You unfolded the instructions like a bedsheet
And smoothed out the words with your palm.
First we identify all the parts, you said
To find the thing that’s missing. Or things.
It’s hardly ever just one thing.
The tools in the instructions, you pointed out,
We’d never seen before. Might have to make
Them out of scraps of other things we have.
Eventually that toolbox will have everything you need
but for now we just need a level and some sandpaper
So you can sand this grief to a shape that fits
the frame. Of what, I said. You read from the
Instructions: of that gap you fear so much.
If you look in that envelope included in the box
You’ll find the hinges of your life. You helped
Me sand and sand and mount the door
So oddly shaped and hear the bolt slide smooth
Like a finger through a ring.You folded the instructions
So the last line was all that showed and placed it
On my palm. What’s left, I said, the door is built.
You take your time, you said, and then walk through.
November hymnal (15) / November dream warning
“Get ready for a mix of disappointments over
night! just after midnight some hard truth moves in
and stalls, followed by heavy accumulations
of regret, turning to desire before dawn.”
But I didn’t dream.
Instead strange birds surrounded the house
and told me how earlier a rainbow crashed
like a cold war satellite into the house next door
without a sound but the couple who live
there were playing folk music on a stage
ten miles long. They could walk from encore
to foyer in one step. We have both buried
dogs like best friends in our yards; we have
both practiced songs with windows open
and the birds squandered the pot of gold
with outlandish poker bets on the back porch
as black walnuts fell, never upsetting the game
or the oversized cards as big as pillows.
Poem to be read in the middle of the night
In the forest path dream where the light slashing through
leaves are words written too fast for me to read
And your spirit animal pauses, its white head shifting as if sniffing
the undergrowth and pulling the colors of the undergrowth into the air
I am the trunk of the blue tree, observing silently as you walk by,
grazed by your eyes like understanding is a wounding season
Still unaware the words in the air are poems I am writing
by the light that filters past me unabsorbed and I’m growing only
to be still, rooted deep at passage’s edge to the turning earth
beneath the whistling sun shuffling its days
-painting by Mary Winifred Hood Schwaner
The reporter’s dream
You’re the reporter and you’ve just talked to people whose lives have been turned inside out, but neatly, like an envelope; they are still capable of holding things. Now you have to make sense of it all. Or do you? You fall asleep at your laptop despite the deadline and the coffee. In a dream you’re walking through a library of strange books, which rustle in the stacks as if a wind is moving through them. These are books whose stories are still being written. Sometimes whole chapters move, or rewrite themselves silently because the ink of the present is constantly bleeding through the pages to the earlier chapters, so that when you re-read a person’s past you find a minor character has disappeared, or assumed sudden importance. The covers, too, change over time. And the call numbers. You’re trying to be conscientious and place a book back in its proper place but the numbers keep changing on the piece of paper taped to the book’s spine. You get tired and there’s a place to lay down waiting for you. It’s hard but comfortable. And there’s a blanket, white and starched stiff, with the first three letters of your last name on it. You pull it over you and sleep.
On the sky press even the spaces must be set in metal
And sit above the text of dreams to print night’s pure black.
Sometimes that space like the space between us
Slips into the day and rises above the waking words
and becomes visible space. It ascends from the pull
of the moon and pushes forward like a panther,
Like a runner in a darkening wood who suddenly sees
The trees don’t block the path, they make the path.
Two nights ago I dreamed of this day:
Sitting up in bed suddenly, eyes
On the clock reading 10:11, although
I had gone to bed after midnight–
Too dark to be mid-morning (and impossible
To sleep through a day in my home)
In my dream I lay back down and slept
Dreamless inside a dream of sleep
Walking through town the next afternoon
The dream came back to me
And I understood
10:11 was a date, not a time
So I waited
Until today but nothing happened
Still something arrived
Like the absence of a body in
A favorite t-shirt maybe that was
What the dream was about
In a Dream [from Vanishing Tracks]
In a dream I am in a car
racing backwards in slow motion
through a neighborhood being progressively
unbuilt, earth and foundation
appearing as shingles and windows fly away,
sod pulled up from red clay, native
shrubs waiting for the foundations to liquidize
and evaporate then moving back in,
and finally large rocks which we
never moved to make way for the houses
that were not built after all
and the road itself turns to gravel then dirt
undergrowth and pine needles rushing in,
and as the car itself begins to loosen
the sky darkens with shadows
coming towards me at the
speed of trees never cut down
[Another poem from from the series “Markers” and the book Vanishing Tracks.]