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Metal on my tongue as I kick the last
half-mile. My skin drinks in the morning mist,
the light rain as it falls. The rain slicks
down my hair into my ears with a shock
that rings me from heel to head. And the sun,
how she bleeds red in the east, edged with gold
swallowed by the billowing clouds, gray-furred
that chase her like wolves. My feet drum the chant
on the drowning earth, my breath rasping out
like a cricket caught in a jar. The scent
of rain, mingling with tobacco smoke as
a man walks past, slowing, talking to the road.
You’re frozen in time, that biting gray day –
a white diamond, a brown dirt field contrasting
against the monotonous green of grass,
the pointilist painting of the fall hills.
Your smile, free and easy like worn denim.
Your own coach tagged you out and you’re laughing
true laughter over the absurdity
of the game, the day. You slap her hand first
as the lines walk past, with that easy smile.
Five days later and the blade of the car
slices you from the world, all indifference.
These yellow lines never smile. They steer straight
and the world bends around them, unruly
as a head of brown curls and disciplined
by the rod of impact, force and motion.
I don’t know what I’m trying to say
except that I saw you that afternoon
slouching at first base, and swinging the bat
in its blurred arc and the crack, a nutshell
sound like the hearth’s heat popping the hazels
as we tell our fortunes on Samhain night.
Summer has ended and that memory,
too, fading like the green in leaves, grass
in the field the breaking glass of the frost
May no walls constrain you, the spirit
fountaining forth unfettered. Justice
lies late in her bed, but soon the light
will wake her, and she will rouse and tear
the nightmask from her keen eye. May my words
disturb her dreams and hasten that dawn.
And may your days not be bitter to you.
May you instead be like Odin, gaining
all wisdom through your pain and bondage.
Be like the springhead, waiting under earth
for the crack in the hardpan, and rush forth
toward the light, ever sweet and soul in flight.
As the day shortens, wring the sweetness
out drop by precious drop. Someday soon
the stars will pierce you to the heart and
your blood will freeze, your delicate feet
on the last trailing plume of ragweed.
Your wings will mingle with the dead leaves.
The frost breathed over the valley floor
before dawn but your hillside escaped,
and the day warmed and you made your way
gaily under that stunning blue
the wild hue of the unleafing tree.
Drink deep. This is the life we are given
and while we live we can choose to fly
and feast on life’s sweetness, as the scythe
curls down in its inevitable arc.
It tangles the feet – the wine, the vine
the sourness of the ferment, the word
we heard on the wind: Love me! Love!
Pay no mind to the ox from the plow,
the neck bent over the twining trunks.
As well as any, these trunks can hold
the rope as the blade sickles down, blood
pouring wine, the prayer of sacrifice.
And if the ox can work no more? Words
made it special, made a slaughter a prayer.
Such power in the hint of the wind!
Such power a weed to a running foot
or Spanish moss, using its beauty
to leech the green. The path of the voice
thrown like a spear, changing everything
as it enters the ear and the blade
peels back the raw layers, pressing the wine.
Hush now, say only: Love! Love me! Love!
Respect is the vine on the trellis
and a lie can support it as well
as the slow-growing withes of the truth
and with more speed. Drink down and don’t mind
the bruises, the ox’s empty eye,
the neck of the tree. Just: Love! Love me!
My feet often lift from the ground, so light
am I in my dreams. For years I have ranged
over ceilings and roofs, treetops and clouds.
Once, when I woke up I was sure I could
still do it – just stand on the pavement and
let the wind take me, my will steer me true.
Waking, I don’t remember the first time
but a dream showed me. That first time, I jumped
over the rail, the floor yawning stories
below and gasps all around as the crowd
watched me die. Plummeting, I clutched my shawl –
green and black, a design of knotted birds –
and the air held me and lifted me up.
Or maybe I died, only to do it
again and again each night in the name
of soaring. Perhaps I just learned there is
no difference between the two, death and flight,
as I lift to my peregrinations.
All those weighted words and pressed suits
“Amazing Grace” droning through the chanter
will not turn back time to the deep night
after a naïve young reporter
showed up on an East Brunswick stoop
to return a blurred photo showing
an ink-haired woman beside a Coke
machine. The children rush the doorway
in matching striped shirts and matching smiles
their inky pigtails clinched by baubles
that caught the too-bright light of the room.
They asked the reporter, “Where’s mommy?
When’s Mommy coming home?” In response
she lifts her eyes, seeing the father
twelve steps beyond, an apology
of a smile on a face now written with
lines of an elegy that time will not
ease. She hands over the Polaroid.
In her car, she presses her forehead
to the wheel, hearing their question, knowing
that she will hear it forever
and see the jig of those pigtails
those expectant smiles. There is no way
to end this well: this story, this
deadline, this memory. A deal was
offered to the indifferent night: Break me
instead, let that woman come home
and be more than a blurred shitty photo.
Then slapping away tears she shifts the gear,
pulls out. There is a deadline to be met.