for Kathy Kieth
We found the bones
In a perfect circle.
Each had been painted black
With red ends. In the center,
A small pile of bright red sand.
Sometimes in the morning,
The mist rising toward dawn,
The lake looked choreographed
With great black shapes floating
In the air.
They began to disappear
For no apparent reason.
It is said they can tell
Where the wet will last the longest.
Kathy called them "The Stations
Of The Cross." "But there are
Only fourteen stations," someone
Said. "Yes, I know," she answered.
They look like prayers floating
With their wings held fluffed and high.
Prayers sealed with red wax.
When I remember the Autumn,
I was in the kitchen looking
Out the window at the lake.
The sun was going down
Across the red and gold trees.
Black swans. Exactly seventeen of them.
The heart abandons
The shadows for the sun.
Swans coming into the sunlight
Trying to surprise it as they did.
I dragged a chair down
To the lake of an afternoon and sat
Reading William Butler Yeats.
When I looked up, all of the swans
Had gathered close to where I was.
They made no sound, as if waiting for something.
During a thunderstorm one Summer
Day, a lightning strike very near to me
Made them seem bright red
With black beaks
For half a breath, inhaling.
When I asked how dark
It was outside, you said,
"As dark as the black swans."
"Do you have any idea
Why there are fewer and fewer
Each year?" I ask.
"They know about places we don’t."
I showed my daughter
The constellation Cygnus, the Swan.
"Except for the stars, it is a black swan,"
I had a dream I was going
To see a famous wizard.
I was traveling in a small
Chariot-like vehicle, bright red.
It was being pulled across the sky
By seventeen black swans.
The day totally blank
And just before sunset
Seventeen black swans
Landing on the lake.
I had just pulled into the drive
And could see the lake clearly.
The swans made a perfect line,
One behind the other.
"Cobs and pens. That’s what they
Are properly called," she said.
"Pens? Like what I write with?" I asked.
"Yes, exactly. What else would they be?"
Black swans in the snow on the edge
Of the lake. Their red beaks.
for Robert Lee Haycock
I was flipping across the radio dial.
The room was dark except for the light
Illuminating the dial of the old thing.
If you looked in the back, past the Masonite
Back, you could see the tubes glowing.
There was an unsettling music playing
That sounded like it does when you're trying
To write something very specific and your mind
Will have none of it. It wants its own way.
I remember it was very much night, a thick
Night, thick as a plush black carpet and as soft.
The place made its own walls. I could see the cats
Trying to find a way across the room to the radio.
The broken sound was the past. One could
Hear it when one shook the radio. It was in
There, but it had been damaged just after
World War II. It made a sound like it needed
Its timing adjusted. Soft violet and yellow
Flames hovered at the ends of the tailpipes.
“I don’t know how to get out of this place,”
I told Ramon. “Just drive,” he said.
“The road will be in the headlights.
We can make the coast by morning.
No one will find us. We can have
Bacon and eggs before the past
Even gets there.” He made me laugh.
“And turn that radio up a bit. Sometimes
They play really old songs this late.”
“Yeah, like Night Train or Harlem Nocturne,”
I said, listening as hard as I was able.
“Yeah," he said, “like Night Train and Harlem Nocturne.”
THE SOUND OF RAIN HEARD LONG AGO
"You have too many eyes."
I touched her sleeve.
I could feel her arm beneath
The cloth. It was waiting for something.
"Don’t turn the alarum off
When it starts. It will be
Hours before I hear it.
I have to come a long way back.
We have different vehicles there."
Someone was taking the skin
Off a story that had not
Been told in a long time.
No one was going to believe
It this time. Too many
People were still alive
Who could remember
Those years and the children
Running inside of them.
She didn’t look back when
She heard the alarum.
She kept her arms tight
To the sides of her body.
It was Easter and Forsythia yellow
In Catholic graveyard
With flowers and the voices of children
Hung in between the gravestones, bright
As Spring and trilling tree to tree.
Breast, alarumed at our walking
Too close to its nest, dove and
Tumbled round about us as we stopped
To note the names and dates that time
Remembered for this instant. And I
Turning to your lips, another Spring,
Touched them with my own, then
Bent and lifted but a bit of earth
To my lips, saying as I did, as if
I had mind enough for rhyme,
That “It was color had me here, not death.”
And you said “Why do you run so
With your breath? Kiss me once again."
FOR GENERATIONS TRAPPED IN THE GAS VANS
“What exists as reality can be so substantially
Altered that when we kill those who disagree with us,
There will be no notice of the event. They seem to,
Then do, rush to the light, to where the light
Closes upon them. When we open the doors
I keep waiting to see the big rooms.
We must be able to find them, open,
Light streaming in, the angels of
God, seated quietly, composing the
Sounds of what we will come
To know as the language of loving.
Here a touch, from the heart
To the groin. Here, a kiss,
From the name of time to the
Second Drawer of Spring, as it
Reels its petals full force into
The face of desire, unaware
Of the vicissitudes of the
Seasons, full and culpable
To the caprice of the erotic,
Slitting its lips open to accept
The dogma of the carnal.
The roads only lead to the north.
Direction is a function of the loins.
Yielding and penetration of ideas,
Debate by debate, circumcises itself
For the benefit of an acceptable
Resolution of the source of a particular
Season. The mouth closes over
The tip of the concept and fills
With a million ideas. All of time
Begins understanding its own creation.