Intermission

 

The night sky opens

the desert's blanket

of blossoming stars. Saturn

wheels right, dips

into one of the blooms. 

I’ve come here

in the middle of something. 

Far off, the wind works 

at loosening someone’s step. 

I need to go back soon 

to what I was doing,

but they are falling around me, 

the stars, errant needles 

falling, and the sky is weightless

where the streak was. 

I think tonight I will know 

what it all adds up to 

and these points of light 

falling into my hands 

are a clue, the lost sound, 

the path. 

Will you come with me? 

Contents

 
 

Night Song

Tonight, we can compare the moon

to my wife’s deerskin drum.

She made it from a selection

of pale white skins and added

feathers wrapped with sinew

to the side, also a beater

with a padded leather head

and painted handle. Sometimes

she plays it for me

and sings, but mostly it sits

on top of our bookcase, leaning

against our adobe brown wall

without rolling off. Across its face

are small dark flecks like tracks

in snow and in the silence

you can hear them making their way

through the winter forest, deer

between the trees, following

the river of moonlight. 

 

Another You

It’s time to get inside the boat

of yourself, dip the paddle

in the black water, gently, if

need be, but leave

you must. I know

you don’t know

how to do it or where

you are going

but that’s the essence

of leaving the knowing

of thinking to become

a listening, a hearing,

as in, I hear that second

turning into the meadow

of a moment, that tree

reaching to become

a nest, the stones all talking

about your decision and how

you need to let go and let the owl

bring you shards of moonlight,

small chips captured in the drops

that fall from your paddle

as you learn to recognize

the sound a heart makes,

how you can hear it

calling through a vein

of ore, through the bones

of trees, out on the road

in the chest of a stranger.

 

Below the Divide, Colorado

The rounded river stones

are stacked twenty high,

lifting their cradled silence

to the cabin's peak. The fire 

invites our gaze and soothes 

our lostness. Nearby, 

the mountain moves

imperceptibly to the left,

introducing a new distinction

in patience. At dusk, 

the sun disappears behind

the range, changing

the sky a rusty agate before turning

jet black.

Through the night, the river

repeats the pebble's puns,

leaf phonemes, ice weaving

tales through its palm. When

morning comes, the valley

will fill first in the west,

light traveling up river

in rotation around an

imaginary point

above the ridge—a hawk

might be there, or a cloud,

or nothing.

 

Fire Season Footage

        

“There is no set beginning or end to the fire season.”         

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

 

It’s early in the season, but news from the California valley

has the count already high, seventeen homes gone

by sunrise, tonight we watch the footage, the fire

taking the ridge, the last house, a beautiful 5 bedroom 3 bath, once

underwater, now embraced in the flames (I tell my wife,

I think we drove through that area years ago), the fire

creating its own wind, smoke and embers

whisked up into a shadowy sky.

After we’ve been sold our dream car with nothing

down for 60 months, in which time

everything will be worth less and cost more­,

and eight other things, one that will let me

control my bladder, another

fix my ED, we come back to the international

segment, sure to stoke orange to red, jihad

faces in the streets, the backs and shoulders

of soldiers, weapons firing, long cannon barrels pointing a hypotenuse

across a blue desert sky, the red blast, then white trail

ascending, corkscrewing the modern

to the ancient. Back on the Hill,

some inadequate regulations are twisting through

the House, while senators ready their mallets and stakes

even before the sirens of talk radio begin their spin.

