Landscape, mild February night, with parked car in lot by field and trees and second smaller landscape closer than it appears

midDusk

Landscape, mild February night, with parked car in lot by field and trees and second smaller landscape closer than it appears

Mid-dusk turns gray green; image on an old TV.
The shadow on a rock thrown by the lot’s

Halogen lights lands with jumpy dog stillness.
Wind spills through lowered windows unevenly

Like coffee in a cup after a sudden brake spills,
Returns, spills again. Go out eleven steps

Into the woods and the dead leaves hanging
On the tree are wilder than the dead leaves

On the tree in the school parking lot. The wind
Passing through them has a different accent.

From a driver’s seat you can look backward
Without moving your head. Without thinking.

You imagine a speeding car coming up beside
You, too late to stop moving into the same lane.

The future can keep only one of you intact.
But blink and it is only three trees, on the lot’s

Far edge, in some complex leafless interaction
With the rest of the world which has no idea

How much they see. Don’t take those gestures
For scenery. They have been waiting here

A hundred years to warn you that the past is
Speeding up and passing you on the left.

Landscape, with a small city in the mind

dog

Landscape, with a small city in the mind

Even when nobody can see what is
Skirting the village lights,

a sleeping dog’s ear may twitch
To death’s threadbare approach.

A vulture pulls stillness out of crosswinds,
Becomes a null sum that is beauty,

An ever adjusting stillness mending
The ugly and the invisible,

Right above the house, whether you
Are looking or not. I have heard the sigh

Of loblolly pines scratching their shorthand
Onto the sky’s white page. Everywhere I see

Words except where words are. The news
Is sheet music for yesterday’s song.

I worry we will all be out of tune
When the clouds flee like an octopus

Leaving night in its tense wake.
And at the edges, a visitor

You have to welcome. You know that
Voice, like the long space at twenty minutes

Past the hour, when it seems the next
Hour will never arrive. Even the church bells are

Weather-stopped. And over the hill
The wind is coming

 

[art by Mary Winifred Hood Schwaner]

Valentine song via a metal plate in my wife’s wrist

plate

Valentine song via a metal plate in my wife’s wrist

Indivisible. Foreign. Tongue with no words.
I steady you. All the while

Time’s seven screws turn inertia inside
Out, articulating slender sunbeams.

The heat that holds us together
Bores through bone, bonds.

I am not what broke you
But I will help you bear the weight.

You will heal around me.
My unity with you is when

I am forgotten and your thumb’s
Unthinkingly nimble

With a pen, a paintbrush
A doorknob, a drink, a day.

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome

1.
Driving

The width of the white wall
On either side of six

Inches of air is all
That connects

You to the ground
Speeding beneath

You to the past

2.
Wormaxio

Monsters wait at the margins.
Tackling anything head-on

Kills you

3.
Asleep

Sometimes wondering
If everything I do when

Awake if everything
Good is the dream time

I call you
To tell me I’m wrong

Because I could
Not dream you

Saproxylic (for Geoffrey Hill and Frank Miller)

saproxylic

Saproxylic

for Geoffrey Hill and Frank Miller

Spiders spill out of a storm struck oak
On the rim of my childhood’s forest.

Half buried mathematical sign
Of the world’s inequality.

We were walking it down to earth
When the wood gave way beneath us

And the honeycombed beetle wandered paths
Were pried open by a thousand things

Of furry mindlessness, lost hands scrambling
For their owners across the crumbling bark

Toward the drowned crown’s leaves’
Black and brown shadows. Who was the eleven

Year old boy, barely a root,
And who was the hundred ringed world widener

Downed by a bolt? Who jumped from bank to bank
The great Skunk River’s rimey surface?

Looking for a clue, we found it: a footprint
Filled with muddy rain

Through which we’d read the tread
Then swirl it with a stick and claim

Some understanding, though adulthood
Stared us in the face with what we didn’t see.

Dead tree, ghost ship of tarantulas.
If all those hands would clasp in prayer

They’d pray for what we knew at almost twelve
When the time to go home was when it got dark,

An ever shifting time, and we’d shake our sneakers
Upside down by the garage wall and bang

The soles against the gutter pipe and
Watch nameless dead things fall out:

Past the shadowed edge of half a century’s wood
I stop, and stoop in thought,

And recognize that single track, abandon
All the things I thought I’d grasp.

Climb on, boy: we met when I was old.
Don’t let me dodge the lightning till I rot.

 

 

painting by Mary Winifred Hood Schwaner

 

Poem to be read in the middle of the night (v)

Poem to be read in the middle of the night (v)

We never plan to leave. Even with no pretense
to stay, a moment washes over me that I could

be dead this moment, and of what I would not
have the moment to question, only gone,

leaving behind a family and world unprepared
to master day and hour and mortality, not

by me at any rate. Teeth in, fears bared,
no held breath barred, I breathe a bit longer.

Poem to be read in the middle of the night (iv) / Skyline at dusk

Poem to be read in the middle of the night (iv) / Skyline at dusk

I lean my head back against the transparent beach.
Starlings pull up the garland of the sky and hang it on trees.

Miniature lake, street puddle spilling sky on a tire.
Because they leap, like that boy I was

we make a leap of faith and the stars stand still–
just the illusion of motion on motion

And the moon, black like a lost penny, shining
only on the edge, has been laughed at enough

to appear a smile. The starlings sharpen
their beaks against the wheel of the hour.