the story

    You belong to the sky

You squeeze through a clear blue opening
            in a cumulus thickening
                        with voices rushing to be heard
before you are gone, out of sight,
                        circling widely
            when you come at last to a quiet place

Children are playing on the ground below
and you are not among them        

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A SPRING LANDSCAPE

The raw brightness
of blue air,
acuity of lawn 
grass salvaging green

from a past exposed,
and sheen of snow’s 
remnant white, tethering
distant ridge lines

brings force
to the great body
of reviving lake.
Water, broken,

pulls out from shore’s
shadow, along
invigorated
currents, flexing

the slow surface
light’s tips hit,
their driving
jewel-like

puncture wounds
bedazzling
the elemental
meeting place.

Across the bay
pines collar
an inlet of ice, 
its field upturned

like an erupted
heart’s.
In this orderly
change of season,

the tarried stillness 
makes me seem loud, 
thawed, even, 
to myself.

Illusions flit
easily across
the promise of birth,
though one can walk

its boundary:
dark rock outcrops
overhung
with cedars, gnarled

roots that nurture
mammoth icicles
and mounds glazed
with frozen designs.

Remote from new life
as a person's
interior, cold
luster preserves
the sure slips ahead.