Tag Archives: contemporary American poetry

Common Ground

Common Ground


At my feet a silent tide
The midsummer light’s crashed

through the trees, fills the grass
recedes and foams to nothing

In the shadow of mountains the ocean
comes to me as you once did

Still Life, Evening with Leaves and Blinding Light

leaves in floodlight

Still Life, Evening with Leaves and Blinding Light


The leaves were not laughing at me
(I could read their minds by floodlight)

In that perfect increment of night
when I loved the moment enough

For it to be my last they did not laugh
when I decreed it irreversible

In the barrel of empty air afloat
on the last black wave taking root

the leaves
did not laugh at me that

laughter was my own  (by
floodlight they can read my mind)

Poem for the Back Cover of a Book

Poem for the Back Cover of a Book


This book does not care if you buy it.
This poem does not care if you buy the book.

Even I do not care if you buy the book.
The three of us have been waiting here

To tell you this, but even more—perhaps
you have just been thinking of that person

Whose love has kept you alive without you
knowing it these many years, perhaps  you

Are remembering that person now.
Are they right beside you, unaware your

Love flows stronger than ever? Have you
not exchanged words in years? We are here

To tell you—put down this book, do not look
back, you were never looking back but always

Straight through the eye of his soul.
Put down this book now and go to him.

Or, if you are still here, at a loss for words,
I will help you. Go buy this book

And leave it face down where he
will find it, and notice this poem,

That is why we are here, after all,
And we will see what can be done.

After a Moment of Silence for a Sudden Death

After a Moment of Silence for a Sudden Death

Who are these birds gathering the empty branches
outside my window into a tree again?

Thirty feet above the roofs of a hundred mourning cars
they wick out patterns of mid-afternoon orange and black

that amplify the slanting sun then come back to settle,
at ease, as if already new green leaves protected them.

As if all our thoughts about our departed colleague
had gathered outside to look back at us, prepare

as memory does for flight, disperse to the future
wherever winter thoughts fly to in spring beyond sight

Drinking Sake with You

Drinking Sake with You


Remember that warm anticipation
before the red dust obscured our ease
and the houses blew the sky down?
On this night the walls are so cold and
distant peaks enshrouded, I know what I’ll do:
I’ll sit here nearby. Sip a cup with you
as a star comes out. Let it all settle
until the world is clear again.




I know these  petals unless pressed
in your own life’s book will not survive
and even then as a shadow of love’s shape
or unless adrift in your river’s endless flow
come to outline any eddy worth circling
and even then could gutter off a bank or
regret’s cold stone where air
tears at life’s evaporating edge
or unless emblazoned with wing
of robes softly opening to heat and
even then burn only as a blindfolded
assurance of need, need:
or unless left alone a becoming
drifts around it, swirls it down just so
like snow a mile up lands finely
at the foot of the sky

The Maple

The Maple


Near the top of the mountain
Across the grief of February’s empty arms
A single maple bursts into red buds.


The tree is not predicting spring, I note
And though alone, as I am, driving past,
Is not a symbol of courage, or a prophet, as I think I’d like.

It’s a being of air and earth, maybe keener
Than its cohorts at sensing a change in soil
Or air enabling itself to change

Into its next self.  In the morning
I hear the birds it cannot hear that tell me things
Are on their way to April.  I have my own cues

To draw from me the things I grow.
But that can’t be all: the Anglo-Saxon maple harp,
Excavated from a barrow in Berkshire,

Still struck an open chord
Across the dirt of centuries.
The maple love spoons carved by Welsh

Ancestors hang on the thrift store wall
And can still be recognized for what they are:
A domestic object wrought with

A passion undomestic and ornate. The maple
Is  durable for carving and can hold personal feelings
Far longer than the body can. Long after grief

Has run its course and the forces of air and earth
Have consumed us back into the world of unerring matter
And our family trees severed from this single point

Of meeting. Maybe that’s why this maple means
What it means to me, alone and driving by.


from the collection The Artificial Horizon

Outside In

Outside In


The garden is in the recluse, not the other way around.
You rivers and mountains pale against the heights and gorges

She must climb. I am the hand in her mind where thought gets tough.
I am the step suddenly appearing. In the calm harvest fields I know

I have often been missing, off on the mountain’s other side.
But in the slow running river my boat is not far away,

she’ll call a breeze to fetch me faster than words paddle. Here in her
garden, I’ll meet the better me, nodding as I pass on my way to her.