Owl pellets our fifth graders teased apart
in the biology lab are like their dreams,
filled with remnants of the day before.
Different owls make different bricolages.
One loved mice–here are the vertebrae
and bent-comb ribcages of three,
with two of their skulls and a skeletal tail,
neatly pasted to the labeled file card.
Another found a young chipmunk;
we can tell it by its teeth, and the length
of its leg bones, laid out on the white
rectangle as though on a mortuary slab
below the wing-cases of a beetle.
This one seems to have dined on baby birds,
coughing up their inch-long yellow legs,
their beaked skulls, their fledgling feathers;
and the next card shows a schematic frog
from an owl who hunted near a pond.
As retold dreams catch only shards
this gluey display lacks the juicy crunch
of each starlit meal, the blood and innards,
the wriggle and squeal and flutter of death,
the warm joy of hunger assuaged again.
April in Maine|
The days are cold and brown,
Brown fields, no sign of green,
Brown twigs, not even swelling,
And dirty snow in the woods.
But as the dark flows in
The tree frogs begin
Their shrill sweet singing,
And we lie on our beds
Through the ecstatic night,
Wide awake, cracked open.
There will be no going back.
You so tender are so
rough, so coarse are so
delicate: if it were not so
you would not fit me.
If You Need a Reason|
The way things move sometimes,
light or air,
the distance between
two points, or a map unfolding
on a table, or wind,
never mind sadness.
The difference between sky and room,
between geometry and breath,
the sound we hear
when two opposites finally collide,
smashed bottle, country song,
a bell, any bridge, a connection.
The way some stories end in the middle
of a word,
the words themselves,
galaxies, statuaries, perspectives,
the stone over stone that is life,
never mind hunger.
The way things move, road,
mirror, blind luck. The way nothing moves sometimes,
a kiss, a glance,
never mind true north.
The difference between history
and desire, between biology
and prayer, any light
to read by, any voice at the bottom
of the stairs, or the sound
of your own name softly, a tiny bone
breaking near the heart.
What the Hour Hand Said to the Minute Hand|
At 7:35 A.M, you lay your tired body on mine
before peeling off, like a slow band-aid.
At 8:40 you sprint home and make instant coffee.
At 9:45 we finally drink it, cold.
I finish your leftover half.
By 10:50 you are already breathless.
I live for every time we overlap.
When 11:55 comes I spend the entire minute convincing you to stay.
You never do.
By noon I put my hands on your shoulders and say, “Baby,
you’re getting thin. All this running in circles and barely sitting down to eat.”
At 1:05 you tell me that while you were gone,
15,300 babies were born.
At 2:10 you don’t say a word,
just come in and kiss me for sixty seconds straight.
At 3:15 we sit quiet, listening to rain falling everywhere
in the world at once: all 15,000 tons.
At 4:20 we pull a little from the tight joint I keep behind your ear.
You do not inhale.
At 5:25 you meet me for happy hour.
My neck already salted, a lime wedged in my teeth,
a shot of tequila sitting on the bar.
At 6:30 I hear the ticking.
I count your heartbeat like seconds between thunderclaps.
By 7:35 I can see you in the distance,
each second a tease until you drape over me.
We always love quick and you never let me hold you.
I dream of drinking you through a straw.
At 8:40 you watch my beard grow 0.00027 of an inch.
At 9:45 we do not speak.
Too many people have died since we last met.
At 10:50 we pray for a meteor,
at least a clumsy kid to spill sugar in our gears.
11:55 is my favorite.
We’re only apart for mere minutes.
But at midnight you’ll apologize sixty times
because it will always be like this.
At 1:04 AM I am already sleeping.
It’s exhausting loving someone
who is constantly running away.
