for Peter Liotta
The cat is a bag of broken plates.
The mother an eggshell unsteady
On its saucer. What star is that
By the moon tonight? She would
Not say. The great aunt shattered
By the pickup she puttered in front
Of, helicoptered to a last hour of wires
And tubes. Something shifts
In the sack of life and lights weaken,
Something sharp pokes through.
But you were young enough and nobody
Was ready to see you weakened but you.
Before the burst of flame met
The gas tank an explosive inkling
Of it had already set you alight.
I can never be in the seat beside
You and pull the wheel
Turning the tires from the brick wall,
I can never change your mind
Though you changed mine
But in any loved thing’s last moment
I hear your body turn as it always
Did, away from people and toward
Something in the twilight flying by.
Early Summer Evening
After the rain I walk around the peony plants.
The praying mantises stand on the leaves,
Dozens of them, like vacationers in a hotel
On their balconies. Looking out at a place
They have never seen before but will master.
Nobody so much at glances at the plants
Once the flowers are gone but I do.
To me it feels like I am growing them.
They are my flowers. Maybe God feels like this:
He cannot save a single one of us from what
Will prey on us or what we ourselves will maim
Or kill but he can watch us change and grow.
Inside the house there are no stars. You can’t
Throw a wish far enough away that its ricochet
Will not eventually get you. In the dark, after
The rain, the candles like mute trees.
In the silence, after the brief flare of sulfur,
You can hear fire chew a matchstick.
June Gloaming, with Time
I stand before a great tree.
Tell me how to read these stars.
These pinioned desires.
Is life all shade and shape
And the great softening outline?
We see the other’s thoughts,
From the outside, how like a tree
Withstanding a breeze it withstands
A name passing through it. Not a leaf
Is left unspun. Yet still the vast unmoved
Outline. Still the shadow lengthening
Across the afternoon’s single road.
One night was your hand
On the small of my back,
A cloud’s rondured syllables
mumbling almost a word in the dark.
Introduction to the arrival of the cat’s death
You have been coming this way for over a year
And I know it has taken a lot from you
Moving so slow
But I cannot let you in just yet.
He is too weak to move from our bed
These last few days but he still purrs
When he’s aware we are with him
And you can’t come into this room.
I will bring him down to you in a day
Or maybe two
There is so little left of him and by the time
I lift him from the bed everything
That’s valuable will already be gone.
I have carried them down before you know
I will not leave you waiting
Any longer than it takes in the meantime
There’s coffee a piano some books to read
The chairs I know are not comfortable
Down here where you wait
When Sleep Will Not Come
Late at night, when sleep will not come,
I stand out on the front porch.
Even though nothing moves the world is not still.
In the dark I feel it vibrating under my feet.
The unseen passes through matter like it’s underwater,
A series of long waves
I can count in my pulse but cannot claim. I take a breath.
All the crickets are talking on their phones to busy signals.
Nothing is listening.
[from the book Vanishing Tracks, 2011]
There will be no meeting. Go deeper– is it quiet there?
He is the one you could never have. Though he could
Never not be yours. Deeper– it’s the sound of waking.
When we were younger we could drink a lot more
Coffee. I remember our first cup together. In the depths
Of the night, its upside down ocean, sound is replaced
By a strange pressure on the ears. On the entire surface
Of your body. This is where fissures open up in the roof
And new mountains emerge. It’s where stars are born.
Where a shy medallion spilled from God’s pirate ship
twined through the waves of dark sleep and became
The moon. Some hearts would explode from the pressure
Mine is like the cork that has to be pushed back
Into the wine bottle corkscrewed side down. Torn
But doing its job. Deeper but not so deep
You couldn’t pluck it out with your bare hand.
Sometimes a memory is tame as soft rain, deeper
than falling asleep, like a read book empty and full
at the same time, the sound of a candle in the room.
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