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

in mountains.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Succession 

 

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,

 

lukewarm homebrew, 

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

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© 2019 by JEREMY PATAKY

background image by Eamon Mac Mahon