November hymnal (22)
So, after gratitude: the third part of autumn.
Questions without punctuation
Like love poems which will find answers only
When they reach the wrong person
In another language. Then the late slant
Of sun appears to end a sentence
Without words. No hope of early release.
The moon is balanced on the sky’s highest
Tent pole, just above the bear on the bicycle.
But nobody sees the bicycle. Suddenly
In the night’s back third we’re all up there
Clutching the ring to our parachutes
In the diffident cold, like all the stars
And no less courageous for it, our panic
Making a shape for strangers
Holding hands below.
November hymnal (21)
Late at night, the moon starting over.
Down the stairs the piano shines quietly
Under a stained glass lampshade.
Where leaves and boughs are a single shape
Connecting the trunks which disappear into darkness.
Like music is a single sealed vessel
Coming through the clouds the moon plays its phrase
in a lost key descending the sky’s scales.
Every season is within it: fruit, seed, husk, flower
Forgotten. In the dark mirror on the piano
Beyond the owl’s shadow the edges of sheet
Music shine. Starting over, before I unsnap
The accordion of thanksgiving, I’ll sleep.
November hymnal (20)
Memories of jumping in leaf piles
Are like the action of jumping
Into memory: edged shapes so light
The sharp pleasant scent
Composing myself amid total
Decomposition (meanwhile late
Fall’s upside down spring leaves
Reach the canopy of ground
And ever so slowly begin
The ascension to crown the roots)
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 (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 (9)
The clouds are grazing on the hills of morning light
Waiting for it to get colder so they can become tigers
And bite everyone. For now they are just the shadow
Of the swishing tail. November, stop pacing.
You can’t pull us apart like a vulture on the road.
You’re not October’s thrill of departure but a cooling
Afterthought. You don’t see the sharp gloom of the departed
Who themselves don’t know they’re gone. Who are us all
Each to our someone who’s forgotten us. I tell myself
That nothing lasts, but I remember the first time I heard
You laugh, a prowling like a new word that could
Swallow this season whole and leave footprints in the snow
Still yet to fall, like those flowers that bloom in February
Or the dry shadow of a paper delivered in the rain.
November hymnal (8) / for Doris
Here in the dead center of autumn
Comes the voice on the phone.
I am outside of the house, outside
My father’s Explorer, on the side
Of a hilly street I call home. I was
Looking at the library across the lawn
Across the street when I heard the words
She was dead. Just then, as I stood
Inside nothing. And the past was past
Me, like a car on its way to the library
Traveling too fast on a neighborhood
Street past a standing man, nothing
More than a pellet of the present, on
a bleak night’s road beneath which the miles
Spin and the signs have gone dark.