Epitaph for a snake I have seen in my backyard from time to time who has the trick of going missing in an instant when I try to follow it making me wonder where it goes and what else is there
Can you slide nicely by and observe, next time
you are there in the place of missing things,
My mother’s memories of me
When I was in her grasp and understanding?
Every time you disappear along the stone wall
You take something with you of the present
Stuck between your sliding scales but
Your going gives us the gravity to grieve
Denying friction while it powers every move.
Meanwhile in the backyard where you were
Every unbending blade of grass
brings up a new point against you
Your own path disappearing
Where your trail turns on its tail.
There in the place of missing things
Tonight I will send for you
To bring something missing back for me
Inconveniently as bread.
After our walk
we wanted no one else
to enjoy the moon like that
so we buried it.
Li Po found it floating face down
in the river and revived it.
It’s like when you think you see
a corpse in the water
but it’s back-floating
looking up at its real self.
Elephants tiptoe time’s twisting invitation.
They know a full footprint there means to forget.
As you drew them into being and forgot them.
As the shadow of a word is its own weird requirement.
The stuff of days is what’s available
In the air, the chimney swifts of thought
Where inside night’s mortared column each
clings to the smallest difference of surface.
I scramble across air’s planes to get
Particles closer to you
Like emptiness I’m thick with longing
And thin in grip
Six late-August evenings (6)
Amsterdam Avenue. A memory of a memory
Hiding beneath the cooling street. Like litter
Chasing cars and settling without regret
Along the surface and away, further away
With every step towards the next autumn.
Whose wake are we in now,
Thinking we’ll catch up to them, finally
And make it right?
The reporter’s dream
You’re the reporter and you’ve just talked to people whose lives have been turned inside out, but neatly, like an envelope; they are still capable of holding things. Now you have to make sense of it all. Or do you? You fall asleep at your laptop despite the deadline and the coffee. In a dream you’re walking through a library of strange books, which rustle in the stacks as if a wind is moving through them. These are books whose stories are still being written. Sometimes whole chapters move, or rewrite themselves silently because the ink of the present is constantly bleeding through the pages to the earlier chapters, so that when you re-read a person’s past you find a minor character has disappeared, or assumed sudden importance. The covers, too, change over time. And the call numbers. You’re trying to be conscientious and place a book back in its proper place but the numbers keep changing on the piece of paper taped to the book’s spine. You get tired and there’s a place to lay down waiting for you. It’s hard but comfortable. And there’s a blanket, white and starched stiff, with the first three letters of your last name on it. You pull it over you and sleep.
Six lines on an early September front porch, for maple, bird and twilight
The maples are still green. I can hear the Canada geese
Sloughing below vision. Noisy in the west, where clouds break
Against the invisible shoreline of the livable world.
Their calls drift east, first in a foam of chaos then spreading
Like a wave disperses, one voice eddying out, diminishing
Then rising again, with a single repeated wish, good luck, good luck.
September moon song
The mist blows across the moon
And makes the low sound of time
That you hear in your bones and eye-sockets,
That old houses hear. The floor boards
Remember when they were part of something bigger
But when they sing to the moon it sounds
Flat, like uncertain foot-falls in a dark hallway.
The screech owl in the backyard
Is like someone who laughs before they have told
The joke and then had no reason to tell it.
And the two voices talking about a dream
One had, up at maple leaf level; they fade
And drift, like a moon across a window pane,
Or the impression on the grass of a possum’s pink feet.