Introduction to those beneath the flowers
The ceiling fan on a May night
A watch that lost its hours
The year was a broken bone
And its slow mending
Like the peonies after being cut
To the ground rise up
And when no one is looking
Distracted by the growth and green
And the pink and white and red petals littering
The sidewalk and the heat
Rising suddenly they are there the praying
mantis and her thousand sisters
Each poised like a timeless statue
On a leaf that didn’t exist a month before
After watching the moon through the pale after-dinner sky
I want to build a place where gravity
does not always win. Unlike the sun,
the moon really does rise and set around us.
I want to watch the wind in the trees
The soft stone of the heart thrown
Across the clouds’ silence.
When they speak
The words grow flowers
The night before the day before my fifty-fourth year begins
The sky is a long fall up.
The dark earth a menacing swan
daring you to leave,
cursing you for staying.
Upside down May evening,
have you no ears? only
that surprised look
that you are so beautiful?
Outside the owls sit
for their portrait.
When it is done they will
fly into the silence
of spring’s little killings.
Fox at dusk. Pulling
change from a pants pocket.
The finished painting.
-detail of painting by Mary Winifred Hood
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
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
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
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.
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.