Seasons of Love and Loss

Water
in hill and mountain ranges are hidden and exposed forests and springs and a gradual distinction between near and far

a valley where nothing passes through
and one with a stream
water that flows between two mountains
and water that trickles between mounds
called a creek

in deep gorges
water sometimes winds
and turns
is
hidden then exposed
continues
unseen
then is seen again
water sometimes is sluggish and swift
shallow or deep
and water sometimes forms gently moving ripples at the bottom
of a mountain
and sometimes scours rocks

there is water that leaps and gurgles in spurting springs
from between gorges
and water that cascades from between high cliffs
into unfathomable depths where it seethes and swirls
and where even fish and turtles cannot live
there is green spring water
cold summer water
clear autumn water and melancholy winter water

yet all are subtle

Journey
It began
On the Pine Ridge Trail
Going east to Sweetwater
Ibis
Was on the wrong coast
Lapwing too

We were quiet
Waiting for morning glory
To bloom in its time
For crow
To speak out of turn
For puffin
To sail up out of the new millet

At Dyar Spring
A woman cooked broth
And manzanita berries
We climbed East Mesa Ridge
With sea parrot
And osprey

Villages dotted the lake
We turned in our sleep
Each turn
A thousand years
Dreamed blue cranes whirling
In frothing waves

Weary from walking so far
We paused in the shade of oak
Wiped hot sweat
From cold skin
We threw pebbles
At arctic loons

Every few months
Owl gulls would sweep down
Through blue and orange maize
Looking for mackerel and perch
The few remaining heath hens
Chased yellow-crowned night herons

And so the seasons
When the last green herons left
The round yellow millet picked and stored
In jars and so the snow
Dotting the hard clay
A million years from the sea

And the Moon
strange memories fill me
smells of a red tide in august
of squid clogging gutter grates
images of hundreds of small sails
and thousands of whitecaps on Sundays
of days that go on—
where the evening star
and the moon
in a navyblue dimming sky
over an ocean that goes on—
of clean white-yellow sand under my fingernails
of hot wind on my sunburnt neck

The Song
At midday
The oasis is blinding
Hot sand pierces the mirror
Like meteors

Near me
A man quietly sings
As if to deflect
Attention from himself

His skin is like white wax
He has nothing more to sweat
In the dark I go vacant eyed
And silently scream

The wax melts quickly
Over a pile of stones
The moon bathes
In its own light

Order in the West
Late afternoon.
A blood red disk rises
To shape some sadness. Nosebleed,
A squat mountain stabbing the now.
Cascades cut my tongue.
Mother tells invisible beads, dying
In the wild west. The moon
Is confused. I greet my double,
A black face staring
Up from blue sheets. The sun finally
Sets. Order reigns.

The Bends
Now that order reigns
And summer is almost over
Where can I go?
Fall will strike early this year:
Well-marked roads
Cannot be taken. Last year a tree fell
In silence
While I sat alone
A dim fire
In front of an abandoned shack.
The woods still glow,
Attract me, but they are far:
I cannot go this year. Where then
Can I go, now that time
Is mine? Waves break in sets.

Harvest
the sky the forest
the sweetness of fruit in our mouths
the metaphysical sweetness
of a kiss

we go
into the abandoned fields and dance
cut the weeds
then trample our way to a waiting line of cars
on the highway
we wave to the fields of cut barley leaves we wave
to our neighbors
to lovers standing naked in our houses
to one another standing
foolishly smiling

sugars losing sweetness to soil
leaves becoming mulch
gasping in the late-summer sun

Knife of Comfort
After harvest we pick flowers,
Lay them in the sun.
I ache to take them to market
But mother said wait for father.

The princess felt the pea
But I have felt
The knife of comfort
Twisting in my back.

The smell of the hills permeates
Father’s last letter
Mailed fifteen years ago
It still fills the box
With a deep, fragrant echo.

Fall
Fall is here again,
Its ups and downs music
To stiff ears. Let
My people go south
For winter. When
Their legs are tired, return
Them to the north
We all know best, you know the one,
Broken branches all over
The places, polite officers
In drag patrolling empty streets
In the tenderloins. Music,
It’s all music
To my inner ears.

Flipped
The sky and the air were
And then
Before we knew
the waves and sand all
Flipped up into the air
And the sky fell apart

Coconut Moon
Blue rain fell.
Beaches f1ooded,
And basements, schemes
Of men. All night
I flew through my house,
A hungry bat crushing
Moths between my pointed teeth
Until a window opened and I sat
Panting over a green gorge,
A man, heights shrinking
To depths, a heart
Giddy with sentiment, gushing
Self-congratulations.

