from Spring Songs (12)

from Spring Songs (12)


Midnight. In a corner of a room
a few days away, a half century crouches.

In the dark the corners of the years round up
certainty into the smooth black mast

against which direction flaps without words,
a trunk removed from its roots.

In the morning it is the maple and its shadow
unwinding along riverways of air and light.

The maple is old but the leaves always young,
the hours of the year, the half million

minutes through which we extend and end,
define the canopy of entirety itself by the shape

of what we miss. We shed time but are shaped by it;
wine on a quiet night, before crickets.


Dark Reactions

Dark Reactions

In the night the unseen stretches out.
Grass growing just before dawn.

I think I see the moon in my window
but it is the ceiling lamp’s reflection.

At lights out, the windowframe relaxes.
We spread downhill, and into the air a giant

centimeter. The real moon shakes hands
with every cloud. Even without eyes it

does not miss a single one. When morning
light crawls down from the treetops

and you are out with the dogs the grass
cannot believe how much you have grown.

Nothing gets done by paying attention.

from Spring Songs (11)

from Spring Songs (11)


Upstairs in my old house I find a bat
sleeping off a warm May morning

I usher the cats from the room
open the windows and let him rest

Toward dusk I come back his eyes are open
so I gather him up in a pitcher and in slow

motion pour him into the cooling air


from Spring Songs (10)

from Spring Songs (10)


No moon. God has no early evening plans.
Oak and walnut leaves spread across the neighborhood,

A planet whirs like a lime between the new leaves.
A bright spot. A memory. Gone in the morning.

If there really is a time to be still it is now: a cell
splits, reforms, comes whole, continues,

is cut out, spins like a leaf into a space
of no-being, hard matter. Alone on a bed

you will suffer the speed of being observed
as from afar while the world spins, they lean away,

your loved ones, into the dark, come round again.
In the mean time, when your light winks or is blocked

by the slightest breeze against a leaf, we will know
and run with you to keep you in sight, at the speed

of the day’s suffering itself to be tracked by shadows,
and together find the time to be still.

from Spring Songs (9)

from Spring Songs (9)


The weather came from the east this time
as low as the sun in the west and the sun

And the weather crossed swords over young leaves
glowing green against gray. And the tulips held.

The gray face came down and looked into the street’s eyes
and this was the first of May.  Swallows follow a storm

like they have just won an argument with God
and the prize, so small we can’t see it, is everywhere.

from Spring Songs (8)

from Spring Songs (8)


Nothing more can happen in April so I am waiting
The rain is waiting too clouds simmering in the south

The grass wants to touch you but looks away waiting
The buildings with their hands in their pockets

Gather quietly but keep a respectful distance
the afternoons light as if held up by balloons

The month has filled out the world so much its last
day will be empty it will need a day to decompress

The last hours gather around you like referees
watching an instant replay because nothing more

can happen: you have to compress the month
in your mind while the days decompress

so quickly that your memory leaps in slow motion
and the hours nod and blow their whistles

A string stretching across the stars and sky draws closer
a jump-rope in slow motion at the top of its arc

Just before you hear the sound of its rasp
on the sidewalk you must skip casually

into May your soul barely leaving the ground
because it is all so light now and you want to come back

Unclaimed Grave

Note: Mary Tang, a poet I follow and who has been translating my Spring Songs series into Chinese, wrote recently about her grandmother’s life and death, and after reading those posts on her blog I was moved to write the poem below. It is posted with her permission, and directly below is her translation. 

Unclaimed Grave

If you die on a holiday expect      to be buried without ceremony
in the vacant space between      an extended celebration

and getting back to business      as usual but there is nothing
more usual than the dead       Above her unclaimed grave

power lines have been hung       where a marker might
have been a tree is growing       It may only be growing

because those lines opened       up the sky for it to grow
from the matter forgotten by       sons but the tree’s leaves

are her prayer flags       and the wind rushing the gap
are all the other sons       sweeping her grave, they remember

that we were all once inanimate       matter  we were all
each other’s mother even       unintelligent motion

generates respect and love     the hum of the old world’s
roots is louder than       a foot print on the moon


你要在春節離去 別寄望後人安葬
過年後便忙開工 你的遺體會被棄
在兩村間的廢地 好讓人如常作業
死人沒有不凡處 那無人打理的墓
頭上已高掛電線 像一個識別標記
墓中爆出了一樹 它可以長高快大
正是電桿的關係 天因它空了大了
子孫不掃的落葉      是她的頁頁禱告
掃墓的風是養子     記掛她變土為母
代她的子孫彌補     欠她的敬愛尊重
本來同是無命物    不論誰是子與母
樹根在土下沙沙    勝月中足跡無痕
(c) Mary Tang 2015