Midsummer (Two Tanka)
Deer in the hayfield –
the dogs watch from a distance,
underneath the pines,
ears cocked, knowing their own minds
with the sureness of old hills.
A midsummer night
breathes strangely erotic dreams
through open windows
clairvoying eleven does
wandering in the shadows.
Haibun: The Cranes
Spring! They return, the sandhill cranes, to the fenny fields behind our house and I have to resist the temptation to say our cranes, or even our fields. I imagine their ancestors arriving on a day like today, with patchy snow and the sweet gurgle of running water in the little stream – not our stream – that has snaked across the marshlands to the big, cold lake since long before we moved here and fallowed the old played out potato fields, even before the Anishinaabe-Ojibwe peoples came here to fish and gather wild rice. I imagine that first breeding pair gliding over a young post-glacial world of gravel and swamp and new woodlands, settling on this very field to take their place among the crows and fox and deer mice, first link of a long chain, the way one day leads to the next, the way we, too, have come to be a part of this world, to hatch our young and watch them spread their wings and fly away, and wonder.
like tall feathered men,
cranes walk upright in wet fields
gigging April frogs
tore a hole in the shiny-skin-sack
and out spilled foods of many kinds.
We flock to our breakfast.
Watch for the flightless tall-birds
with their grotesque featherless wings
tipped with more-than-two fat worms
that wriggle and grasp
and make the stones to fly like falcons
at our beautiful black heads.
Poets on the moon
Two poets met on the moon. They stood on the acute rim of ink-black shadow and paper-white silence. There was no birdsong, no river wild, just the ghosts of old dogs willed to the object of their howling. They looked up at the blue Earth, where they saw themselves not as far apart as they had imagined. Without shifting their gaze, they clasped hand, fingers interlaced, heads empty as craters, hearts full of stardust, thirsty, beneath a bright, watery planet.
The sky was inlaid azulejo
tile, cool and gleaming.
Our love was a memory
from an undiscovered world,
filaments of dreams
woven beneath the snow.
The perfect still surface
of twilight was rippled
by the ululated cries
of the crane pair calling
to each other in the glow
of the solitary moon.
There was but one patch
of bare ground, a tangle
of frozen angel hair
crunching underfoot, crushed
by the weight of the wait.
I imagined your touch in the air
just beyond the limit of my skin,
a wind too weary, unstirred.
is in your eyes
of the astronomer
again and how
lives are pulled
and about what turns
while I listen
to sad songs
from other planets
and the storm
around these walls
too crazy –
this snowy world
is a thing with feathers
tetsugaku no michi
on the philosopher’s path
you behind the lens
how the old
into a future
where two borders
of trees merge
on the tracks
over may island
nose to steel
and nothing’s changed
time is still linear
hemmed by dark foliage
but with a pronounced
Say you are the tomato plant
in the container on the flagstone patio
of her garden. She waters you
when you droop, and snips away
the superfluous yellow flowers.
You are not the tomato plant
in its entirety, in her eyes,
you are one green tomato
swelling to unlikely proportions.
Ants trace the irregular canyons
between artfully cut stone slabs.
Now say you are an ant in a tent
in the rain. She sleeps beside you.
You both are dreaming of peonies.
Paris is Raining
Water is raining down Montmartre, rivulets leaking to the Seine. Josep feels like a martyr, the slow torture of wet feet. The stitching of his leather shoes is rotting; that’s the kind of winter it has been. Paloma hugs his left elbow with her two impatient hands and leans her head on his shoulder like Suze Rotolo as they go freewheelin’ to déjeuner. Little birds scatter from a puddle, a flurry of wings, les oiseaux she says under her breath, in kinship. She could live on bread and butter, and strong coffee, bien sûr.
crows on a wire
like rosary beads
strung between wooden crosses
another poem about crows
but they are here
every day for me
like the sky, like hunger,
like our need for love
small and smooth
laid upon the
old stone wall
behind the chicken
like the arc
of the Earth
that lies between
like the hard
Toss away one
closer to you.
I might as well begin at the end,
because these things seldom end well.
The February sunset flared scarlet
between blue-silk ribbons of clouds
and then the world spun into the darkness
of Lovers’ Eve, and scarlet is just another
synecdoche, a part that stands for the whole,
or in this case, a general used for a specific,
Scarlet, like the red flower in your hair,
to be specific, blooming over your naked
left ear with your hair tucked back,
of a color neither strawberry nor blond,
more the color of a mustang I saw long ago
breathing ice clouds into a mountain morning
cold as this night, that stands not for beauty
or youth or the transitory nature of every red flower,
or even for the color scarlet as a pure idea,
but for lust, of course, as this poem
is made of lust, written in scarlet letters, blood
and marrow and lust itself, the coppery taste of it,
the way lust is a color and lust is a flower
and lust is a poem, and when a poet wears
a red flower and reads her poem about lust,
the poet herself becomes the subject and the object –
the pure embodiment – of my lust, so now,
Scarlet, we come to the point, or one point
at least among several, about the scarlet light
at the end of the day, a too-short day at that,
and the scarlet flower, and the blood, and poetry,
how the whole as the part, the part as the whole,
and this poem, now, is itself a synecdoche
for how I went crazy a little at a time
without noticing, like the proverbial frog.
I guess what they say is true, that one man’s
Julie Laide is another man’s Anna Mirabilis.
It is a kind of miracle, even how you move
when you are standing still, how your feet
are at the ready, dancers in the wings,
how your fingers, even, say their lines
at your side by the black dress, miraculous,
the shapes your mouth forms, your laugh
and how it flits from lips to eyes and back,
your bare shoulders, the thin black strap,
the curve of your breast, your waist, your hip,
sinusoidal, your legs, your black boots,
the way you move your feet, the way you move
me, the way a poem about lust can come to be,
even to generate lust, sui generis, not another sui-
cide poem, and this is not the flattery of poets,
it is the whole damn frog, la rana bien cocida,
une grenouille morte, absolutement, parfaitement,
pars pro toto, totum pro parte, ashes to ashes.
The Sad Rhythm of Miles
10 p.m., starry sky, autumn chill,
winds buffet the van like waves on a lifeboat.
Returning from the film about Neruda,
warm inside our craft, filled with poetry
and the sad rhythm of miles. You beside me:
talk of love, of a certain face, of the subtle
slurred sound of Beatrice, of your sister’s first kiss
and when I floated on my back in the pitiless sea.
We know we are editing our words, our thoughts,
our dreams, our lives, and we acknowledge this
and more. And then there’s this: How do we
polish the sacred surfaces, as Neruda writes,
to reveal the dove who is born of light?
How do we, with our hands, make the world every day?
Mile by mile, with a firm grip on the wheel?
Exit 298, adrift in the balmy space of words,
I watch you slip away, your red hair floating
on starlight, into the cool, deep ocean of night.