Poetry - July, 2013



A lake lies all alone in its own shape.
It’s not going anywhere.

A lake can wait a long time
for a hiker to come
and camp on its shore.

It will reflect the moonlight,
give him a drink of pale silver.

Toward dawn, the wind might ruffle
it a little, and the water
will have words with the granite.

Once the hiker goes away
through October meadows,

the lake will sparkle by itself.
You’ll never see it. There is
so much you will never see.


Catch of the day

It leaps, breaking the skin of the lake
of possibility, this thing that flashes steel—
this trout of a poem, wild with life, rainbow scales
and spiny fins. Now, for patience, the pull of the catch:

I cast, wait for the jerk—the tug of the hook in bony jaw—
feel the line go taut. The ballet begins, a wrestle
to land this flailing, feral thing—all thrash and edge—
and tame it into telling its own muscular story.

I heave it over the edge of its arrival, glorious,
fighting the whole way, slippery as language.
Its beauty twitches on the floor boards, its glisten
spilling over the bottom of my notebook page.


If I become like you, I will write about a roughed grouse

If I become like you I will write about a roughed grouse,
Says the boy, five years old, with a face like a chipmunk
Storing up winter browse. We are at his school, where he
And the other small mammals have written things for me
On bright scraps of paper. He hands me his paper and I’ll
Carry it in my wallet the rest of my life. Mister Brian, the
Sun is raining all around, another child says to me. It is up
And down sun, she says. I want to be a cookie when I’m
Your age, says another child. Once we were all monkeys
In skirts made from the skins of trees, says a boy with an
Icicle tattoo. It’s templorary, he says, explaining it to me.
I laugh and he laughs and every kid there starts laughing.
I think I am going to fly up gently into the air over a tree
From joy, as saints used to float when gripped by ecstasy.
That happened to Saint Joseph Cupertino, you remember,
Seventy times, it is said, and now I know why: no gravity.



Each prairie farm holds the tale—
some child saved by the rope
anchoring house to barn,
or legend of the scofflaw
neighbor lost, not found ’til Spring,
too self-assured to fix a loosened end.
           Stretched through utter white, that line is life.

On this plateau of shaped terrain
of gentle slopes and trees
we carry on without a rope.
When, baffled by white of winter storm,
black of moon-free night,
groggy grey of sleep delayed,
I happen upon the fence
that brain-map etched by scores
of trips along this way
brings me home.

Still, clambering from the drift,
wet and cold, short one boot,
          I long for a sure connection


The whole world over

I see him, mariner Jesus, walking on corrupted
waters of the Danube while down in silted depths
lurk the unexploded bombs of lately wars; I walk out,
hand in hand with the poem, crossing on the high
redemption bridge, to earth corrupted by tar and concrete,
where down in the darkly shiftless soil words crawl,
eyeless and eager. Between sleep and day, light
and black, I grow conscious of compelling truths—
but something in the ego-wassailing of flesh compels me
back to comfort, and something in the slippery
eel-mud of the mind eases towards sleep, though always
Jesus plods on over all the corrupted waters
heading for the unforgiving hill, for his piercing
cry of forgiveness out-into-the-outraged world.