Visions in June
Each time I round the bend
on this forest path down to the river,
I am tricked by a mountain laurel
in full bloom on the far bank.
From this high angle, its soft, pink blossoms
peek out the dense foliage
in the shape of a girl
poised to dive into the cold water.
Thoughts of trout and hand-tied flies dissolve.
Suddenly, I am a simple village boy
sneaking along River Akheloos in Thessaly
with a man's spear and dreaming
the glory of the hunt, when a nymph glides out
the river, her body gleaming; her arms
gather me to her, my lips tremble….
With the next step perspective alters,
the vision evaporates. I am again
wearing waders, fishing vest, holding a fly rod.
When I come to the bank across
from that flowering bush, I wade
through the water, take her hand in mine,
and kiss the flesh of that delicate petal.
Naked but for wedding band,
he slips out the shower,
towels off and slides into bed.
Her breath slow, steady,
the dreams calm, or none at all.
He settles, sinks into the rhythm.
In this cave of sheets, blanket,
and bodies, life continues unnoticed,
a ring of gold in the dark
In a June Hour
Before dusk frantic starlings
spy one more beetle
in slanted light piercing grass
a king bird snaps
from dampening air
mayfly mayfly mayfly
those little eager tongues
the eager little songs
from lilac branch
from fence post
descending from roof top
from cloud root
chirping in the changing light
air growing dense
an easy glide above the field
a too easy deceit in a world
they have no choice but to love
The Yellow Shovel
The child squats to fill the plastic shovel with beach sand,
then stands straight as she can, lifts the shovel arm
even higher, and lets the sand slowly slide off
to drift in the ocean breeze. She smiles as sand blows
down her hand, on her bathing suit, then back
to the beach where each grain disappears into the largeness.
She can barely spell her name, but here she is
testing the world a shovel-full at a time.
The Anonymous Closet
The dark is just the dark
where moons lack phase,
shadow upon faceless shadow.
The still air of being minus
the being itself where smile
is indulgence, lips of nothing.
Without Helen, no Hektor.
No death, no story. Only
Iphigenia growing old, bitter
in her anonymous closet.
An empty mountain throne.
Heroes everywhere silenced.
Slugs slugging along cold stone.
Let Briseis shout to all the warriors,
I am no man’s prize as she withers
among dented armor. See:
Vultures rising on thermals.
He leans against the wall
that says No Parking.
The crowd light tonight.
He hugs a guitar,
chin fallen to shoulder,
eyes trying not to close.
The last song evaporated
an hour ago. Vocal cords
as flighty as night moths.
The worn velvet of the case,
opened on the sidewalk
like a pinned moth,
is sprinkled with the few coins
he scattered there himself,
small silver stars constellating
beneath the lamp post.
The Heavy Trout
Amid the thrashes and splashes
of this heavy trout I kneel to
in the low water to remove
my fly, a fat hopper whose hook
holds the trout's jaw like Zeus'
thunderbolt would, sloppy but sure,
the fish awaits no plea or promise
of release, sheds not one tear,
not a single moan, as it twists
and bends toward freedom
that doesn't come, yet, even when
I heft him completely in air
to turn him on its back across my knee,
this simple fish will not submit,
struggling all the while my fingers
probe and grasp hook, balance
trout and myself in this little world,
this dance enacted, until the hook
is free, the flesh free, and I right the fish,
lift it a moment in the sun's caress
to see the rainbow stripe glow
on its own, then lower the trout
to water, submerge it in currents
and flows I only guess at, as it
swishes and sways, disappears,
becomes the river once more.
“Sometimes the most real things you can’t see.”
—Chief Oren Lyons of the Onondaga
Engine noise in the sky above the fields where
I loaf, reading, then a helicopter on a straight path
to somewhere grows larger and louder and leaves
a wake of angry air wasting minutes. Afterward
the white and gray clouds resume their play
while in front of me a dragonfly, as large
as a hummingbird, hovers before darting
around this field where it zigs to random patterns
of mosquitoes hatching and rising to their deaths.
A hawk’s faint cry splits the meadow’s new calm.
I put the book down and search for the brown streak
circling against the dark mountain. Another cry.
Another. The neighbor’s telephone rings.
They are in New Jersey all this week. Ring and cry.
Then silence. I pick up the book. August continues.
I’ve invented a spider,
arachnia verdiga domesticus.
