Mother’s Day

3mothers

Mother’s Day

They’ve come back     the leaves
Though they are all different this time

Their shadows are ancient heartbeats
Hands on the breath of memory

I have seen you exhausted from your efforts
Seasons sleeping in the guitar on your breast

The crickets whispering for the first time this year
A dog’s lonely bark from blocks away

I have seen you joyous and quiet
Smooth stone on the riverbed of night

There’s a sound in your bones
Harmonizing with your daughter

An image developing across your ribs
Your boy wading across the shallows

Leaves drifting past his ankles
It’s been half a year the leaves are different

And a year’s a long time
And every spring is tender

Song sung to the mothers

Mom

For this day in May. And with Doris Marie Lawson Schwaner in mind.

Song sung to the mothers

You are the gate and the path leading away
Not the nest but the many things

The nest was made from. Built of mud
And moonlight. Without you nothing

Can bond or find its way through darkness.
The mistakes of recognition were all ours:

That you are immortal and unchanging.
The nest by our feet on the path

Is the one we built of such dead twigs.
At night when I sleep it is to the song

My mother sang in the trees before
I was born as the moon pulled

My empty soul across the water

Friday, near midnight

peony

Friday, near midnight

Put a penny on the day’s good eye.
Cars parked in the road after dinner

Tick like patient bombs. Each interval
Lengthens toward silence

Like the stems of peonies
Slow their sprint to the May sky.

While we were not looking
One terminal bud becomes

a thousand pennants waving
In tight but unpracticed formation.

Or it is a signal, a coded message
Saying this kingdom will never come

Again. Overhead an unbroken line
of streetlights blinks, then holds

Like an eye chart that wants to help
You but loses sense as you gain focus.

My ghost’s primary victory speech

8

My ghost’s primary victory speech

I will first ask the mountains to stop counting.
Four hours after midnight I will wake my body.

I have done this a lot lately but he can’t take a hint.
I will say first I am happy nobody could be here tonight

Next I will say first nothing has been certified
Nothing has been sanctioned nothing needs to be

Said first I will say that first and then I will move
My body’s finger across the lever of night

I will do that first because nothing comes next
So it all has to be said first and hasn’t he said it

All already can’t he wake up long enough to
Lie by the open window looking nowhere

Through the silence of mountains and
See where this is going and do the math

There’s only one ballot to count but
So loud In their spring are the starlings

Dandelion Patch by the Elementary School, Early May, 7:50 a.m.

dmoon1

Dandelion Patch by the Elementary School, Early May, 7:50 a.m.

They pluck them from the ground and smash
Them soundlessly on another’s head or back

What floats off their violence like a helicopter’s
Skeleton? Lighter than an elementary school

Morning. Directionless as a flying fifth grader.
Wish wands are what they call them. Why would you break

A wish on a boy’s stubborn neck as he tries to twist
Away? On the shoulder of the girl who’s too fast

For you to catch? They don’t wait for the fractured
Moon to pop free of its stem. When the field grows

Quiet I look up at the great yellow flower. If I wait
Long enough it will turn white and fragile against

The dark. I’ll meet you at the base of its hollow
Column, or wait till the wind dismisses me.

dmoon2

Friday the 13th [from “The Week,” a series of 7 poems leading up to Friday the 13th]

Friday the 13th

When I woke before dawn she was kneeling by the bed
Pale face so close to mine I could sense

The dark strands of her hair framing features
I couldn’t see clearly, only a glowing visage,

Undeclared intentions. Behind her, faces rose
Like in a vast auditorium. Two empty chairs

Just beyond her shoulder. She faded into things
Across the room, bin of clothes on cedar chest.

I got dressed and wondered who else was missing.

At half past six the grocer in the dimly lit produce
Section told me to “have a good night.” He was

Looking ahead, maybe, already beyond breakfast
Or trying to hold the night in place with a pyramid

Of bananas. I got the last raspberries and left.
One day won’t be my lucky day. I picked the paper

From the yard and threw it toward the porch.
It landed in a bush and I almost left it there.

The news can’t be as bad as if I weren’t around
To read it. Still, I’m frightened by that second empty seat.

Thursday the 12th [from “The Week,” a series of 7 poems leading up to Friday the 13th]

thursfootprints

Thursday the 12th

Who stood there for so long
Between the road and the paved walkway

On the unmown grass as each child streamed by?

At ease, or mostly, for the prints are deep, and a casual
Shoulder width apart. Long there he stood, and not prepared

To run; yet the edges slur the grass as if he shifted
Weight from foot to foot, contained energy reined

By watchfulness. So he stood guard.

In the far corner of the school field
While morning did undizzy circles

in children’s shoes, each trip around
that gear of laughter pulleying the sun a few

Minutes higher up the year’s first flawless sky.