The Flood
Grass hangs
To its patch of earth, the earth
To its crack; the snail
Feels its way along the invisible curb:
The rain has swamped the earth,
Effacing distinctions. I am not afraid:
The whole world
Could pass by my window
And I wouldn’t know. Where to
When the street is visible?
Will I finger my bus tokens
Like beads on a rosary?
Will I sit on a bench and track
The infinitely painstaking movement
Of a caterpillar down the cement leg?
A faint pink glow envelops the day:
This storm will never pass.

Less Than
First frozen rain
Coating the maple stems,
Then frost, snow, and
Finally the whitest fog
Against a white sky—that’s
The top of Bellayre Mountain,
Not even 4000 feet.
Tracks run straight and true,
Then not so straight, less
True, but following Esopus
Through Pine Hills, Phoenicia,
Shandaken, Boiceville, Ashokan,
And so on. Emile Grimm’s
Fly shop stands closed. All
Hands on deck. Below
Locals sip tea,
Affixing deerfly wings
To death hooks. I can’t wait
Till it’s time again to memorize
Those Latin names
And obviously American shapes.
Goddam fucking flies
And you too David Stoller
For dying and making me take
Your lousy Smith-Corona.
Goddam fucking asshole David Stoller
For not and never nor ever ever waking up.

Reunion
His body lies
In the soft bed, staring
At the one dim light,
Mouth open. For the first time
Since we were children
An imaginary ocean dwells
In my ears. I drop the wafer
Through the lips, a nickel
Plunking into a slot machine.
I win. The jackpot:
Six shiny red apples
In a row. We leave
Our serrated selves
Securely joined, one
Warm embrace. We
Play a little on the grass,
Testing your feet
And my thoughts about tumbling.
You want to plant an oak;
I want to leave the grave
For a real corpse. And the flowers
You sent from the mountains?
Lock the drawer. Tonight
We lie together
In the firm bed, examining
The stars you never saw,
I never touched. They seem
Stuck to a great firmament.
I know it isn’t that way
Any more but I want to think so
To placate myself, after all
Our separate wanderings.

Possessed
When we left as children,
The leather soft, dice
Dangling in the mirror,
It wasn’t speed that counted,
But the ride, and the ride was good.
We were one, touring country roads,
Seeking the place where night
Meets day, where the moon
Was always full. After the tacks,
The slicks, the dead cows,
I don’t know how we kept going,
But we did, we did well,
The wheel wearing to the bone,
The seat staining with blood.
Twenty years on the road.
I come home, to my own home,
Park my car in its own garage,
Leaving the lights on,
The machine gun to rust.
The roads weren’t built
For the likes of us, for us
As we used to be, flying
Down the highways, possessed.

David
This is David’s typewriter.
On it men’s souls, and women’s souls,
Beg to speak, and when speaking,
Speak beautifully. I take, therefore,
No credit. To David, then, whose
Typewriter makes possible
These thoughts.

We drive over familiar roads,
Past Winnisook Lake, Lost Clove,
Big Indian, all the rundown
Unpainted white houses. I keep sinking
The cue ball. The ping-pong table
Is up against a wall. I take
One old book on bears, one book
On the limits of science, a meteorite,
I think. Your name
Is on the Mountain Gazettes. Conversations
Hang in the air, in front
Of the fire, upstairs on either side.
Checked tablecloths, near the piano,
Hang before glass counters.
T-shirts, neckerchiefs, an aftermath,
Kind of blue, on the banks of the ohio,
And so on.

Spring Dream
Lifelike in intense drear
A bubbling town buried in pre-snow winter
Roads are closed

Do you ever feel like holding on
To the sides of your canoe as it floats
Through cataracts

Nothing visible
Kilometer after kilometer
What does it mean

When each dot is significant lush
With meaning you cannot
Comprehend

I understand nothing
Of the wall against which I wail
In incomprehension

Bash my head against crumbling stone
Reach up but cannot
Find my rudder

These words make no sense

Brain Death
Who are these cars
Shifting by my window
Bits of trash scattering
Across the street?

What are these assholes
Everywhere smashing into me?
Why is David? How
Did he go after his body lived on
A little longer?

I have John’s compass.
What is he now?
And a memory of Carol, barely
Five miles away.

We climb our bikes, trot
Down the only path
Across the harbor. Flocks
Of migratory birds are lost. Ranks
Broken, they hit and miss fly.

Who is this rain?
When will it last?

The Diamond Body
Under my brown skin of sadness
A white arm, alone like a diamond,
Dreams of silence in a green garden,
The silence of a bed empty on one side,
Of the last fruit on a pear tree.
The diamond breaks, forming a faint light
Along each edge. I avert my eyes.
The room glows, the plants shimmer. The sun
Seems faint, the moon a patch
Over an eye. The diamond hisses
In melted water, shuts off. The white arm,
Emerging behind its white hand,
Stretches forth to grasp its kind,
Hold on, never let go.