Its habitat: suburbia, the foundations
of houses and middle schools, where boys
with handfuls of spiders still chase girls.
Not tarantula, no black widow, it resembles
the daddy-long-legs. But isn’t.
It is the green-back-spider.
It happened like this: I was painting
the cellar hatchway forest green,
painting and whistling when a spider
started to climb the metal wall, shaking
its feet free of the sticky paint. To save
its life, I swept it aside with the paint brush
that left its back green. I watched it angle across
the grass, perfectly camouflaged, to the side
foundation, which it climbed and hung vertical,
drying in the sun, my green-back-spider.
After Five Generations
The auction was yesterday.
All the milkers went and the breeders.
What’s left will be trucked to the slaughterhouse.
A few pounds of tough steak for the freezer.
Next week the tractors and balers go.
After that, the memories.
shoe box, I marvel
at how small it is,
how perfectly compact,
like the shoes,
with leather smooth
as her skin.
Toddler size 7 1/2,
her third pair
She will journey
a couple months
in Marianna Navy Blue,
each step a new word,
words pave new roads
He fights the weather in the sky,
in the heart. Waves crash
against the rocks and erode
the beach of innocence.
The air cracks like pistol shots.
There is no refuge, no bullet-
proof vest to protect his chest.
Blood becomes engaged
to darkness. Still his sleep
swells with sun and sand and girls
who dress like butterflies.
Bird Eggs, Yes
The sparrow eggs have hatched,
the sparrows who stole the blue bird box.
Yes, the tree swallow eggs have hatched by the neighbor’s house;
the parents swooping again and again over the hay field.
Yes, the mocking bird eggs in the thick spruce hatched
and the parents can’t stop bragging about it
long into the long evening atop the roof, the tree, the fence post,
shortening the dark with those melodies.
Yes-yes, the gold finch eggs have hatched,
these birds as beautiful as flowers when they alight
on iris stems, on liatris stalks to trap bugs to feed their young,
for the young they brighten the air. And yes-yes-yes
the blue bird eggs in the other box have hatched!
I counted five eggs as blue as the sky in August,
as blue as a child’s best dreams; and I touched all
five of the bare-blind chicks, a baptism of sorts,
felt their hearts pulsing with such hope,
these small singers-to-be.
The Beautiful Language
She sits again on a bench along the canal
in Rotterdam, waiting. This is where
he will come, she whispers to herself.
She feels him stirring under her bones.
Behind her the Euromast rises, swaying
gently in the permanent breeze,
its tiered café full of quiet activity. Tourists
smile at the demitasses and the scenery,
both grateful and awed to be here. Even
their children are subdued with this now
in their lives, this moment they will not
remember as adults. Lovers gaze into
their narrowing eyes, knees kissing beneath
the small tables. They could be anywhere
in the world and that place would still
be heightened by their inflamed blood.
On the roof a young American and his
bride brace against the tall wind
and marvel at these vast lowlands
that fill someone else’s lives. On the bench
a woman waits for the angel who appeared
in her dream. His silver eyes glowed with
rapture. He drifted by in a boat on the air.
She doesn’t know if he will greet her
in Dutch or French, or some language
known only in the soul. Her heart is ready.
The young couple high above her
sway in the wind washed air and embrace
in the only beautiful language possible
between flesh and flesh.
A late sunrise licks December frost off lawn.
In the spruce's shadow, frost lingers, laughing,
but only a little longer, until it becomes
the ground we walk, the air we breathe.
The angry words of lovers the night before dissolve
into morning's hug, the day advancing as it should.
Snow will soon layer the earth,
its lightness deceptive, its brightness blinding.
The shadow, too, moves with the sun, daydreaming
of nightfall when it marries darkness to rule the world.
The snow within the shadow's arc baring its teeth.
This is not a mere season's rhythm; winter is more stark,
more black, more white without the venial sin that prompts
a momentary argument, a stay against reason.
Before absolution, the green again coated with frost.
Touch it too long and it stings before it melts.
Little Book, Little Reader
Ten pages in this book only
and the child loves them all.
In grandfather’s lap turn colors
and shapes, round ball, gold star,
nine blueberries they count each time,
as if she needs to know some things
don’t change the way her clothes
do day to day, stripes to flowers,
red to denim. When they find
the black kitten, her voice is not
in words but the language of joy.