Poetry

Poetry

Ready or not

The readiness is all, he says, but I’m not
ready, not for this: the bluebird back before
her time—that is, if she ever left—the winter
soft as summer mist when pink buds swell
too soon, surprising. Which should, it seems,
be cause for joy, but, yet again, it is not so,
for on this fragile island earth, ice fields melt,
dark waters rise, and sweeping north in wild
flight, swans bear within them seeds of death,
not yet in bloom, but it will come when warbler,
wood duck, raven, wren drop from the silent sky
like stones; and in the green dawn no birds sing.

Fallen

For we are fallen like the trees . . .
                Wendell Berry

Still teeming with green
The body of branches my children once climbed

Lay fallen on our lawn. Through our window
We’d watched the storm’s silver arm

Fling a rain-swelled axe into our white ash.
Watched its torso split. Watched one half lean

Into nothing, drop like a scarf.
And after, we sawed the massive bough,

Sorting the limbs still so
Electric with life, that green

Burned onto our hands and legs
While dust like ashes

Settled to the ground.

















Narrative

This morning’s miracle: dawn turned up its dimmer,
set the net of frost on the lawn to shining. The sky,
lightly iced with clouds, stretched from horizon
to horizon, not an inch to spare, and later, the sun
splashed its bucket of light on the ground. But it’s
never enough. The hungry heart wants more: another
ten years with the man you love, even though you’ve had
thirty; one more night rinsed in moonlight, bodies twisted
in sheets, one more afternoon under the plane trees
by the fountain, with a jug of red wine and bits of bread
scattered around. More, even though the dried grasses
are glowing in the dying light, and the hills are turning
all the syllables of lavender, as evening draws the curtains,
turns on the lamps. One more book, one more story,
as if all the words weren’t already written, as if all the plots
haven’t been used, as if we didn’t know the ending already,
as if this time, we thought it could turn out differently.

Deflate

In autumn I wrestle the plastic water slide
to the ground, my legs like bellows riding the sides,

then pinch the thick airholes into slits
to hear the sizzle of release. A slight wind lifts

my husband’s early summer breath
into September air. It is as if

the lung of summer in the body of the world
is collapsing. I grip the plastic and furl

the bottom toward the top, trapping air
too slow to exit. Geese above me flare

and part; a thatch of brown grass below
dies. Those who claim their losses know

the exquisite pain of letting go. I drag
the slide into the cellar, where it will sag

in a dank corner until June, when once again
small bodies will skim down its inflated spine

beyond our reach. Breathe, boys, breathe,
we pant, then slacken our jaws, unclench our teeth.



















Standing still in insect season

When it touches you, you will keep still,
in spite of black flies hovering—
fiercely itching, lumpish red spots to come—
feeling the day lighten, half-laughing
at yourself, you look so silly

with a butterfly on your arm.
Flawless wings open—orange, deep-brown—
and close to make one dead leaf,
on each side a tiny silver sickle,
moonsliver, which gives it the name,

Comma. Knobbed antennas in front
like turned-around exclamation marks.
Meaning, in the Beginning, when butterflies
were made, for the first time the Word
needed a speck of punctuation.