Summer’s running behind feels a bit mean
To a person already running behind,
A forced vertigo of sorts I can’t calibrate
My own behind-ness to: here in the early
Autumn of my life I’m still sweating
A summer boy’s things and the blurring
Faces of those I run by on the street
Of my life. I’m worried about what I’m
Missing by not standing still. By never
Getting up to speed. Time runs ahead,
The orange soles of her sneakers glistening
Over night’s damp suburban grass.
One wet evening, in the light of a white-faced lawn
Jockey, she’ll be waiting, stretching her legs
For a last run with me.
Even if it weren’t happening now
As in a happiness in the past
Or a happiness anticipated
It can be read like a poem
Fixed in the climate of stars
Visible or invisible above us.
Not touchable but undeniably
Touching us like a breeze or shadow.
It’s not gratitude. Happiness gave its
Train ticket or last drink or favorite book
to gratitude and even if gratitude didn’t
Read the book it carried it on the train
And paged through it. Of course you can’t
Be grateful for a drink unless you drink it.
Gratitude’s empty glass. Book as a coaster.
The years of spilled thoughts. Happiness
Like apprehending the earth’s curvature
Or finding the denominator of God.
Whether you believe in it or not
It will keep saving you.
Last Night of June
An open window. A car door closing.
Air conditioning units like busy administrators
process the night’s papers. Fireflies rise:
It’s the buoyancy of knowing you don’t have long.
Early Summer Evening
After the rain I walk around the peony plants.
The praying mantises stand on the leaves,
Dozens of them, like vacationers in a hotel
On their balconies. Looking out at a place
They have never seen before but will master.
Nobody so much at glances at the plants
Once the flowers are gone but I do.
To me it feels like I am growing them.
They are my flowers. Maybe God feels like this:
He cannot save a single one of us from what
Will prey on us or what we ourselves will maim
Or kill but he can watch us change and grow.
Inside the house there are no stars. You can’t
Throw a wish far enough away that its ricochet
Will not eventually get you. In the dark, after
The rain, the candles like mute trees.
In the silence, after the brief flare of sulfur,
You can hear fire chew a matchstick.
A cloud’s shadow slid down the side
Of the mountain and onto the lake.
The darkened depths gave it a body.
A child treading water breathing in
A gulp gave it a voice. A father charging
Into the water gave it direction. A second
Of sun gone missing for all of us
Gave it witnesses. Nobody looked up
And saw the cloud, which never looked down.
A man wakes in a hotel room
In an unfamiliar time zone. He has all his memory
and yet he carries nothing with him from that time.
Like the new summer from the spring he is all effect and no cause.
Outside in the dark he walks as if on the floor of a great sea.
But the ground plants have sucked all the water from the place
And have taken on a strange bristly beauty as if floating upwards.
Opening his mouth to say a name the word dries on his tongue.
One hundred and eleven degrees: three above auspicious.
Of the river his lover grew up alongside and the low-tide’s waves
Of the bay he knew as a child he hears nothing. But he hears
a message as when a great wave has washed over you
And floating in the foam you find a scrawled message
from the past forecasting that a wave is about to crash.
The hotel swallows the moon like a horizon.
One lizard on a row of stones.
Mid-day coffee, garden path northeast of Phoenix
Sun is a small white speck on the liquid’s curving edge
Halfway down the paper cup. In the depths
The trees are turning, turning on the caramel sky
That has already consumed half the day.
Wakefulness branches out across the surface
Of consciousness.Inside the hotel, thousands
Of my colleagues are putting a lid on such thoughts
To walk quickly to the next meeting. I will leave
It all uncovered, walk more slowly than I need,
Carry the sky inside like an open notepad.
Summer. The wren in the young willow
Swivels with the speed of a missed tag
In a back yard game of chase. What I am
Chasing I’m glad to miss. What I hold
On to is the untouchable joy of losing
A race to my daughter. The air after
Rain. It’s late spring, early June, and
You cannot convince children
out of school that it’s not summer.
–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–
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.