Patience, Audubon, Phoebe
Audubon sat in a cave
for days—I don’t know
if also the nights—to grow
familiar to a nesting phoebe.
He wished to tie a string
to her leg to see if she’d
return to the same nest
the next year. He read
while he sat, only moving
his eyes, his hands and wrists
to turn the pages. I don’t know
what he read. His plan worked.
The next spring the phoebe
returned and sat unmoving
watching Audubon. After three days
she tied a string around his ankle.
We've Dreamed Ourselves Crows
We’ve dreamed ourselves crows
these later years to overcome
the pain of our desire.
We’ve cartwheeled on splayed
ragged feathers stretching
for eager pleasure.
Fractured and fused into focus,
our black silhouettes
pulse on the air.
We could dream eagles,
our regal dalliance a tight
grappling and still balance
aloft, or birds of paradise
in stately plumes preening
toward our courtly convergence.
But we are crows that bounce
in jocular foreplay and climax
with wild caws of delight.
On the Way to the Funeral
I saw an eagle rise from the roadway.
Powerful strokes lifted it through the heavy air.
The white of its tail opened a door
beyond the day, for an instant, and wings
enraged the smoldering sun into brilliance.
At the funeral, I saw many old friends
and colleagues: more and more,
that’s where I see these people. I had
seen the one we buried only two months
ago, at a gathering honoring friends
who were moving to their daughter’s
in Illinois. He looked
healthy and hopeful; now
he’s dead. We’re all getting there,
to our children’s or the grave.
The eagle circled and swooped
around the chapel, sparks emitting
from its ponderous wings striking the flint
of all our aging bodies. We all glistened,
for an instant, crimson and gold
and flew with the eagle.
Mozart in the Tropics
Mozart sat at the piano
the most of every day,
and scorpions lived in the cracks
of the notes he played.
Not Viennese bon vivants,
but iguanas climbed rock walls
to sit outside his studio
and hear the scorpions call.
While geckos and constrictors
in passing notes eerily dolce,
Die Zauberflöte screeched centipedes
into flocks of parrots
squawking in the minor keys,
hordes of mosquitoes snapping their fingers
to Rimsky-Korsakov as fast as bees.
It stands alone on the last bend
of the road before I’m home.
Its limbs spread fifty feet
from the massive trunk, burled
grotesque from broken limbs,
its crown broad and flat.
Yards away is the wall of the woods;
the wolf oak’s millions of siblings
stretch miles toward Missouri
bottomland. They spire upward, limbs
turned skyward toward the sun.
They grow straight, no blemish
of burl nor gnarl of wind.
When I split their wood against winter cold,
the grain is long and my maul cleaves
the logs with ease, but the wolf
turns my ax and maul into toys
that bounce off or get trapped
in its sinews. The wolf howls defiance.
He’s one of those cantankerous Missourians,
like the old man down at Jerome
with his Trail of Tears memorial,
said voices told him to build it,
voices of Cherokee who crossed
that way to Oklahoma, so he did.
Concrete statues, wishing wells,
A white buffalo. Jesse’s Howard’s shrine
was of words painted on signs.
No voices, just his begrudged self.
The town now calls the hill
Sign-Painter. He called it
Sorehead Hill. Covered it
with signs and wonderers--
windmills and crude wooden planes,
spinning and catching uplifts
among outlaw words.
The black and red words
of Biblical import, of outraged
justice, of municipal resistance.
The pointed fingers punctuating
the text like the thump
The Woman Who Took Everything