2:33 in the morning.
The owl screeches like a thought’s hinges.
One that keeps opening just a crack
but nobody steps through.
I turn over my pillow, squint into the dark
yard, knowing nothing will clarify.
Whatever you are thinking
I am thinking, too.
–then everything else which turns off at night
is the switch that turns on the crickets
is there a thing at all in cricketsong
that means I remember
that bridges the slow heaving wave
of frozen ground between years
is there anything
by which they know they go on
do they need to when they hear
with their legs by which they leap only forward
and sing with their wings which cannot take them backward
what else must a cricket do to prove it needs
behind my house at night I forget
I am in a city the song is so loud
like the earth breathing in and out
the owl marking his territory in the pitch dark
is absorbed into the song it seems impossible
there could be as many crickets on the ground
as there are cricket voices in the air
till the sun climbs over a rock and shuts them off
in the morning which is the switch
for ten thousand starlings to fill the space
with another season–
Driving Through A Small Town Full of Churches on a Friday Around Dusk
The buildings vibrate like an old color
postcard whose message has faded
time lifting the letters off the back
one dark bit after the other
which now gather wordless on the horizon
rising without a message to take back
the sky which for a moment shows red
through the church steeples with no bells
In the walnut branches the birds of September begin to gather.
Late August. Empty chairs. My mind’s dinner guests.
The woman who bought the house next door pulled up the ivy
on the property line, and with it tore the bird-hollow branches
of the butterfly bush from their roots. And with that
the flying leaves of fall whose nature is not to fall will not
find my front yard. They who could bear thoughts of enormous weight
over great distances. Now I must take this thought
far up in the sky, where this poem will cast the shape
of it, its shadow only, on your mind’s green ground.
I am exhausted, ready to drop it all, when I see
I am carrying nothing. Down below you have found
a perfect place to plant a butterfly bush. It’s late August.
On the back patio the empty chairs await the arriving guests.
A late August night, a day after my father’s eighty-third birthday.
High in the walnut trees the cicadas make a sound that can’t be spelled.
It is there like a leak in the sky, behind the tall walnut trees.
It is the air being let out of the summer.
Letter to an Old Envelope
The emptiness you carry now
says more to me than words you once held
whatever it was long gone
not the message but the fact it was held
is why I held on to you
you carried those words across the decades
to where I would finally understand them
and now even empty you carry the name
of what became of what I wasn’t ready for
Wading into the Surf with Fifteenth Century Poet Sage Kabir at Wrightsville Beach, NC, Along with My Nine Year Old Son August
I agree, my friend, the water and the waves are the same.
Knowing their names does not make them different.
How quickly six hundred fifty years of wisdom
are occluded by a splash of salt water in the eye
as my son insists when we haul him again from under
his arms and up through the air that he be thrown
into the wave and not the water
July 7, On A Highway In North Carolina Between Thunderstorms Around Sunset
The moon sticks from the sky like a cat’s
claw snagged in a dark gray carpet.
Except the room is moving, the carpet is
shifting until the entire crescent, unmoving,
is visible. And like something caught
in a dream it hangs there and does not fall.
Those things that are so much bigger
than we think they are. That are not caught at all.
In a mind as mild as an eight o clock sky in early June
a thought swoops by like a swallow or bat
too quick for me to identify it by flight pattern
though it’s a thought that swerves and starts
again and once again after something unseen
not a thought that travels distances well but I’m not going far
content on the porch of my consciousness
a small level space on the outside of a house
I will never enter. The breeze
in my mind comes from someplace else and the thought banks impressively
in the same way logic sometimes makes us think we have direction.
The mind sky’s crayon color is half time and half heavy air
and despite its endlessness the thoughts flying in its late afternoon light compete
for an even smaller piece of space
held by a memory the size of a twilight’s tremoring bug
something I cannot even see but something that feeds the thought —
the whole reason the thought took flight is that this is the time
the memories come out of the earth and rise;
what they are doing there I do not know. Inside my house
in each room ceiling fans are rotating just above lamps shaped like leaves.
Perhaps they are turbines of an unknown will, a helicopter fleet in reverse
trying to keep the house from flying up in the air as it eventually will
like the tiniest memory of something bigger than my life
rising into the chasm of June light.
What We Want
What we want is the red kickball on the roof of the elementary school.
What we want is for someone to do what our teachers could not.
Go up there with a ladder
and toss it casually down.
What we want is for what we want
to bounce a little closer.