These simple stick-trees of winter
without their first leaves, too frail it seems
for the winds that tear
at their nervous gesturing
at the gray air, being merely a fragile part
of the cold landscape
with the empty bench and the stark lines
of a fence leaning against
whatever it was meant to separate;
and sometimes a lonely figure
will stand there
in the flat texture of the day,
a shrinking silhouette,
hands in pockets of a coat,
seeming to be—itself—a tree of sorts,
as the day darkens toward evening;
and still the figure stands
and watches whatever is there to gather
for the mood of such lingering;
and the trees,
that look like a child’s drawing
of such trees,
shudder into themselves
with the toughness
it takes to survive such desolation.
what I never remembered—
a haunting that I
for I was one with myself
and both were lonely
—this is not a revelation
this is a poem about love
that falters where it loves—
all this I saw in his eyes
The conversations blur into each other.
The light teems.
It is good to be among people.
People are lonely,
they don’t have anything to say,
so they talk through each other.
The light plays with the room dust.
The door disappears.
No one leaves.
They are here to share their loneliness.
Laughter is loudest at
the point of tears.
The music has run out of money.
The hour struggles
LIKE SOMEONE ALWAYS CRYING
After Grigory Soroka, 1823-1864
As if love again is sacrifice
and time has finally escaped.
It’s all real:
the hesitations in the wrong moment,
the way light creeps
along lonely dark places,
the way sound echoes
into its own dimension,
as if sadness wins.
They are caught in this same dimension,
the mirror echoing behind them.
Or is it the doorway
that finally reveals itself as promise.
How still they are in vertical greenness
of wallpaper and carpet;
in sheen of white
that crumples toward them.
Is it night? midnight? winter?
What has wakened them
into this otherness?
They look at each other like strangers,
before they met, before they loved,
before they had this decision to make,
together or alone.
THE MIRROR AFTER MIDNIGHT
It’s easy enough to send praise into an aftermath.
What we receive of light is the other side of dark.
Who shouts in the hollow becomes echo there.
Here is a word I can use, wet with meaning.
Tears are the salt of grief, joy, and humor. Hollow out
the womb for the lost child. Name him Sorrow.
We are at the service of our souls
which are at the mercy of our lives.
In the stone light,
gray thought is manufactured as shadow.
Two who are unnamed
go toward love with fierce anticipation.
The hotels are empty now. They served the lonely
and the lost in their transitions.
It was the gulls, so starkly white in the gray field,
dark skies roiling inward.
Reading it all wrong, that word again, about to break,
like a face left in its mirror before it got old.
An old man
crossed the field to the house
where he asked at the door,
“A pity, please,
for I am tired of wilderness.
I have grown up wise but lonely.”
The woman there
looked at his hands which were strong
at his eyes which were kind
at his height which was average
and she asked him in.
She told him stories while he praised her food.
Hers was the last house on the road.
“And where are your children?” he asked.
“Oh? One is off in the berry patch . . .
one is lying on the small hill
and dreaming at the sky . . .
and one is tangling in the stone field
with a playful lover.”
She asked him, of course, to stay the night.
In the morning she found him sleeping in a chair
facing the sunrise which was softening his face.
She fell in love with him.
He woke and told her a dream:
how he believed he was first a boulder,
and then a path of traveled stones,
and then a mass of sand which could go no farther.
THE SIGHING IN THE TREES
After “Heard Whispers" by Robert Bly
She hears what is lonely
and speaks back in a whispered voice,
not to destroy the distance between them.
What never answers is love, with its caution,
with its fear,
which is jealous of surrender.
She hears what is lonely and sends
her loneliness in return, a whispered voice
answering, so low she cannot hear.
THIS LONELY LOVE
It was a far-fetched thing, this lonely love,
made of feathers and cold moonlight,
distant moans from old woes.
How easily they conjured
something to use
Early blames! New contagions!
something simple to believe in—falling
into old patterns because they were familiar.
TRAGEDY AND TRAGEDY, FADING-OUT
After "Carnival Evening" by Henri Rousseau
Where are we now but in some dream together,
emerging a dark woods—
two mimes in white costumes,
wandering through a night-sketch—
late of a country carnival
(how long ago)?
Displaced by time, perhaps,
the winter-stricken trees already lonely
for our presence
as we slowly diminish—
two cloud-wisps emulating us—
the cold and following white moon about to weep.
I AM SO SORRY
One by one the animals disappear.
The land that held them
yields to houses.
glint at other windows.
Ghosts of animals drift between.