This time the sunset moves closer
To the sunrise before it the west coast
Closer to the east it seems the leaves
Collect the sunset’s color and bring
The sky closer to the ground
Our past and future closer all this
Memory for us each to read through
the long night and the cold winter
The western sky’s white but the tiny star’s white’s
Brighter. The bleached day’s bones left for parts west.
On the sky’s other side the hunter’s moon uncrouches
and coughs. It shines off every tin roof of every hundred
Year old house but does not compare to the silent
Ocean of mid-day’s leaf shadows on the back yard’s
Softly swaying grass I saw earlier, so perfect
I pulled a chair off the porch and sat in the midst
Of its going-nowhere motion until I felt the day’s
Balance point precisely: all things moving, everything still.
The ants, which carry everything away
Will not approach the mantis on my steps.
They drift away like metal filings
From the wrong pole of death’s magnet.
They will carry everything away
But not this green stillness.
It is no less patient in emptiness.
It does not have the posture
Of dead things ready for the ground
To reclaim it. Nothing with wings
Descends to dissemble it.
Its power, like a prayer flag,
Is as a vessel separate
From intention. I leave it on the step
And walk, as the needs of the day
Assemble like ants around me.
For a while yet the walnuts
Will drop to the earth at night
Like exclamations about what
We forgot to do and now
It’s too late to do anything
But remember. Then
Next week a wind in the maple
Will turn the sky to stained glass
As what’s forgotten again
Again takes root
The path may lead through rain
And a slumber like rain
And twenty seven minutes
That go by like twenty seven days
Under the script another script runs
Like on a player piano
Where what’s missing makes music
Inside you the butterfly pulse
flits from thought to thought
Outside the leaf hears a voice
The color of memory and lets go
Clowns are falling to earth early
And wandering with the wind.
In the alley between tents
Fear is struck like a bargain, like a match.
No one knows what it meant to their easy ears:
“Allez, allez!” Off you go. Come, come now.
A crackle on the police scanner, the leaf
Crushed under the big high top. Away with you.
Author’s note: Regional organized groups of clowns are called “alleys.” The source of the word may be from the alley-like space between circus tents where clowns waited for their cue to enter; or from the cue itself, a traditional “Allez, allez!” which can be translated in any of various ways, depending, perhaps, on the clowns. // JS