Tag Archives: shadows

Far from the ocean, walking beside my house I sense the coast

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Far from the ocean, walking beside my house I sense the coast

Far from the ocean, walking beside my house, I sense the closeness
Of salt and seafood, cigarettes in beach sand, the smell of dunes.

Things had been going like this, I’ve been woken up in the spring blackness
By other springs, springs long gone or a spring out of place

Or just a piece of spring, like peonies from the garden of my first years
Of being a parent showing up near the bird bath in the backyard

Of the family house on Cape Cod when I was twelve. The wind coming from anywhere
To that yard smelled like the dunes and the sea and it never smelled like rain

Even when it was raining. These mountains have long felt like home but
Never smelled like it.

The clouds are running fast overhead,
Running as if they are late to a specific appointment a few atmospheres
Over, dropping hailstones on an afternoon wedding on the coast
Or sliding smoothly behind a grove of pines at sunset
That reminds a stranger of a time before her wings dissolved.

But moving so swiftly, running so fast they change
Into shapes no longer proper for where they were going
And they hang there, hours later, in mid-air,
Fraught with loss of what they will never do,
Not knowing they are struck momentarily with light like fire in exactly
The style of a 19th century landscape in oils, a technique then borrowed
by my grandfather and painted on canvas in the third year of my life:

A slow fire over a New England field and solitary oak tree
And a few cypress trees growing slowly like ignored children
In the background at hill’s edge, where all my life I have imagined standing
Waiting for it all to move.

In a closet in my mind
Above the jackets I no longer have to keep
Because I’ve buried everyone I need a jacket to bury
And I never actually wore those jackets

On that shelf in a closet in my mind I found a bomb
Ticking its way down to zero
I was looking for a love letter
I had never sent. Instead this thing
Vibrating in my hands.

I had not thought of myself as that destructive.

Your earth is sailing away from me, here on this satellite of rock,
Decomposing with each circuit around the heavenly body.
My only true virtue is my patience:
I wait until you are beyond the strength of my reach
To lob this beating thing.

I made a smoothie for the goddess of death.
This translation from dreams is a tricky thing, I said,
I may have gotten a few ingredients wrong.
For heart I might have dropped in my father’s arteries,
For constitution the rusting stents that held

The gateways of blood open. I drank most of the wine
So only a few drops got into the mix but I took steps
On the bottle and added these lovely green shards.
I set the blender too low as I threw in the names

Of the people I’ve disappointed because the
Grinding sound reminded me of my mom’s mind’s wheels
Mis-gearing over and over for seven years and it comforted me
To think you had to wait that long for someone so strong.
Elsewhere I was just acting on a hunch as good chefs do.
For example it’s not good to eat broken hearts

Without a lot of salt. People need time to relax and socialize
With you. I’m done with this fight-or-flight impulse. It takes a long time
To pour this damn thing. Sit down and let’s watch together.

Far from the ocean, walking beside my house.
I can hear the peonies muffled like the kidnapped

Right before the hero comes in to save them.
And like them, when they are free the peonies will have

Forgotten what was so urgent to say. And their gratitude
Will unfold in every direction for anyone with eyes to see.

Between blades of grass in the backyard far from the bay
blue wildflowers surface like a body of water on a map. Knee deep
In low tide on Cape Cod I could see my teenage self split in two
Shadows, one on the surface of the water and one on the
Scalloped sand below. I was different shapes of myself even

In a single moment, that each of my friends that summer
Saw a different silhouette of me. One they still see
In memories, stacked fresh like the fish in cold storage houses
After which the beach was named. The beach of my childhood

is a real place, after all, wet as water
With a name that’s no metaphor though sometimes a name
Like a tide pulls back some of the present as it goes
And pushes some of the past into the future. Which is to say

When a cloud ran quickly overhead the sun made it
Seem as if a tree had suddenly appeared in silhouette along
The grass, and its leaves were blue flowers. And when the next
Cloud came and the tree disappeared, it was no surprise.
I’ll remember it both ways.

Clouds gather around the mountain
Like seagulls around a junkyard.

Spring clouds can be scanned across the sky like syllables
In a sorry sonnet. The rain is real, the rest is reflection.

Far from the ocean, walking beside my house I sense the coast,
I am at the edge of things surging and things pulling back,

Like lying for hours in the pit of night pulling a blanket over
My head to try to sleep only to wake up and realize it was

A dream of sleeplessness. Waking to the sleepwalking death toll
Taking one more step. Waiting for the season to pass like a cloud

And to share the smell of salt and sand on a crowded beach.
To be stronger than these thousand words.

Like shadows


Like shadows

The shadows ring with noise.
It’s time’s breath, which grows

Louder even as it makes other
Sounds, like my mother’s voice,

Fade into hushing light. No, nothing
Fades. Things are observed

Like shadows. Just as this
Poem is not about fading

But uses ‘fade’ four times,
So our lives use the words

Of things we’re not about
To frame what’s

Four times denied,
Four times forgiven, four times

Larger than what appears real,
Like shadows on a late afternoon

Just past rain, where loneliness puddles
And is stepped over by those on their way.

Poem to be read in the middle of the night (ii)

Poem to be read in the middle of the night

Crow shadow passes across the shrugging pine
In the dark a shadow cannot move

It is paralyzed even when the body moves
the shadow stays you cannot shake it

When light filters through the branches
the bird long gone the shadow will

hold still, as if it were never there

The Shadow


The Shadow

The shadow arrives at the train station
on a sunny midafternoon.

He is only here because you are
though neither of you were expecting the other.
When you stand on the bridge over the tracks
he waits below on the platform.
When the train slides into the station and stops
he lies on the roof of the cabin, unnaturally relaxed.
People step off and others step on but he does
not get up. When the train begins moving he slides
into a blur until the last car is gone
then he is back on the platform
as if he had just decided he wanted to get
away from you but it was too late, his shadow
ticket was not accepted by the conductor.
He would turn his back on you but he has no back
or front, just questions. How does one act upon the world
with no depth? with no agency? You have had
enough, and hurry down the steps from the bridge
to confront him but the platform is empty.
Quite suddenly, you experience a thrill, as if
someone had walked across your shadow.

Worst Poem in This Collection [from 20 Poems & Other Translations from the English]

Worst Poem in This Collection

I walked in a circle around an idea.
Like a car in a well-lit parking lot it cast many faint shadows
Spoking out in all directions, but was itself unperceived, as is
Anything at rest exactly where it should be.
Like a circle of vultures it led me to myself walking
Injured by the road’s edge. I’m still not sure what hit me. That
Would have been the good poem.

Time difference, breezy day

Time difference, breezy day


Shadows on the sidewalk of leaves in motion
above me are like the shadows of flames

the leaves are burning but the burn is slower it is a burn
we can inhabit or control  are the leaves our days

how can we see it in the leaves still green and flexible
how can we see the beginning and end of it all in the shadows

how does the time difference work is it the same
when I send out words to you here in my midsummer

why do I feel the entirety of me burning

Full Moon, Clear Night, Looking at Tree Shadows on Snow

Full Moon, Clear Night, Looking at Tree Shadows on Snow


The yard could be silver overcast sky
seen through the lean branches crossing.

I could stare all night, disappointed thinking:
where is that confounded moon?