All That’s
In the approach
A blending of whites, different,
Glare, insistent
Through the ideal spattering
Of flakes, thin powder
Flailing in the slightest breeze,
A more persistent thickness
Everywhere a cream blanket
That keeps out the heat,
Seals in the frost. And now
Again an ability to awaken
An eye, without person, extracting
Shades of color and texture.
That’s all.

Comfort
January’s fangs have sunk in.
Every corner has something
I want but can’t have:
I’m allergic to everything,
Plumb my mind for remnants
Of an older, more perfect
Way of life. Octagonal rooms
Full of singing goats
Come to mind. We could go
Into the woods, build
Narrow paths,
Reach for the stars
To decorate our homes. In a world
Where comfort pats backs
But never takes a bow
I stand alone. What is comfort
Anyway but the opposite of a smooth ride
On the Metroliner
When you drink with the lights
Go out at midnight on a blind date
With a Spanish dancer named Carmen.
Ole!

Dialogue in the Desert
You were there in the beginning
Whatever I say will make no sense
Put the blade away
I will arrange stones in a pillow
A dream will descend a ladder
We will wrestle for hours
The future is yours
Things will
Be just
Right

The Maine Woods
In such a dream
Spanish dancers
Are disturbed by bitter cold—
Their heads wrapped in fur,
Teeth clenched, eyes
Nailed shut.
Or is it the loons?
Over Large Matagammon Lake
They swarm in ones or twos.

The Deep
Time travel.
It’s over two hours up, only
One down: This snow’s deep. Toward
The top I notice only
My anticipation and the movement
Of the mountain: Sugarloaf.
Why that name, and when
Did the two layers of snow form
Down below, and how in hell
Do snow fleas keep from freezing?

Reading the Woods
Bent to the ground
Reading the woods

I seek
A pure spirit voice

Orange blossom scent
Just right

Olive trees stretched over
Hundreds of square miles

Is she pure or shaded
Like a tree-lined path?

Eyes shining,
Her voice heats up

Snow continues to fall off
Branches that lift again to the skies

Face Lift
No one will ever know
Why in the shiny winter park
A year leaps off your cheeks,
A year of sinless gloom,
Friday nights lighting candles
Listening to Jack Benny
Two days early, thirty years
Too late. Home, adjusting
The radio, I hear only the radiator
And box the walls. Change.
A lazy energy is everywhere.
Flutter to the station. Deposit the token.
Wait. No one knows me.

The Spanish Dancer Appears
Maybe
It’s the way
You soothe or find two words
To my every one. Maybe
It’s the memory
Of darker hair,
Earrings. Maybe
It’s racing down
A field, girl
In green on the whitest snow,
Laurel.

Tumbling
Now we tumble down slopes,
Hugging the icy air, waving
Goodbye to the past,
Kick our shadows,
Watch the snow fall
And fall to our knees.
We have the same
Smooth body,
Smell, the same
Long legs. Together
We whisper I’m yours.
Dinner is spicy hot.
We keep warm after
Telling the whole street:
Surrender to the snow.
Your hat,
One of thousands,
Is pulled over your forehead,
Its band broken
Like the light on the corner:
Always green.
(Note: Published as “Laurel” in Slow Trains.)

The South Seas
Each time we meet
There is
The gentle rolling of the sea
And so
Closing my eyes on the high white dunes
I would have you touch me
Ever so lightly on the eyelids
After kissing me on the mouth

The sun seems to stop
As if the god
Dropping his reins
Could not go on moving
And so we stop thinking
Walk ahead of each other
Taking small even steps
Like those of vanishing birds

Then the mountains
No longer having to support the sky
Unburden themselves
A storm approaches from behind the trees
And we see the white sky
Just before it snows
Each time we meet
Near the gentle rolling
Of the sea

Date Palms of Brooklyn
It is a time of consolidation,
Compressing my future into a few weeks, as if
Deciding another time would hurt
My chances now. Yet
Better to shine
Under the swift embrace of time
Than walk alone under the date palms
Of Brooklyn. To cough while riding
Is one thing. To find your heart
Vaporizing the year of darkness
As if it had never been born
Is a joy that probably cannot be contained
Much longer, no matter how foolish.

