Last Night of the Year, 955 Years After Mei Yao-ch’en’s Death
I tie my hiking boots tight before I step outside to watch the year fall.
I am not afraid I will float away on Star River; my heart is 400 miles
upstream already. My family scattered. Just the cats and dogs here
to nibble water crackers with. Any year’s last hours are crumbs on a plate,
forgotten on the kitchen counter. For once I wish to be in a crowd
in a loud living room, my heartbeat adding to the temporary chatter.
Walk out with me, old friend. There will be snow in the year’s first hour
at the head of the trail, and I cannot finish this wine alone.
Unseen rain four hours away on the black horizon.
While you focus on the empty branches above your head
the stars blur into overcast, a milky blue apology
the child within me will not accept.
The Cape Cod inlets flow through him
like the roots of these trees thread mountains.
He is a trick of the light, of beach grass and sand.
And now the days are too short, he will never get home.
Almost midnight, mild mid-December
Tell the day to let go of the lake.
It is deeper than even the night
and its stars are alive.
Down here in the heart nothing
is burning, even tragedy houses
the vulnerable gestures of life.
Come dawn the night and the day will
once again renew their tepid rivalry.
Miles away the mountain awakes
and realizes he is a lake, too.
In August the dogs dodge the fall
of black walnuts in the back yard,
the baseball-heavy pods landing
even at night like the home team rallying.
The three inch palmetto bug cockroach
drops from the hairy stalks of palmetto
trees on the heads of couples leaving the bar.
Light like a lawsuit under an unironed linen shirt.
In the still summer swamp a cypress knee’s
a mountain. Behind the patient transparent lid
of danger there is not a single smooth straight
line on two hundred million years of hide.
On the hill I dump more March snow
behind my truck into a pile impenetrable as Everest
without a Sherpa. The uneven humps
of buried cars stretch ahead: back of a giant alligator,
danger lies silent on the surface of the road.
Almost too slow for the eye, the lowcountry marsh
bends against the new season’s subtle color.
Above the snowline the years startle:
the flick of the starling’s iridescent wing.
December 8th, morning sky
Venus pulled the moon over the morning sky
like a necklace snagged on a t-shirt
skids over a pale back on the surface of heaven