The Barrier Keeper
For you the music is a stillness. Only what is still
Can walk the two roads. Here is your list
Of things to pack: did you forget the water?
Forget comfort? Forget profit and loss which rub
Against each other behind a tree? There’s a fire
In the woods between the roads. Forgetting
How to run you run without pain. The words
In these lines are here as guests and if you do
Not forget them they will have failed
Like guests who stay too long.
Along one road I found Chuang Tzu’s skull.
I only remember because I wrote what it said:
The ukulele and violin have traded hands.
The nine ordinary openings are closed
And the owl guards the dead rat.
This daughter exists because of what you
Didn’t do. Tell her this: As you play
Your fingers change as things change
And you forget them, and there is music.
Easy enough to call the contraband
Memory but is it? We didn’t mean
To find ourselves at the border
Of the moment with unexplained
Stuff in our bags. Mood altering
Substance. Clouds move away
Inexorable as a tango. The earth
Rolls us forward with everything
Every hour’s hand has held.
Almost Silent, Almost Still
Crickets suffice for thunder tonight.
Like a leg rubbing up against another.
At the gate
Emptiness slips you a ticket to the after-party.
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.
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.
Still life, with bridge and creek
Water weaves through the shadows
we cast on the creek from the bridge.
So much constant motion in still shapes.
It’s like we’re seeing the world as it really is,
all the currents that pull through us while
we stand here. Before it can get
too maddening, my son skips
a stone across the metaphor
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.