One Day
it stopped.
after everything it just.
then everything was as it had been
as it always is.

i sat in my room trying
but couldn’t even.
one day i stopped even that.
after every day of,
or just did.
then everything was as it had been.
it always is.

you always forget Camus said.
even with us.
though he never knew us,
Camus, that is,
and she sat in her room with her
and she was.
even she couldn’t
so she went and instead she until,
until even that,
until even everything they once.
then she took off her clothes.
after she felt better.
yet even that soon no longer and when that,
then she
though he was thinking of Camus.
so she waited.

one day she stopped.
after the whole ordeal she was just
then everything as it had.
it always is.
even with
still
we held on
to small
like the,
and me to her.
though during our,
i never even once
and she
her eyes
couldn’t
though she tried

it was all.
things went on.
they always do
(Published as “One Day It Stopped” in Willmore City)

The Most Important Thing
Then I heard her face harden,
Retreat into her imagination.
Surely there had to be a way
To outline the vague sensation
Of swollen eyes I always had
After seeing her. I heard
Her hardening features recede
Into preoccupations with death.

Despite the ghostlike javelin
Set between her eyes,
There was a sense of peace
In the motions of her sleeping arms,
An inertness
Suggesting the serenity
Above timberline.

Out of simple desperation
I avoided telling her more
About the photograph she never understood,
And so her last call
Was not for help,
But for estrangement, yet
Only insofar as one must
Assign a name to things.

The Letter
i wrote a letter
the one you haven’t forgotten
or forgiven me and though we still live together
at night when you pull the covers over your lower half
even then i see in your eyes the resonance
of that singular event
unique in its conciseness of my desire
(or was it the thought of desire)
for another as if
. . . as if
in growing old together you sabotaged
my dream of oneness with you and of dying together
in a flaming plane or a car accident
an unfortunate late-blooming genetic abnormality

yet at night
when the shades are down
and the windows wide open
what more can i do
but try and hold the thought
(or the thought of the thought)
of being alive
despite the forgetting
the dodging of cars
where i didn’t quite say what i wanted
to say . . .

i touch your eyelashes
with my fingertips
and remember what keeps us apart
at the ocean on a hot day
to dissipate into a pit in the sand
until the waves cover it
and no trace
remains

after all it was just last sunday when
as is your wont before bed
as i pulled the covers over us
i began to think of you
in a certain way

Giant Ledges
Snow-laden branches
Invisible against sky.
See what I mean by saying
The giant ledges look
Dangerous? No, because
She will not turn again
To look at me, I should
No longer hope to be seen,
Or heard. Still I want
To call to her, tell her
About the bed in the woods,
The extra space, wind
That made my hands too cold,
Lodge with fire, icy
Snow, slipping skiers, my thoughts about
Hot desert sand. At night,
The barking dog, there’s a shrill low
Whistling whine not unlike
The machinery of separation . . .
Humming in our minds.

Couplets
snows still blanket the grass
you prowl the ditches

a long drawn out howl
echoes through the canyons

you climb the walls
chasing extremaduras

my heart is in pieces
strewn among the rubble

blood streams in the streets
call off your roving wolves

it’s only five pm
i cannot check the nightmares

in the cemetery ghosts
pursue me all night

i do not understand why
crushed roses litter my house

time has stopped
broken poems lie buried in red dust

Lily of the Valley
Was she
A blanket of spring
Wildflowers exploding
Beneath the shadow
Of inclined rock

Or was she a long balcony
South of center city
With a long view of the front range
Darkening behind fireworks
An evening dancing in play

Could she have been birdsongs
Flicking windy silences
Porch rocker rocking
Heat pouring
From the exact center point at which her legs joined her body

Perhaps she was that golden eagle
I had never seen,
May never see
Except on television
Or in a book

Maybe she was an elusive
Species of lily of the valley
Unfound in any field guide
Frustrating the watcher
Wavering in an ocean of heat

Percolating from earth

The Quarry
The snow mostly gone
The earth saturated
The leaves
Give off a rotten smell
The tops of the trees
Will not abandon themselves
To the wind
The sky
Begged to turn blue
Stays grey
The moon
Whose fair side has always
Turned our way turns
Halfway around and shows its back
The sun
Quietly imposing on us
Day after day
Gets the message
And cools its fervor
The stars
Whose influence
We once listened to
Silently sneak away to the ends
Of the universe and that Incomprehensible thing
Shuts its massive eye
Leaving us alone
On a dark
Damp earth

Tidal Hearts
Flame burns
In a broken lamp, the sea
Beats against the beach. The tide
Never stops,
Fish bleach in the sun.
Men and women leaning on their shadows
Build bonfires along the shore.
Fires burn all night
But do not consume themselves.

Cycle
fields of wheat
full of summer wetness
outside she opens

inside she opens
and leaves
remains of summer-wet wheat

hands full of wheat-wet hot summer scent
she enters a storm
of windless fields

hands full of wheat-colored dust
she gathers
and waits

the wind
comes to blow the chaff
away

the moss on the cow bones by the well
turns brown
clods in the field stir beneath the plow