Poetry

Poetry

Church yard: Rebuilding the labyrinth

A curving trail—the callused field obscures it
until we shovel out the clotted brick,
lug a ton or two of sand to fit
trenches, level rumpled earth, correct
courses. A mallet stuns a thumb, new blisters
bud as self-impressed we shout, “This row
is done!” but then a kid names names, prefers
George Toad, Kate Cricket, slaps William Mosquito,
pats Barkly, unleashed, our best company.
We rest and share cold drinks. David brings
homemade muffins, burned, blueberry plenty.
Sun flickers around us, summer’s wings.
Yet sand, we need more sand! Deer watch from trees
while we adjust the pathways on our knees.

Losing sight

Crossing the lake in thick fog with nothing
to be seen except the buoy to starboard
marking the rock we didn’t want to hit
that Tom said we’d already passed but
Whit said No, we’re way beyond it which is
when the boat rose up bow riding high to leave
us stranded the boat an ark the rock a mountain
the fog a cloud that covered us waiting for who
knew what—a voice, a face, a sudden shining—
but there was nothing more than thinking how
many times when losing sight we circle back
to where we started only to begin again.

Song to hum while opening mail from a friend

O the very fact that there are friends who write with their hands
Even if just the forefingers hammering away on keyboards, and
Also then print out the resulting muddle and scrawl and scribble
And pop it in the postbox! The lickable areas on the envelopes!
The Return Address Just in Case! The choice of stamps, and we
All blessedly have friends who carefully choose their stamps, &
Stand in line at the post office asking for the ones with Authors,
Or members of the Simpson family, or stamps with Polar Bears!
And the fact that there are fifty addresses in your memory, some
Of them no longer inhabited by the people you loved to write to;
Much like your mind retains past phone numbers and exchanges,
Like Mayfair and Ludlow and Allegheny and Cypress and Tulip!
And the fact that you can draw all morning on an envelope or by
God paint it flagrantly with horses and angels, and your postman
Will deliver it anyway! Probably grinning at the nut who mailed
It to you! And you can put a few grains of sand inside your note,
From the beach we went to as children, or a feather from a hawk
Who glared in the window like an insurance adjuster with talons,
Or a painting by a child, or a photograph of four of the names of
That which we call God for lack of a better label. Even the folds
Of the paper, and the paperness of the paper, and the fact that it’s
All about miracles and affection, which is to say, of course, love!
Sure it is. All the good parts are about love, in all its many masks.

The station band

      RAF Binbrook—1953

We practiced at “The Decontam”—
clumsy name for an ugly place—bare concrete rooms
buried beneath a protective pyramid mound of soil, turf,
and God knows what, designated sanctuary nonetheless
for any unlucky enough “in the event of nuclear attack” to survive
the initial blast and burn to reach this subterranean space of hollow refuge.
The Station Decontamination Centre—to rhyme the place in full,
an—as yet—unfrequented location (praises be . . .) where, Tuesday nights,
an ill-assorted crew of horns and woodwinds—sackbuts, cornets,
clarinets, even the occasional bassoon—would fumble-stumble
along through “Colonel Bogey,” “The RAF March Past,”
old favorites from Gilbert and Sullivan, “Chu Chin Chow,” and Noel Coward,
rehearsing for the CO’s garden party, full-dress dinner evenings at the Mess.
They echoed so, those naked rooms and sounding corridors, as if our music
might drown out—yes, decontaminate—the cold, blind fury
cradled tight beneath the wings of our sleek avenging bombers;
full squadrons perched above in laden readiness,
paying no heed to our hapless melodies and marches.

At dusk

There’s a black cloud over the hill.
There’s a black cloud over the school.

The grass shoves the shed to the fence
at property’s edge. Rumor says under the shed

there’s a copperhead or two. Rightly, crawl space
is what these burnished snakes are banished to,

but the nettled grass, the chain link fence
fail to bar them from the dappled yard.

There are grackles under the trees.
Under the trees at dusk there are grackles

that peck and crack pecans near the hedge.
A squirrel skitters and scats up a scaly bole

in fear of these dark birds with squatters’ rights,
while the sky . . . ? It folds and is quietly stored away.