The storm that was a pause between things
Unmoving white sky, after two hours of sleep.
Like a view for the morning after you die:
No color, no sound. Only the rhythm of dogs
Breathing at the foot of the bed, those animals
To whom death, like life, is just passing weather.
The snow has fallen or is yet to fall but is not falling.
Two ages like thick glass tectonic plates
Clasped me as they passed against each other.
One an age in which I existed, the other
Where I was absent. I could not see
the difference. So little would change,
So little that had to happen for the morning
To come no matter what. That is when
The dogs left me. We are not alone in death
But we are alone in despair. Numbness coming
In from the arms and legs toward the heart.
The brain a battering ram turned inwards.
Then I slept. So many things we can’t control
That happen anyway. The memory of deer
in the backyard the dawn before. The deer
Themselves. The paths that brought them
To nibble at a birdfeeder the day before a storm.
Not the owl whose short questions are strung
On this line of dark hours like rosary beads.
Not the cloud’s cold eyelid closing over
The near-empty parking lot in each of our minds.
What drove you there and what were you trying
To buy on such a night when the moon arcs away
Like the last snowball you threw at a friend
You outgrew without knowing? They both faded,
They both landed somewhere beyond sight.
Not the short-tempered ladder to memory.
The night’s too wide to haunt. But for a few
Moments, it opened its eye to look at you
And swept across your life without noticing:
Who you missed, who you hit, how cold
Your hands were when it took shape.
And an idea drifted down un-owned
And clung to you like frost, an owl flown,
A string of prayers creased by doubt.
February still life
Rain. Which coastal town was I dreaming
last night we’d moved to where the rain
comes with a bookmark of the ocean
and the snow apologizes when it alights on dunes
with the sound of regret? The color of change
on change. Wrapping my head around how one
impermanence devours another
is like leaning on a dune fence:
its weakness is what makes it impossible
To climb or cross. Its effect is staying
In place in a place where no lines hold.
The horizon balances no books. Flat pasts
slide away, pages of undertow. Words too
late to change the page fall as I’m reading it. Rain.
The days fall off the wall calendar
Like ice cubes from a tray.
Time applies the slightest pressure
And we’ll never know if it had more
Strength than that because it’s never
Necessary, the liquid days slow and
churn opaque and then click away.
When I was alone I used to spend the year’s
Last minutes on the roof, by the basketball
Pole in the driveway I’d shimmy up,
Grateful for family in the house below but
Not needing them to be grateful for everything else.
There was always enough space between
The stars for gratitude, no matter how cold.
Now, with my own family, I can hear time
Pacing back and forth on the roof, impatient.
I think about that garage roof in Rhode Island
Every year, but I no longer need to see stars.
December rain flowing
down the neighborhood hill
rising in the basement
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.