Driving back in the slipstream
of the windfarm, each arc of white-
through-blue reaping ohms from clean
air. The sky would be priceless but
for a hairline crack on its far curve:
everything in slo-mo, the sea
for miles on the passenger side
like the hiss of Super-8. Feathers by
the roadside. Breaking home for twilight
where the traveller selling quartz hearts
on the seafront prophesies a wild affair
and a light rain, though in no particular
order. The small girl rounding the corner
on a scarlet tricycle has just created
pigeons; an astonishment of beat and wing.
Mother’s death was nothing unexpected
but Ricardo’s came brutally. Pan through
sky to sea to road to quartz to pigeons
as the last train westward klaxons in. All
change. And love insists, like gravity.
The husband is a mud-on-the-boots philosophy
in old jeans, loving nothing so much as slow growth.
His thoughts are distinctly British cooperatives,
jovial stall-holders subbing each other loose change.
His chest is a trestle laid with rare meats, smelling
of the smokehouse, his belly a seed-loaf, knotted
and oddly exotic. The sex of the husband’s a plump
trout, a one-off, lolling silverside-up in its shine
for a wife with the eye of a magpie. His heart,
apparently a leafy crop, is a loom of many rhizomes
reaching furlongs – who knows how far? The husband
is mineral-rich, irregular, leaving scraps of himself
all over the street for starlings to pocket. Is a crowd
of bright skins in a bushel, wheels of feral cheese
impossible brews from the ditches. In the season’s
measures, taking the weather however it turns out.
Outside the window, wind and snow blow straight,
I clutch the stove and open a flask of wine.
Just like a fishing boat in the rain,
Sail down, asleep on the autumn river
This bread I break was once the oat
this wine upon a foreign tree
plunged in its fruit;
man in the day or wind at night
laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.
Once in this wind the summer blood
knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
once in this bread
the oat was merry in the wind;
man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.
This flesh you break, this blood you let
make desolation in the vein,
were oat and grape
born of the same sweet soil and sap.
My wine you drink. my bread you break.
after Tu Mu (803-852)
On the Road
In recurrent Main Street family diners, I dine alone;
those food stains are permanent on my Valentino.
In local bars I drink the health of the one poet there,
teach a soft girl to blow old tunes on a trombone.
Recalling Former Travels
Trapped in a flash flood twenty miles north of Danvers;
snowbound in the elbow of the big Columbia River;
heading west by night so as to stay unnoticed;
the ringing in the wires, the country songs of the truck drivers.
Easing the Heart
On the places that are behind places, I ranged, self against self;
Angelica’s svelte frame tore my heart, her complexion like Delft.
Ten years on, I awake from an erotic reverie by Schiele
to the name they give me in the red like districts: he who drifts.
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
a treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not for hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
The mid day hour of twelve the clock counts oer
A sultry stillness lulls the air asleep
The very buzz of flye is heard no more
Nor one faint wrinkle oer the waters creep
Like one large sheet of glass the pool does shine
Reflecting in its face the burnt sun beam
The very fish their starting play decline
Seeking the willow shadows side the stream
And where the awthorn branches oer the pool
The little bird forsaking song and nest
Flutters on dripping twigs his limbs to cool
And splashes in the stream his burning breast
O free from thunder for a sudden shower
To cherish nature in this noon day hour
Through the open French window the warm sun
lights up the polished breakfast table laid
round a bowl of crimson roses, for one –
a service of Worcester porcelain, arrayed
near it a melon, peaches, figs, small hot
rolls in a napkin, fairy rack of toast,
butter in ice, high silver coffee pot,
and heaped on a salver, the morning’s post.
She comes over the lawn, the young heiress,
from her early walk in her garden-wood
feeling that life’s a table set to bless
her delicate desires with all that’s good,
that even the unopened future lies
like a love-letter, full of sweet surprise.
that I’d always hoped would ripen with age.
The sort one would save for say, posterity. Top-shelf,
top drawer; only the faintest hint of melancholy in the back of the
the heart no longer rending.
This is the poem that followed me home
and had its mail forwarded –
not unlike yourself; only more innocent.
But Luke, none of us are young anymore.
That winter, I drove you back to Salinas, and that narrow stretch
You called the half-buried heads of the artichokes blue collar roses,
you smoked Marlboros. You woke up in gutters
with people you didn’t know.
We were twenty and everything trembled.
So, though it was winter, we saw vines heavy with grapes,
fishermen tipping back oysters; the California
they all wrote about.
Luke, now even the valleys are made of silicon. They’re turning off
one by one and the Golden State is fading next to the ocean. But
You’re still standing somewhere in Salinas, getting smaller.
You’re waving your red scarf. Winter is falling
and Monterey, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara
are covering the ground like misaligned stars.
Burning and from the distance,
they even seem fixed.