It’s late April, but here in Chicago there’s still a nip,

so I go to put another log on not seeing the irony,

a piece of oak, which burns hot and slow, the horizontal bars

of our metal grate having long ago knelt

to the hearth stone, the oak making its reassuring clunk

as the remaining burnt logs

give way.  A commercial prepares us

for the movie at nine, a rerun of brilliant escapes

I’ll never make, out of buildings, breaking through windows

with a flowering splash of glass, girl

in my arms, about this time I start my story

of how today in our patch of garden I watched an ant in his single-minded

exactness lift a shred of beetle up and over a thick blade of crabgrass,

his tripartite self turning this way and that, leveraging every angle

as the bit of carcass kept catching, the entire time a tiny red mite

has tucked himself in on the green awning’s underside, and then out of nowhere,

a daddy-longlegs stilts through the scene, its body a planet

held in the orbit of its legs, each unaware of the other and none

the shovel blade I am about to plant with my boot, I’m saying to my wife, it’s all just like this,

only we know too much to enjoy it or maybe

not enough or perhaps just the wrong things, and I flash on the underground

exhibit at the Field which miniaturizes you

as you walk down the corridor to meet a five foot

nematode and a two foot larva, its jaws,

yes, it has jaws, mauling a root end, and how my Sufi teacher said

that contradictions are not to be understood as an either or

but rather a both and, otherwise you are led only to violence and loss.

My wife listens to me tenderly, which is one of the reasons that I love her,

and reminds me its her bedtime (she’s sensible too), so before I become

all too clever, she heads for bed (are you coming with me?)—

when I get to bed, we look into each other’s eyes

to see if we still know each other, mostly

we do, and we both laugh when the bed’s pine cross-struts

start to squeak. In the morning, it’s off to work down

the condo’s back steps, paint alligatored, the developer long gone, we take care

to step around the condoms spotting the stairwell.

 

Thanksgiving in Mesopotamia

Beyond my sliding glass door, 

a snail carries his spiral house 

across the wet lawn toward 

my garden. Overhead,

a jet pierces the light-refracted

mist. In Baghdad, dawn

is breaking and chunks

of shattered concrete

cling to bent rebar—

the shadows resemble 

dismembered limbs,  

someone is crouched 

heating drinking water

behind a freestanding

wall. This is as far 

as I can go as

commercials tell me

Thanksgiving is just around

the corner and the turkeys

are going fast, up next

college ball, unrated teams

knocking off undefeated 

national leaders—never before 

have there been so many 

upsets. Furthermore,

I’m working hard 

trying to imagine

a snail’s soft underbelly

as he trails over what must be

prickly terrain on his way

to my cucumbers, 

planning on

wreaking havoc.

Breakfast

 

outside civilization

eats itself

down to the bone

which is you M - F  9 to

5 your weekend wi-fied

the air become walls of

numbers that describe

your next vacation 2 weeks

out of the year for which

you will need to get

permission

a simulacrum

of a life and you load it

into your Dodge

Durango you’re driving

because what else

can you do the sun

keeps coming up you’re

out the door blue

tooth fixed

to your

ear burnt 

toast in your

hand

 
 

Glass

 

I almost stepped on it, grey and still,

the anonymous pigeon blending

into the concrete sidewalk that weaves 

past my shrubs having apparently blasted itself

against a too-clean window. 

 

I’m to blame—fingerprints, dirt-edged

rain splats, webs and captured carcasses,

the small clouds of cocoons

that were tucked in the corners,

all cleared out, all wiped clean, 

both sides impeccable. Proud of my job, 

I looked out the brilliantly invisible 

glass to a shimmering day, trees

bursting with afternoon sun, sharp shadows 

etched across my neighbor’s white siding.

 

And now, the window spotless still except for a smudge 

made of what is carried on wings and chest 

of a bird, a melange of dust, preen oils, vestiges 

of parasites. Here, an actual moist drop—

fluid from its mouth?—no doubt microscopic organisms

somersaulting about in it. 

 

I had come with my sudsy orange

bucket. It had been months and even

I had to admit they needed it.

And I enjoyed it, the simplicity of the act, 

the way you could work systematically, see

your progress, satisfaction 

in taking care of something you own, 

getting every inch of it crystal clear.

 

Which had me marveling again 

at glass, how it is utterly transparent 

yet solid, bits of silica so self-effacing 

as to become nothing, all while spanning 

a six foot opening, making me a window 

through which to see indescribable 

beauty, something I live with every day

but still don’t understand.