A shadow passed across
the window—a flutter of large bird.
The dog I named Loki
moans in her sleep, a sigh of utter
contentment with her state, her name,
the recognition that she might,
in an instant, change. Blink
the cat black as newsprint-ink
sleeps oblivious to the chance
of birds. I walk outside to see which
shadow. Nothing flies.
Sheep are motionless at grazing
in the swale, each blade
of grass so tiny after first-fall rain,
they seem not to nibble. Sky
devoid of birds. As if the world had
stopped. I go back inside,
where Blink is rolled up like
the evening news, and in sleep
Loki breathes imperceptibly
as only a creature so tenuous
in mortal form could do.
DIG AT THE ROOT
She keeps a spotless house. Other things,
her mother can’t understand. The way she’d
pick a dead mouse up by the tail; carry it
outside, discover how it failed its life, how
it died; then put it back underground
where it belonged. Her husband got used
to her pager going off at the worst times.
Kiss him goodbye; drive off into night.
She notices every detail, something out of
place. Will she find the deceased in a scatter
of beer cans; a window wide over nothing?
Cadaver has the same root as chance.
A horse stands over its rider, young boy
in cutoffs, neck at the impossible angle. This
suddenness of living, or not. We jump
into the pool and come back up refreshed
or finished. She looks for the root cause.
for Uncle Carlton
Sun washed the last cloud-pink palaces
on the hill—a phrase to wind down a long
workday. This final job, trudge up again
to Professor Ward’s tool-shed, fix another
broke machine. Afterwards his wife will set
a place for you at supper. Think of this
democracy where a handyman is welcome
as friends at home. You open dark to dark
of tool-shed, flick on your flashlight. Good
Night! a screaky cry just above your head.
Tame the startle in your gut, aim your beam.
Big beak, dark feathers, bird of prey?
Ward’s pet crow. Imagine, an ivory-tower
guy who teaches the lower creatures English,
converses with them like you’d talk to your
own kind; like they belong in your human
point of view. This crow spoke with such
authority, and character. Here’s a thought
to hang on your tool-belt, a better thing
than Missus Ward’s crabapple ginger pie.
AFTER EARTHQUAKE, TSUNAMI
The earth all mounded—moss,
pocked and hummocky, muted green
and at our backs, the sea was restive, deep
as if in memory. Nothing was asleep,
but waiting above the unseen
forces that shook across
this shore from under, then over. A heap
of land no more a place; a mean
gyre of debris, a toss-
and-tumble. A sheer loss?
Just listen to the wind, a keen
of mourning, morning, songs to hold and keep.
The toddler draws a treasure map.
It starts on a carousel horse at the county
fair. Those mounds are heaps
of dredger rock overgrown with weeds;
if gold had been there, it’s
long gone, the seekers
old men now in exile of winter,
wandering the midnight between street-
lights of a small town without
a name, smudged with rain. Could the child
have known what he was drawing?
This map he locked in a hungering box
with its persuasions of dark under the rain.
There in the mirror, behind or inside
your head where you can’t see,
must hide what you desire. A flat plain stirs
dust, and through the dust a blue fin
rises raptured toward mountains, sun-flares
like feathers chili-pepper red. It flames
hot and piquant where the mirror can’t see,
where you can’t play it with reason.
Faith or at least the lift of soul, it’s been there
all along, no matter how you turn
your head or fill it with hypotheses,
those wrinkles that weigh a little heavier
each morning, like hems. The mirror speaks
only of winter. Close your eyes to see.
October chill. Over coffee you read beneath
the headlines; toss the junk mail—campaign
promises, choices of immediate importance
but nothing’s as it seems. And here’s a letter
addressed to you, polite meaningless words
brilliantined over the real message you can’t
quite unravel. The low sun’s blinding through
the window, set atop the candelabra of a pine.
The pine tree’s rooted in the old-town church-
yard, where one who gave you good counsel
lies among the dead all rooted in their graves.