End of January
No invitations left for it.
I am all outside now
Beyond any framework for this god of doors
Its first face is four years long
I am tired of looking through its road-salt eyes
The month’s mouth is a boy’s knee
Punctured by a splayed root
Its voice is a wrist shattered like ice
Its ears a bird caught in a basement
On the coldest night of the year
Its other face is a choice
Nobody saw coming
The winter rain is unhappy drifting against the window
It cannot come in it is too light to knock or ask
Beyond a whisper in the puddles which the mud steals
As its own only long enough for the steps to take it up
So we know whether the steps are coming here
Or to a there in a different direction going away in the silent rain
The snow though voiceless collects its silence upward
To visibility the shape of a voice without argument
This is the source of the grudge the steps carry away
This is why we are frightened as the steps come
From nowhere on a quiet morning when nothing
Should be arriving but the day a few minutes earlier
But here they come after the quiet winter rain
In the minutes surprised at how new the world is
seconds still falling like rain too soft
to cry out after slipping on a dream
Of ice on the heel of waking on these longer days
The days fall off the wall calendar
Like ice cubes from a tray.
Time applies the slightest pressure
And we’ll never know if it had more
Strength than that because it’s never
Necessary, the liquid days slow and
churn opaque and then click away.
When I was alone I used to spend the year’s
Last minutes on the roof, by the basketball
Pole in the driveway I’d shimmy up,
Grateful for family in the house below but
Not needing them to be grateful for everything else.
There was always enough space between
The stars for gratitude, no matter how cold.
Now, with my own family, I can hear time
Pacing back and forth on the roof, impatient.
I think about that garage roof in Rhode Island
Every year, but I no longer need to see stars.
December rain flowing
down the neighborhood hill
rising in the basement
Note: My son August, age 11, wrote this poem this morning.
The wind blows
It does nothing
The rain falls
It does nothing
Yet if you were the rain
Or the wind
You would cry out
“Remember me too.”
And if you were yourself
You would already be doing that
Oddly, I’m ready.
I don’t know what for.
But I know if the wind and the rain stops
I’ll cry out
“Somebody Break Me”
And the stars will reply
Wallace Stevens walks abroad on a foggy-mild first night of December, passing as an unseen shadow by my window from which I often view the public library, and has nothing further to do with this poem
That one had a little skull to speak of.
Magnolia trees’ fail to announce themselves but demand to be seen. As if once they were simple flowers for the dead, rootless like a funeral flower left by a stone, but time turned it into a tree with the unexpected smoothness and texture and the character of a stone, and the smell of lemons reminded us of all whom we miss and who miss us but are by us forgotten. A shadow reminded me of this
While I walked with a scary god in the dark.
It’s not debt I fear but desertion. That there’s no scary god beside me that I pick up and carry when things get difficult.
I pulled off last month’s skin and saw that I am already that memory you have of me, it said to me under a streetlight. I said something like a thought has to be light or it can’t fly and we left it at that.
The baby’s skull mends itself from the moment it’s born, like it knows what’s coming. The magnolia’s petals, like softened plates of bone abandoned by a weak seam.
I knew if I said anything like “seem” that you’d think I was writing about Stevens. And now he’s part of this poem for you, even as the poem is coming together like the plates of a skull to keep Wallace Stevens out of its mind.
This is what I knew about the South. I drove across an empty parking lot in the Florence of South Carolina. Inside the coliseum, the hockey players swarmed in a pre-game drill.
By the time I turned around my scary god was trying to bury me among the abandoned boats of fallen magnolia leaves. His eye sockets were the shells of boiled peanuts and his mouth was a stately house left by its family as the burning army came closer.
November hymnal (30)
I have cast these songs as a spell
Against the clarity of faith and doubt
Drafted the lyrics on fog
Or as water freezing on a windshield
Light still coming on through
Not broken but improbable
Temporary refractions where
Nothing’s lost to trust
I have cast these songs as a counterweight
To wings who’d take me from creek wisdom
And these songs I’ve cast like rocks
Through the windows of sunday
Thirty days leave like clouds
over cold jetty stones