I don’t want to write about this because
even acknowledging it seems
like drawing a pirate map to it.
I have never looked inside the sealed box
—you know—the one I keep
in the back of my closet—on the floor,
under a pile of hiking boots and dirty clothes:
the black box that emits a growl from time to time.
Sometimes, if I lay very still at night,
I imagine I hear a faint whimper
from behind the closet door.
I’ve carried this box with me for as long as I remember,
from place to place,
noticing that it seems to get heavier,
though perhaps I am simply losing strength.
It seems remarkably dense for a plain box.
I have never opened it. I want to believe it is empty,
but don’t know for sure that it is.
I lack the courage to force it open.
When my daughter was little, I put it
high on the shelf, behind my extra blankets—
where she couldn’t find it
and accidentally release . . .
I’m not sure what is.
All I know
is that it thrives on darkness and it growls.
THE WAKE OF VULTURES
They side-step in an awkward circle
out of the rising mist of a morning field—
a ring of vultures,
wings outspread, shoulders hunched:
a nimbus of necromancers,
tattered brown mantles
obscuring the view
of what lies in their circle.
The new moon rises in Scorpio:
sacrifice of the old—
rabbit turned to flight,
dancing at midnight—
brown mysteries in the emerald field.
A wake of vultures in Horaltic Pose
waiting on the ground like dark-cloaked
knights; preparing to ride
the last skeletal winds of dawn.
FINDING GLYCERIN CAKE IN MUMBAI
(From a Facebook posting: does anyone know
where to find glycerin cake in Mumbai?)
My front door, with its Maori knocker,
a wedding present for good luck—
(the gift outlasting the marriage)
opens onto an overgrown garden,
a sea of questions, and only a few answers
for anyone who looks.
This door is half-a-world away
from Mumbai and the woman
—who does not live there, either.
She has a house in New Delhi
with a garden that she talks about
and a genuine love of painting.
On one of her many to trips to Mumbai
romance found her, sipping tea
at an outdoor table.
Is anyone sitting here?
still an effective line. . . .
Now, she splits her time between the two
cities, so different from each other—
as people are different from each other
—more similar, though, than two cities
on either side of the world.
At midnight here, I look for shooting stars,
listen to crickets metronoming the hours;
I think of her in deep shadow, cast by full sun,
while I search the stars in moonshadow
from the garden outside my door.
So, the point? you ask. Only that somehow
I picture the woman, the table where she sits,
the empty chair that invited love. I can’t begin
to imagine what she wants glycerin cake for;
but, for a brief, inexplicable time in my life,
the central question is—where to find it.
No harness or leash for the ancient spirits
—no punishment or simple reward to shape behavior;
the old gods will not respond to anything
but love and respect.
They want to show you how clever they are
—how much they can do with little resources.
Once in a while, they slip among us;
manifest in the form of bone and fur.
Know them by the intensity of their focus
—by the way they watch you;
observe them solve problems without hands
or speech or symbols.
They mark the hours with purity of purpose
—love, play, work: creatures of the moment.
Loki’s keeper understands the difficulty
of trying to train the untamed Trickster Spirit.
She lives in Greater Rescue, on the
outskirts of discovery—with her
tracking dogs, her husband,
a bunch (you can’t really call them
a flock) of unruly sheep,
and her newsprint-ink-colored cat.
The shepherds read wind
like the morning newspaper; the sheep,
ever determined to make an escape;
and the cat, determined to help
with poetry composition—
with all this dedication to anarchy
you could expect chaos.
But this corner of the world
seems strangely bucolic.
Maybe it’s the poetry:
full of pastoral images;
forgiving and optimistic.
Maybe it’s the purpose-driven
lives, intent on contribution
and steeped in respect.
She lives on the outskirts
of Rescue, saving our lives
one poem at a time.
Reality is the wall I run my finger along
to make sure I know where I am.
Wasn’t it Cupid who said, “Oh, Psyche, my soul,
love cannot live where there is no trust.”
Everyone knows that seeing is believing
and you can’t see a path in the dark.
This poem squats at the edge of sleep
keeping me away from oblivion.
If you go too long without sleep, without dreams,
you begin to see and hear things.
I had a dog when I was a child who snarled
at me when I wanted to get into my own bed.
I’d like to believe that I am the alpha
in my own reality. But I’m beginning to suspect I’m not.
The root is all the same, you know: psychosomatic,
psychotic, psychology, psyche.
When she was little, my daughter told her friend
that her mother was psychotic. “She knows things.”
When I expressed my worry to a counselor,
he said that the difference was that psychotics
only thought they know what is going to happen.
Psychics get it right.
Trying to reason with this poem is like reasoning
with a two-year-old. We’ll talk in the morning
over pancakes and sausage. It’s time to sleep.
AH, THE LIGHT
never learned piano
for the correct
couldn’t spell it, anyway
ah—but for light—
for the lift of wings
—for the slow
step of the
into its own image
on still water—
for the fractured second
under the slow-rolling
a scroll of infinities