Before Sleep and Work

Before Sleep and Work

Tonight I will enter these lines in the shared diary of souls

Because I know I must add them before they disappear 

And I alone am responsible for their care.
It will be read by a few, the words all that is clear

But the meaning, while not obscured, different to each

As if we each see the same thing with our own eyeglasses, which focus things perfectly for that one or this one.
If there is a single meaning it will elude me as well

Though I am first to chase it down 

Like a boy chases his shadow.
Then I will be able finally to sleep

And when I wake like a child sitting up

In the surf as dreams cascade around me and fall back into a larger mass of presence,

I will open the double doors of the newspaper office
And say hello and walk up the old stairs wide enough for a car to drive up them

And type out the writing that will reach thousands

And be quickly read, thousands of words instantly forgotten 
Though it must leave a single shape of meaning, even if muddy,

Even if only for a short time, like a child’s castle by the surf
Still standing amid the roar of nearby waves

And the flutter of a newspaper pulled out of a sunbather’s hands by the wind

That will distract other beach goers,

Who will turn as if the shadow of someone familiar could be seen on the sand.

Mid-March Snow

march snow

Mid-March Snow

When people die their eyes change color
As their vision turns inward in the seconds

That close decades of doors. They hear brand new
Sounds from their bodies, of people walking

Away from their jobs for the last time, of a family trying
To sleep the night before they leave a house

Nobody will move back into, of the crew
After the show packing now-silent instruments

Into their individual velvet darknesses.
The brevity is a single color, never seen

Before. Like a snow just before spring
It redefines the shapes of things

And then melts away, too fast and too slow
For consciousness to follow. But one

Does, alone, catching up to an echo, of
eyelids sliding shut against snow’s sudden glare.

The Burnt Chapel

The Burnt Chapel

The chapel of Ease was destroyed by fire
Left by a population fleeing the ruins of war

Along a stagecoach connection overhung
With spanish moss. Two brick walls hang

On like stagecraft from the sky. The foundation
Seems hardly to touch the ground, never had

A chance to dig roots into the sandy soil
Around the river whose local inhabitants

Called Big Bends. Two lead-crossed
Round windows, like cartoon eyes of the dead

Stare uncomprehending through spanish moss,
the wisps of song surviving on air alone.

The Yemassee started the American Revolution
Sixty one years too soon. They’d already left

One home and decided to stand and fight
For the second one against slavery and cruelty.

Sixty one years. People live and die
In that span and tribes disappear. The chapel of

Ease was rebuilt and destroyed and will
Not be rebuilt. The hanging moss, like so many

Lives, can be light as air but drape a haunting
Stillness on the trees even as a breeze flows through.

Six late winter mornings

Six late winter mornings

It’s the underlined day
On the calendar of forgiveness.
But I cannot make the call.

I get up early
To let the dogs out but

It’s too cold–they stay on the porch
As if waiting for a ride to pull up

Or a drink. I walk to the back yard
And relieve myself

Against the frosted grass.

The black rabbit
Lounges in his hut

By the family vegetable garden.
He often rode on the back of our dog.

One day he lay on his side,
Not waiting for the morning

Or for us to find him.
He was finished and he went.

Leaving only a stiff black shroud
And the sound of birds.

Winter leaves like that.

In our blizzard-crafted snow cave
We almost died

But the snow plow missed us as we hid.
Years later, my childhood friend Marty

in his capacity as a civil servant
of the public works

Tore up a curb with his plow right
Across the street from

Where we’d once schemed
How to pay for the garage window

We broke with a barrage of snowballs.

After an early March storm
I snuck out before my son woke

To make lumps in the snow
Like snake coils surfacing.

Over breakfast I swore
I saw the Loch Ness Snow Monster

Out the bay window in the plow drift:
When we went to investigate

He discovered a large egg
Of ice, snow, and dirt

By the edge of the plowed pile.
He demanded we take it inside.

We put it in the freezer
To see what would hatch.

Spring grows over the winter
Like a scar

The hurt season’s swelling

We almost over-reach for it
As if we prefer being sore

Over forgetting, a cloud
Ceiling over empty blue sky.

March 4th


March 4th

Suddenly it’s spring. The trees say so.
They don’t confer with the cold

Morning or mountain gusts. They don’t
Ask if we’re ready. The maple says, mind this–

And flecks with red punctuations like starting
A sentence backward, all the year’s statements

With their periods, leaving language to unfurl at its
Own, slower, pace. The trunk’s shadow runs down the slope

Like a creek then rivulets of branches reach across
The road towards your porch like it has

Something to tell you, only you. But come closer:
You must get up and step into the road

To see what it means, trickling black
At your feet. And definition depends

On surfaces for the depths to survive:
Too late you see how at its outermost edge

the message in twig shapes
Crumbles across the texture of street

Pebbles, first like a word breaking into syllables,
Then slight sounds of insistence or regret,

Then a breath then the thought somebody
Was about to speak but you turned to see no one,

Then your own breath, held, while you are
Listening for its shadow

Lyrics heard in a dream

Lyrics heard in a dream

Out of the earth
Up through the dawn
Into the sky
It won’t take long


Over the trees on the trestled
sky we traveled

The roar of time’s grooved
Wheels fitting against the tracks

Of consciousness the brakes
Of waking squealing into song

I like holding an old penny
Something seemingly worthless

Older than me, yet still here.
It is like holding something

From the future
Another place I haven’t been

And from which many worthless
Things will also survive me

Waking to a song that does not exist
And forgetting it then humming

It in the shower and from there
The lyrics came back and I told

My wife and then forgot them
But my oldest daughter who’d

Overheard remembered them
When I remembered later

That I’d forgotten something
So now it is a song