Monthly Archives: November 2018

November hymnal (19)

November hymnal (19)

After freezing rain, the slow burn continues.
Ice burns, air burns. Morning mist clarifies

Into a river’s moving lens.
Sliding faster than fire.

This will always be the month of my unbecoming.
November burnishes the mind’s naked bark

As the details drift down to a grass blade’s slow spark.
The recent past dead at your feet but covering

Everything. There is no forgetting
No remembering only

November containing everything
Changing past changed future.

And on the ground the hovering
Vulture’s static shadow.

November hymnal (18)

November hymnal (18)

Mid-November dusk cut short its set.
The cloud curtain did not part for an encore.

The moon crawled up it like a bug,
Marmorated like the shield shaped insects

We removed from my son’s curtain hours
Earlier, tossing them carefully out the window

And watching them buzz into flight.
Now, curtain and window and screen thrown open,

We climbed out to the roof of the porch
And watched marbled imperceptible motion of the moon,

Like an insect that came all the way from Korea
To barely move on a blue curtain.

So much of the world seems that still
While changing things faster than we can notice.

For just a minute we sat still, too. It was my son’s first time
on the outside of the structure of things. He tallied

It up: angle of the roof, texture of the tar shingles, scent
Of the colorless night and when he said This would be

A great place to write I knew he meant everywhere just
outside structure, where things come a long way to seem still.

November hymnal (17)

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November hymnal (17)

The night ice is a still wind.
Rips strong branches off trees

after the hours of violent silence.
Those remaining hold their tears

until the sun tells them it’s safe
and when they are done crying

there is no sign of what tore
them apart and exposed heart-

wood to the elements and circumstantial
invaders of life. Some love is like that.

The sudden split of solid direction,
the feathered slow motion crash,

the morning sunnier
and milder than anyone thought.

November hymnal (16)

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November hymnal (16)

October has its world afire
April the sudden bloom

May the maples set up their tents
knowing what they know

August the endless afternoons
January the hangover welcoming

the long haul ahead of March’s late snow
after February stiff arms you with winter

July the curling surf and sunburn and
the sweet magnitude of June

Oh June. September somehow
seems all seasons at once

except December’s definitive wince
But this month where nothing grows

or is saved nothing fully revealed save
absence absence of warmth absence of ice

In this space where there is nothing
To remember we remember gratitude

November hymnal (15) / November dream warning

November hymnal (15) / November dream warning

“Get ready for a mix of disappointments over
night! just after midnight some hard truth moves in

and stalls, followed by heavy accumulations
of regret, turning to desire before dawn.”

But I didn’t dream.
Instead strange birds surrounded the house

and told me how earlier a rainbow crashed
like a cold war satellite into the house next door

without a sound but the couple who live
there were playing folk music on a stage

ten miles long. They could walk from encore
to foyer in one step. We have both buried

dogs like best friends in our yards; we have
both practiced songs with windows open

and the birds squandered the pot of gold
with outlandish poker bets on the back porch

as black walnuts fell, never upsetting the game
or the oversized cards as big as pillows.

November hymnal (14)

November hymnal (14)

The sea stone sets down on the sky’s lobby.
Only the birds pass through it; their feathers

Still remember when they were scales.
The star has sent a poem to commemorate

The occasion. It’s the same poem every star
Composes. That every civilization has waited for.

The family pauses between house and car.
One of them points upward. A thousand things

Still alive in the trees and underbrush see
A thousand different families.

The birds rotate the stone like gears and snow
flecks off the stone as if God were sharpening

A great knife on it, to cut through the pile of burnt
Trees. To cut through ignorance, doubt, faith.

Four years later the house is empty. Sunlight
Streaks through the lobby and is arrested by

Clouds. Night falls. The star’s poem finally arrives:
“Too late!” reads the entire poem. Because they

Always have to be right, stars have few words
To work with. The sound of birds traveling through

The sea stone is like that of snow on steps.
The sound of stars composing is like a shovel on a walkway.

November hymnal (13)

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November hymnal (13)

No silence tonight. The light bulbs hum.
The washer in the basement sends

a thick pulse through the walls and floors.
Cats scratch carpet. Steam surges

up pipes to the radiators in the bedrooms.
When I turn everything off, grief is singing,

in the dark outside a house in my mind,
and though it’s in a foreign language,

each November I know a few more of the words.
In that song everything rhymes, leaves

pushed into a pile by the rain, my mother’s
favorite paintbrush, an old recipe typewritten

and amended with a blue Bic pen. No matter
what you try to throw in the song, it’s in perfect

harmony with grief. November night. A low
front off the coast. A bad painting of a mocking

bird by an artist we never knew. No silence.

November hymnal (12)

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November hymnal (12)

That day the house hit my brain with a piece
of its basement it was like I finally saw death’s

name. Like death was revealed as a real person,
someone you’d asked to see if the right size

shoes were in the back and who disappeared
and never came back out but now here he is

years later, he’s cradling this box in his arms
and he’s close enough so you realize he must

have an actual name, he’s not the devil or any
supernatural thing, he’s just the person who will

put on the shoes for you, you’d better sit down
for this, and when he leans down to fix the laces

there are more people behind him, an unending
line of all the people who’ve been helping you

toward your death, from before you were born
up to the last face you will see. I am on the

stairs, checking my head for blood. I’m going
to recline here for a bit, like a greek god, and figure

out what hit me. I look up the stairs at my family,
Down the stairs at my legs, sprayed there like graffiti.

At all the people in the world. The escalator of names
Drifting down. I have had those shoes forever.

November hymnal (11)

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November hymnal (11)

The bare trees reveal mountains unseen in summer.
Leaves scrape across the road like the words

Of unseen translators looking for an original
Language to give a new season to. I can almost see

This poem assembling as I compose it, rising
In a pile where the wind ebbs and only you,

With a scar on your chest where each word
Thin and twirling on its stem left your branching

Pulse after negotiating the passage between light
And life, only you would stop to read it, unseen

By the neighbors bending to their black bags and rakes,
Your bare shoulders glowing as sun breaks through.

November hymnal (10)

November hymnal (10)

Cause and effect cross-hatch the sketch
of death that gives it heartless depth, like weather.

Clouds pour from the trees and their rain is ash;
Memory, the fifth season, the language of sand.

You’ve scanned the barcode in this hand:
What minute mistake precedes the crash?

He burned alive inside his car. He already knew
these cities would not hold. In her bed the black

breath choked her but was not the cause, just the body’s
flag of surrender. Her last look could not be read.

She had all the time to prepare but none of the tools.
No understanding in the wide open eye. Too soon,

The promise of the pared appleskin moon:
so very little light is needed to die.