Poems

SHADE

I tracked it through branches, then deeper into the woods,
these flickering variances in green. Splices of sunlight
we measure time by.
                                 Early water clock, how it turned
the molecules to logic. Chirp of seconds--our need
to always know what time it is
growing strong.

Shade clock. Sundial. Brass pendulum with its propensity
to fall toward earth again.

The gravity of time,  

seconds that tock and tick and trick us into thinking
water's the same twice. Go figure midnight and the river
as if they hold the twin of all that disappeared.

I've felt through shadows in the dirt, and wanted
to be like that. Dark and humid.
A lowness,
                  not these passing thoughts, my questions
answered by minutiae. Equivocation--headlights
blur along the ridge, travelers caught in fog.

Years ago I held a match to glyphs in a limestone cave, then
walked the old path down to the river. At noon it stopped
by water.
               That's when I floated facedown on the current--
my body offering anonymity to each small thing below.




TALK OF WINTER


Delirium of broken placenta,
snow on the path makes her ride home
clandestine.

Quiet.
                                                          
The sleigh the sort that wolves can't leave alone.
 
Teeth snap in her sleep.
                                       Organs, a ripe darkness on ice.

Then dreams of the panther in bed, its paws
on both her shoulders.

Wet winter smell of big cat. The two of them
breathing.
       A strange place to end up.
Surrender.

Who said, Don't be afraid to show how it started?

. . . island covered by sleet, and afterwards they never
could get each other out of the blood. His. Hers,
while the ghost capillaries traded oxygen back
and forth.

Thin blue storylines inflate.

She bit her tongue, and it was still his blood in her mouth.
Sap in the maples froze. Talk of strata and winter sadness

under a delicately pricked roof.
    
Ping, ping,                        ice on tin.

Time, unreasoned and amorphous.




AUGUST ANNALS


Beyond the window shines the blue containment of noon,
and every day the dog trots into it, pees on the clover,

then makes headway through the timothy grass,
his coat full of seed. He has some idea of where to go

and who wants him. And since he's no skeptic, he goes--
rye, corn, the whole fermenting season ablaze,

a dog running off as if to make August history.

Who's to say his is not the lithe world that swayed
around pharaoh's daughter and the baby
in the bulrushes.

And this same sun overhead heated the earth when voices flared
a final, frantic time for Joan on her pyre of wood. Exact, those
moments in the reeds or staked above the fiery sticks, while
a dog flops down after hours of futile adventure, the ravine
filled with wings and an undergrowth of eyes.




EURYDICE TURNING


How diminished she was after settling
for the underworld--a malcontent

in Hades household, her thoughts unspoken.
That sibilant shhhh, shhhh, Eurydice--like

the owl's who-who at dark in the branches
of another life. Here there's neither night nor day.

No break, no brokered hours. Only an unwinding
spool of gray. Some dismayed Shade must have

stuck a hook in Eurydice's mouth, whispering,
do not speak or swallow. Weak-muscled tongue,

a dying thing. She knew when Orpheus looked
about what would be exacted, her future set

as a cosmic reckoning.              No reason why.
Nothing left finally but his singing, floating head

and she a silent creature accompanied by her body.
Buttocks and hips that sway like death in the saddle.

Spectral too, those wild Maenads who ended Orpheus
for not rolling naked with them by the river. At night

she dreams other women's fury. Fate bows and steps
aside. Part female, half fish, she's subterranean

with the blind albino eyes.    Cavern silt, gill slit, and
cold skin--she's lashed to the mind of Orpheus,

his backward glance.





BRIGHT STRANGER  (in part)


i. asylum
                 --North Rim (8,000 ft.) facing Red Butte. Transept path.

On the north side of this ancient dwelling (only a stone or two high
by now), I sit after dreaming of my office mate last night: Two of us

in our own cramped cubicle separated by the backless bookcase,
unsteady ladder of glory-be-to-the-brain.       Pink and sprinkled

with quartz are the stones in this makeshift foundation: 5' x 17'.
I pace it off, lodge it in my mind, and at center are remnants

of another wall. Another crumbled attempt at solitude, one rock
layer, then another--high summer shelter from long ago for

humans to sleep inside.                    A woman passing on the trail
mutters, Just face it, as her man slumps into, I guess you're right,

and neither see the shades of canyon light.  Resin glistens in a
pine--ruts where lightning leapt up a tree. While above,

that old sapsucker sun keeps shining down.    In my rucksack right
now I find the card marked SKY-CREDIT for the miles we once

crossed.   Rivers, villages, and mountains. These words  Sky-credit
are arced by a rainbow and three commercial stars offering a ticket

soon to somewhere else.     Always, another time than now.  Credit,
the promise to savor.          Vintage credit, I think, strings of imagined
 
coasts, our reward for delay.  Everything stored for the future.   And
only months ago, fox maiden danced in canyon heat--glimpse of fur

and flame in the branches.    Fox on the move,       fanning the blaze
with her tail.      No plans        or energy to save.                