Up from wood rot,
wrinkling up from duff
and homely damps,
spore-born and cauled
like a meager seer,
it pushes aside earth
to make a small place
from decay. Bashful,
it brings honeycombed
news from below
of the coming plenty
and everything rising.
|» It's a Beautiful World, You Said|
It’s a beautiful world, you said,
with these trees, marshes, deserts,
grasses, rivers and seas
and so on. And the moon is really something
in its circuits
of relative radiance. Include
the wingèd M, voluptuous
Venus, hotheaded Mars, that lucky devil
J and cranky Saturn, of course, plus
U and N and the wanderer P, in short
the whole solar family, complete with its
Milky Way, and count up all the other
systems with dots and spots and in
that endless emptiness what you’ve got
is a commotion of you-know-what. It’s a beautiful
universe, you said, just take a good look
through the desert’s dark glasses
for instance or on your back
in seas of grass, take a good look
at the deluge of that Rorschach—we’re standing out there
Translated from the Dutch by Jacquelyn Pope
|» I Wasn't Joking|
. . . but I found something much better to post than a gushing panegyric to Charlemagne. Which I was considering, not gonna lie. |
Walafrid Strabo (9th century)
Then come the showers of Spring, from time to time
Watering our tiny crop, and in its turn
The gentle moon caresses the delicate leaves.
Should a dry spell rob the plants of the moisture they need,
My gardening zeal and the fear that the slender shoots
May die of thirst make me scurry to bring fresh water
In brimming buckets. With my own hands I pour it
Drop by drop, taking care not to shift the seeds
By too sudden or lavish a soaking. Sure enough,
In a little while the garden is carpeted over
With tiny young shoots. True, that part there
Below the high roof is dry and rough from the lack
Of rain and the heaven’s benison; true, this
Part here is always in shade, for the high wall’s
Solid rampart forbids the sun to enter.
Yet of all that was lately entrusted to it, the garden
Has held nothing enclosed in its sluggish soil
Without hope of growth. What is more, those plants that were moved,
More dead than alive, to the newly dug furrows are now
Green again; our garden has brought them back
To life, making them good with abundant growth.
Translated from the Latin by Raef Payne.
|» Libri Carolini|
All right so I've fallen off the posting-every-day wagon. I want to find some poems about wind on the beach. Or shark teeth. I'm currently writing a lecture on Charlemagne and Christianity, and I may be reduced to posting some Carolingian court poetry, which is pretty terrible.|
Near the book a notebook
near the notebook a glass
near the glass a child
in the child's hand a cat.
And far away stars stars.
Translated from the Turkish by Taner Baybars
I'm a day behind . . . or three . . .
|» More Memories of New Mexico|
Santa Fe In Winter|
The city is closing for the night.
Stores draw their blinds one by one,
and it’s dark again, save for the dim
infrequent streetlight bending at the neck
like a weighted stem. Years have built
the city in layers: balustrades filled in
with brick, adobe reinforced with steel,
and the rounded arches smoothed
with white cement. Neighborhoods
have changed the burro trails
to streets, bare at night—
no pedestrians, no cars, no dogs.
With daylight, the houses turned galleries
and stores turned restaurants open—
the Navajos wrapped in wool
crowd the Palace of the Governors plaza
to sell their handmade blankets,
silver rings, and necklaces
to travelers who will buy jewelry
as they buy everything—
another charming history for themselves.
Even if I have never been to Santa Fe in winter . . . it still counts as a memory (and a history, perhaps).
|» The Language of Cranes|
The language of cranes
we once were told
is the wind. The wind
is their method,
their current, the translated story
of life they write across the sky.
Millions of years
they have blown here
on ancestral longing,
their wings of wide arrival,
necks long, legs stretched out
above strands of earth
where they arrive
with the shine of water,
language of exchanges
descended from the sky
and then they stand,
earth made only of crane
from bank to bank of the river
as far as you can see
the ancient story made new.
Another bird poem . . . that didn't take long, did it? I have never seen a Sandhill Crane.
|» Come and Be Fed|
Sunday Brunch at the Old Country Buffet|
Here is a genial congregation,
well fed and rosy with health and appetite,
robust children in tow. They have come
and all the generations of them, to be fed,
their old ones too who are eligible now
for a small discount, having lived to a ripe age.
Over the heaped and steaming plates, one by one,
heads bow, eyes close; the blessings are said.
Here there is good will; here peace
on earth, among the leafy greens, among the fruits
of the gardens of America's heartland. Here is abundance,
here is the promised
land of milk and honey, out of which
a flank of the fatted calf, thick still
on its socket and bone, rises like a benediction
over the loaves of bread and the little fishes, belly-up in butter.
|» Road Tripping|
I like to travel to L.A. by myself
My trips to the crowded smoggy polluted by brown
indigenous and immigrant haze are healing.
