David Chorlton - 2
By the fencepost where a path long dry
meets the road, a coachwhip
hung on the talons with which
a Red-tailed hawk had pulled it
from the grass, holding to stormlight
with wings spread wide
as the snake writhed
free and slid down against the sky.
At summer’s easy latitude
a stream across a meadow ran
bright and quickly
when the dipper left its rock
to dive beneath the surface
and returned to air
the color of a storm.
The heaviest clouds were sinking
between two peaks
and the grasslands fell silent.
All that moved
were the moth’s black wings
as it flew at the speed of a shadow
escaping the object
that cast it.
Red earth slid beneath water
that flashed directly from the sky
and ran across the desert. A lily
floated at the center
of a pond surrounded
by Spadefoot toads.
The midnight broadcast from the border
lit up the radio
beside a slightly opened window
whose curtains leapt away
from the wall as a sheet metal wind
rattled the sky.
The black half of the sky
collapsed into a canyon.
Ensuing rain washed away the trails
that wound through the forest
whose tallest trees
rose to meet the lightning.
It was impossible to see
from among the pines and oaks
the advent of a storm
above the canyon
and the trail reached an end
where sheets of light
blanched the seconds
as time and water ran into
the mouth of a long abandoned mine
to disappear behind the columbines.
A single bolt above the bajada
illuminated the canyon
all the way from where the oaks begin,
past the smooth rocks and the grasses
woven between them, the sycamores
along the stream coming down
from the saddle, and for seconds
even the bats flowing faster than water
turned white inside an echo.
Warm thunder rolled along the ridge
behind the orchard in a high clearing
whose trees were painted white
and vanished for a second
when a sudden flash
seared the boughs
with a hundred years of moonlight
The day’s first wheel begins to turn.
An officer on patrol
lifts the hem of darkness
with his nightstick.
A needle slips into the groove
and silence clears its throat.
The key tries every lock
until one gives.
The cogs leave bite marks
as they engage
in the machinery’s deepest regions
and cry out for oil.
A man condemned is waiting
to hear news of his appeal.
The first violinist
is wide awake now and still
trying to tune a broken string.
The Elegant Trogon
If a group of four stands on the bridge
each one looking in a different direction
and listening for a call they’ve never heard
before, they have come a long way
to see the belly flash between
dark trees above which
the canyon walls are pulling free
of the ground.
At the dry end of spring
when scarcely a breeze
disturbs the leaves on the sycamores
the calls are answered
from across a slow creek:
two hoarse notes from this side
and two from over there,
always nearer than they sound
when flying makes no sound at all.
If there’s poison ivy by the trail
and a woodpecker drumming
from off in the pines; if the water
runs shallow and junipers filter
sunlight at noon; if the sky
is dizzy with hawks
circling and the only road
is gravel and thirst, chances are good
that the trogon is so close
that nobody thought to look
where he is resting.
The name changed by mysterious decree
from Coppery-tailed to Elegant,
while the red feathers remained
as bright as those
the Aztecs saw.
Two men cast a single shadow
at noon on Fifteenth Avenue. They could
be balancing at oblivion’s edge;
the younger struggling to support
his friend as they slow dance to the sound
the traffic makes, passing the waste lot
where at first they appear to be fighting
but anyone close can see the effort
one makes to keep the other on his feet,
raising him by the arms before
he lets them go and stands back
while the other stumbles forward
with his legs growing shorter at each
of the five steps he attempts
before he is on his knees and unable to stop
his face from touching down
between dead grass and stones.
He rolls to one side, revealing his eyes
which roll as he is lifted again
and stands with his palms
open to receive the blessing of the sky
before his knees give way and it changes
place with the ground, the bus stop circles
his head, the double yellow lines peel
away from the middle of the road
and wind around the sun as it tumbles
to the pavement. No one on the street
appears concerned. I approach the men, venturing
a question as to the fallen one’s wellbeing
and offering to call Emergency. The upright one
takes a deep breath before the next lift,
his strength clearly challenged, but his patience
intact. He’ll be fine, he says, hauling the weight
with one arm now around his shoulder
as a labourer might carry a gunny sack.