We Were Explorers Once
Ice breaks up each spring—
the ocean and rivers grow teeth
and lose them, place them
under pillows of fog
lose them to drifts of warmth
in the coldest, killingest depths
where small, edible whales
move like clots through a bloodstream,
where their shadows in the shallow seas
are vaguely alive, and vaguely something else,
the shape of old ships, the footprints of old explorers
tromping crabwise through some imagination.
To what end did we venture
out of the old world
to the endcaps of earth,
shelterless, wearing comely myths
we couldn’t dream would become truths
up at the globe’s neckline?
If our wants are trivial
our best wars are tussles,
our worst weather is rime on road signs,
breath off the water in the morning.
From Here You Seem a Braided River
You wore shorefast ice,
birds were starting,
spring high water
was still white snow
Ice still rimmed your banks.
We would come to know gibbous light.
We would come to know snow light.
We would come to know ice light, star, animal
light, window light, want light,
sweat light. We’d know the light of the river rippling
shadows on the shadows. We’d know
candid light, we’d know dinner light and laughter light,
we’d know light off the underside of owl wings,
melt light and the light of the woods,
the light of letters, light of the dash
and the strange feathers of baleen on blank walls.
We’d know rain light and dream light. We’d know the peaceful
light of a single morning, we’d know the
thick light beneath the bridge. We’d know
the light of our clamor to belong in all light,
we’d know bluegrass light
and aquatic light, tundra light, intermountain light and
the light of surprise—
I know iceless light of you,
winter light, spring light, speech light of you,
light of seeing you, memory light,
photograph, ache light, light of one of these days,
light of so much left to say,
light of one day, light of one night
and one morning, light of one day.
originally published in Colorado Review Volume 40, no. 3
Awake to an early thrush,
an elegant spider.
And anger telescoping ridgelines,
a federal lunch, a local harmonica.
A new tongue is cataloged
along with the trove of places,
property lines redrawn
by riverbanks migrating annually,
negative property lines,
an entire globe plus fifty yards, owned.
And a bonfire undersluiced by a river,
bagpiped by unwelcome wind,
private items used inside the common room.
Six strings, eight notes, one year
and one night you binge on raucous light,
sky unknown, candles lighting
the softest skin
while the newly known ascends
to a treehouse built in evening’s throat.
In the melt out, delta out, ablation zoning out
snow under the isolate sky,
the tiny fixity of a spore in gravel
where the first spider
legs out onto new rock,
dust fall glissade of willow cotton,
catkin singularities in green space,
a familiar but unknown birdcall,
the wind in leaves in terrible stereo,
ache of much sun on sweaty skin,
the insulation of knowing this,
wanting to know, discovering a crack
in a favorite cup lifted from its shelf
by a window, filling it anyhow with wine.
A Brief History of Landing Here
All the phone calls clotted a hum in my inner ear.
And every walk became a thick pencil underlining the same
three newspaper sentences until the paper shredded.
Every vine-ripened song throbbed
into airspace toward fighters looking for you
deckside on your friendly aircraft carrier.
How enticing, the glance you flung
like a neighbor tossing a pail of water onto a house fire.
Signal the birds in then jump.
Twirl your orange sticks like sparklers or hurl them.
How enticing, your good harmonizing,
your tambourine jangling in the back of your rickety pickup—
turn off your turn signal and sing,
something like the note you left on the table,
take the alley home and park cockeyed on the yard
and know this: I am inside pitting your feral cherries.
I am forwarding each piece of your mail.
originally published in Black Warrior Review Issue 36.1