Once in a cradle in Norway folded
like Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir
as a ship in full sail transported the dead to Valhalla
Once on a mountain in Taos after making love
in my thirties the decade of turquoise and silver
After your brother walked into the Atlantic
to scatter your mothers ashes his khakis soaked
to the knees his shirtsleeves blowing
At the top of the cottage in a thunderstorm
once or twice each summer covetous of my solitude
Immediately following lunch
against circadian rhythms, once
in a bunk bed in a dormitory in the White Mountains
Once in a hollow tree in Wyoming
A snow squall blew in the guide said tie up your horses
The last night in the Katmandu guest house
where I saw a bird fly from a monk’s mouth
a consolidated sleep of East and West
Once on a horsehair mattress two feet thick
I woke up singing
as in the apocryphal story of my birth
at Temple University Hospital
On the mesa with the burrowing owls
on the mesa with the prairie dogs
Willing to be lucky
I ran the perimeter road in my sleep
entrained to the cycles of light and dark
Sometimes my dead sister visited my dreams
Once on the beach in New Jersey
after the turtles deposited their eggs
before my parents grew old, nocturnal
You sleep with a dream of summer weather,
wake to the thrum of rain—roped down by rain.
Nothing out there but drop-heavy feathers of grass
and rainy air. The plastic table on the terrace
has shed three legs on its way to the garden fence.
The mountains have had the sense to disappear.
It’s the Celtic temperament—wind, then torrents, then remorse.
Glory rising like a curtain over distant water.
Old stonehouse, having steered us through the dark,
docks in a pool of shadow all its own.
That widening crack in the gloom is like good luck.
Luck, which neither you nor tomorrow can depend on.
Below the gardens and the darkening pines
The living water sinks among the stones,
Sinking yet foaming till the snowy tones
Merge with the fog drawn landward in dim lines.
The cloud dissolves among the flowering vines,
And now the definite mountain-side disowns
The fluid world, the immeasurable zones.
Then white oblivion swallows all designs.
But still the rich confusion of the sea,
Unceasing voice, sombre and solacing,
Rises through veils of silence past the trees;
In restless repetition bound, yet free,
Wave after wave in deluge fresh releasing
An ancient speech, hushed in tremendous ease.
I am a shell. From me you shall not hear
The splendid tramplings of insistent drums,
The orbed gold of the viol’s voice that comes,
Heavy with radiance, languorous and clear.
Yet, if you hold me close against the ear,
A dim, far whisper rises clamorously,
The thunderous beat and passion of the sea,
The slow surge of the tides that drown the mere.
Others with subtle hands may pluck the strings,
Making even Love in music audible,
And earth one glory. I am but a shell
That moves, not of itself, and moving sings;
Leaving a fragrance, faint as wine new-shed,
A tremulous murmur from great days long dead.
The trees in time
have something else to do
besides their treeing. What is it.
I’m a starving to death
man myself, and thirsty, thirsty
by their fountains but I cannot drink
their mud and sunlight to be whole.
I do not understand these presences
that drink for months
in the dirt, eat light,
and then fast dry in the cold.
They stand it out somehow,
and how, the Botanists will tell me.
It is the “something else” that bothers
me, so I often go back to the forests.
the tips of each pine
the spikes of telephone poles
hold gathering crows
may's errant mustard
spreads wild across paved road
look both ways
roadside treble cleft
feeding gopher, paws to mouth
cheeks puffed with music
yesterday's spring wind
ruffling the grey tips of fur
turkey vulture feeds
mechanical as a red oil rig
head rocks down up down
stiff-legged dog rises
goes grumbling after squirrel
old ears still flap
lines, sculpted against pond blue;
white clouds against sky
banded headed bird
this ballerina killdeer
dance on point my heart
leaf wind cold through coat
wails over hills, through barren trees
empty garbage cans dance
damp September night
lone farmer, lighted tractor
drive memory's worn path
sky black with migration
flocks settle on barren trees
leaf birds, travel songs
october moon cast
over corn, lighted fields
crinkled sheaves of white
ground painted in frost
thirsty morning sun drinks white
leaves rust golds return
winter bare branches
hold tattered cups of summer
empty nests trail twigs
lace edges of ice
manna against darkened sky
words turn with weather
now one to seven
deer or haiku syllables
weave through winter trees
Northern follows jig
body flashes with strike, dive:
broken line floats up.
Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.
I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.
They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides.
Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocks—
Bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.
Theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting.
I do not think the sea will appear at all.
The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.
I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,
Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.
The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.
One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.
The only thing to come now is the sea.
From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,
Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.
These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.
I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings me
To the hills’ northern face, and the face is orange rock
That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space
Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths
Beating and beating at an intractable metal.