I travel from one pollution to another.
Being urban I return to where I came from
survives in L.A.
Now for over forty years.
I drive to L.A. in the darkness of the day
on the road before CHP
one with the dark
driving my black truck
invisible on my journey home.
The dark roads take me back to my childhood
riding in the camper of daddy’s truck headed home.
My brother, sister and I would be put to sleep in the camper
and sometime in the darkness of the day
daddy would clime into the cab with mom carrying a thermos full of coffee and some Pendleton blankets
And they would pray
before daddy started the truck
for journey mercies.
Often I’d rise from my lullaby sleep and stare into the darkness of the road
the long darkness empty of cars
Glowy from daddy’s headlights and lonesome from Hank Williams’ deep and twangy voice singing of cold nights and cheatin’ hearts.
About an hour from Flagstaff
the sun would greet us
and the harsh light would break the darkness
and we’d be hungry from travel and for being almost home.
I know the darkness of the roads
endless into the glowy path before me
lit by the moon high above and the heat rising from my truck’s engine.
The humming from tires whisper mile after mile
endless alongside roadside of fields shadowy from glow.
I know the darkness of the roads
It swims through my veins
dark like my skin
and silenced like a battered wife.
I know the darkness of the roads
It floods my liver
pollutes my breath
yet I still witness the white dawning.
|» Memories of New Mexico|
Mother Church No. 3|
Robin Coste Lewis
(Kin Kletso/"Yellow House"
Chaco Canyon, San Juan County, New Mexico
Anasazi Ruins, 1125-1130 AD)
for Henri-Raphael, at 2
You step down into the Flat World
Then ask me to say it, to explain
How our name can mean both ancestor
And enemy. Your body begins in four directions.
Here one calendar takes eighteen years.
I am three. One day is an eyelash.
Your body is a segment of prehistoric road,
A buried stairwell with only the top stair obvious.
We are alluvial, obsidian.
Sometimes the ground swells
With disappointment. Sometimes we know our mountains
Will be re-named after foreign saints.
We sing nine-hundred year old hymns
That instruct us in how to sit still
For forty-nine years
Through a fifty-year drought.
We climb down through the hole anyway,
And agree to the arrangement.
|» The Marvelous Women|
The Marvelous Women|
All women speak two languages:
the language of men
and the language of silent suffering.
Some women speak a third,
the language of queens.
They are marvelous
and they are my friends.
( Read more...Collapse )
|» Songs Composed by Buddhist Nuns, 1st Century BCE|
[So free am I, so gloriously free]
So free am I, so gloriously free,
Free from petty things--
From mortar, from pestle and from my twisted lord,
Freed from rebirth and death I am,
and all that has held me down
Is hurled away.
["O Ubbiri, who wails in the wood"]
"O Ubbiri, who wails in the wood
'O Jiva! Dear daughter!'
Return to your senses, in this charnel field
Innumerable daughters, once as full of life as Jiva,
Are burnt. Which of them do you mourn?"
The hidden arrow in my heart plucked out,
The dart lodged there, removed.
The anguish of my loss,
The grief that left me faint all gone,
The yearning stilled,
To the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha*
I turn, my heart now healed.
( A woman well set free! How free I am!Collapse )
I’m going to move ahead.
Behind me my whole family is calling,
My child is pulling my sari-end,
My husband stands blocking the door,
But I will go.
There’s nothing ahead but a river.
I will cross.
I know how to swim,
but they won’t let me swim, won’t let me cross.
There’s nothing on the other side of the river
but a vast expanse of fields,
But I’ll touch this emptiness once
and run against the wind, whose whooshing sound
makes me want to dance.
I’ll dance someday
and then return.
I’ve not played keep-away for years
as I did in childhood.
I’ll raise a great commotion playing keep-away someday
and then return.
For years I haven’t cried with my head
in the lap of solitude.
I’ll cry to my heart’s content someday
and then return.
There’s nothing ahead but a river,
and I know how to swim.
Why shouldn’t I go?