Clicking her teeth, the sparks fly.       A forest on fire.


ii.  a beginning

                              When counting backwards, spring birth means autumn
rutting. Auburn fur caught in barbed-wire across the fire road out to Lovers Pointe.         
            Fox barks in the canyon.
Clouds shadow the river.

So, why this remains of a central wall in such a small dwelling?  Two groups of bodies given cover for nights.   Not as solitaries, these people migrated to the rim for summer, moon shining into crevices  and gorges
known as the ancestor's land.
                                                                                                                 
How many embryos floated loose inside this canyon? Androgynous shapes, organs not yet complete in the amniotic pool. A boat prepared
for each to cross the water.      
                                             The raft midway to rest upon.   And westward,
a rainbow bridge from temple to temple--Zoroaster, Shiva, and Brahma
--those red rock spires that point out the heavens.


iii.  river

female     scooped     by current and quartz.

Purple clouds       
and hawks filled with the cries of broken glass.

For those who take note and are (sinking by the minute)
passing away                  
        there is the north star to be clear about
from below.

The mind        salient and lucid           

spots the white horse in snow for what it is,  
the rooster at dawn as no other.

Point and counterpoint.     The journey.

               A song sparrow
sat beside me a moment ago, turning a cup of tea
to warm vibration.                                 Filling it.

There's little sadness when the traveler departs.
Stones are cold that circled his fire.      After all,
who was the one that said, Look at me or be done,
and stood up in the boat.

Something to consider--that pearl on the night horizon,
and how we'll not pass this way again.   

Quiet drifting river, no fingers to trail north this trip.

Clips of a life.    

And cross-eyed with prescience--double-vision of the wise--
he whispered, Let's sleep on it     and see what dreaming
brings.                        
             That far away from the present.      Implausible
faults,  crooked seas.              Whitewashed faces.            

Oars in an empty boat.

. . . .

vii. inquiry

Who was the uninvited guest who followed another
down, and returned?

A kept secret.

And did your finger to the lips mean hush, no words
or spoken tongues will ever capture this one?

And had Swenson expected an answer when she wrote,

how will it be to lie in the sky/without roof or door/and

the wind for an eye. . . how will I hide?




SIMPLICITY


Low down and blue as the sky is up and endlessly out there,
I lie naked on my balcony in the sun. The cat purrs
beside his bowl of water, garbage truck grinding
up the mountain.

I've sewn a bluebird wing on the kite, my skirt
hemmed and folded beside me as a helicopter dips
overhead. I could be a sleeping snapshot of beauty,
each of her tasks complete.

The pyracantha hedge grows taller around me.
In mid-thought, I'm walled in and put down
for a hundred-year nap.
Breathing slows
and the house becomes transparent,
more like a vase layered with cloud.
I fade to sepia, then to the shade
that won't wear off.

That April the rock garden was my refuge. Ocean stones
I placed around the concrete garden saint that stood by a dozing,
broken-hipped deer. Reports of you came from miles away--
certificate ready concerning one no longer here.




AERIAL PHOTO-OPS OF THE BIOME


:

Above strata of fossilized coral, the condor flies
as it did sixty million years ago
                                                   when no digital distancing
could make life look hazy. Should I sink farther into my bath
water or head for the canyon ledge, bloody rabbit in hand?
Full frontal-view of anthropoid time--
my snowy robe parted.

:

Humans wander far below as they have for the past
month, or so, focusing on the dominant range of colors
in their world.
                        Pistachio, medium rare, Pacific-fusion green,
sugar blues. Espresso mean. A boy gulps a bottle of Jolt,
then charges the ice cream stand, shrieking.

:

Ninety years ago my grandfather appeared to be and
was truthfully in the process of leaving the family.
He locked his front door, and was next spotted
years from there selling cars in Kansas City.
Sound of small change. Gold ring of keys,
and heavy men with soft cowhide wallets.

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