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This Drought

Entering the onecolorness of the outdoors,
I try to follow the sick advice I offered
an internet mom this morning: concentrate
on the good things her exhaustion brings. 

I could be one of those Sargent portraits,
a figure swallowed by a mystery
of blacks. In my case, yellows: yellow
road, yellow fields, yellow trees, yellow
sky. Madame X in running shorts. I could
be a thing to see.

                             From the roadside
a scrap of trash promises, Grows Plants
Twice As Big! Next to it, a grasshopper
so uniformly plastic yellow it has no
features, no hairs along its legs, no joints
in its articulated abdomen, no chewing
mouth. Looks like a toy bug.

                                            Before long,
I meet a man walking. He introduces
himself, as they do in these parts,
mentions my dead father-in-law, a man
I never met. Walking for his health,
he says, trying for 4 miles. So far 2.
Open heart? I ask, noting the scar.
He tells me more. Then, again, sickness
pours out of me: Could be worse, I say.
He nods, says, Yes, I could be out
in those planets.

                             Birds behaving oddly.
Bluebirds, normally on the highlines, flap
up, then down, in the yellow weeds.
Flushing grasshoppers, I speculate.
In the yard, birds flock the drizzle
of hosewater, mouths open, exposing
hard birdtongues, noiseless.

                                               We need
a miracle here, I think. I try not to
remember the dying cypress I saw
from my office yesterday. I try not to
strategize about hoses from a distant
faucet that, in all probability, doesn’t
exist.

             Sometimes the only good is not
yet, and worse unimaginable. Sometimes
f
aith is all there is. Sometimes there’s only
hope. Sometimes a red zigzag down
a sparse chest is the only thing that
means, the only thing worth seeing.

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Blue Song

“To you it is sameness
and toil,” she told him, “but
to me it’s what I like, how
it’s always been.” But
what she doesn’t know, what
he does not know except
wordlessly, in splashes
of memory, is that he, we
all, inhabit loss. The bright
noisy wetness of the past
still flows down the same
mountain, but all we feel, all
we hear or see, is the gloved
din of beerdrinkers, telling
foamy stories into the night.

Almost

Today I found two legs
embedded in hot road,
padded like a honey bee’s
with pockets for small bombs

and meaningful box-shapes.
The rest–hard trunk, head, arms–
crushed to powder on a chance
stone. The child that let

it fall forgot. The car
that smashed it never saw
or even felt it go. And no
one but me knows it

still exists, caked in
tar, draped in litter,
in my running pouch or could
predict its trip from thought

to pip of plastic to
instrument of play
to this almost unwitnessed end.
Almost is crucial, though.

That’s all I have to say.

 

Cardinal

She chooses nest materials as I
would a rug, examines fiber length,
feels it against her orange beak and then,
a dropped bomb in reverse, plunges into
the green, her red protector trailing her.
Noticing my notice, he wings away,
but she, courageous in intent, just bends
and sorts, leaning her head against the air
in approval, and then—and of course, that’s
how it’s done!—she sinks, twists, warrens into
it, her own soft shape shaping it until
she is the nest herself against heaven,
field yellow, sky grey, cove cover secret
in leaves. And I think, could I do the same?
Basket myself in what flush fibers were
available—garden chives and parsley,
roadside rushes and recyclables,
garlands of parkside litter—and then lie
unseen, safe, one with beauty and nature,
stillness—I am Beauty, Nature, Stillness!—
until, beneath me, I felt movements of
family, monstrous mouths open so wide
I see deep past their tongues, their lungs? Their rage
suffocates me. I fly off and return
again again again to stop it with
bugs, berries, and what else I see. I am
Creator, Builder, Warmth, and yet unloved
from that broken moment of freedom but
for my mystical power to stuff the spear-
tipped mouths with every goodness I can find.

Bobwhite

Ever fierce pet dog
hunt you, running, leave
spear tip prints. No fear,
like angel said. (Could
be so wicked pain
worse, it mean.) Could be
orb-toe mountain cat,
out for snack—last time
white tail, today fat
bird. That trail-a-chicks
too small to matter. Bug
babies safe—hear?—for
all your howling and
tipsy mother act. It
do no good. Sayin’.

High Up, Past the Pines

Found an angel on the wayside
today. Face up, wings crushed beneath
it. Not like you’d expect: no blood
anywhere, featherless, and not
male or female that I could tell.
Dead, I think. The gaze empty,
the body cold. Why here, I thought,
so high up, so far past the pines,
past where anyone goes? What rant
or warning or report, and for
whom? I lay down beside it:
the only way I could think of
for finding out. I just got cold,
though, and emptier, leached
of my human learning by moss
and longing and other hungers.

Doubt

Does a butterfly look
for death? Does it grab
the one dead
leaf on the black road,
everything else green and live
and cool in the shadows,
by accident? Over and over
the same wacky accident? Or
does it prefer the slow hot
end to the sharp surprise
of a bird’s beak? Or,
and here is my real
question, is there some
other purpose, secret,
visited only by butterflies
and other experts, that pulls
its soft body to the black heat,
its only companion already too
charred and dead itself
to notice its pain?

Mountain Stream

Winter
marls the water
into hard
white sprites
and griffins playing
and grabbing
one another
with no motion, wet
and shining and
still
as the first
memory and, soon
after, as
forgotten.

 

Lemon Birth Day Cake for Charlotte

Butter and flour two 8” pans.

Mix together:

  • 2.5 c flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt

Cream together:

  • 1 c soft butter
  • 2 c sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 eggyellows
  • Juice and skin (zested and squeezed through cheesecloth) of one lemon

Add flour mixture to butter mixture with

  • 1 c buttermilk

Mix just till combined. Spread in prepared pans.
Bake at 350º till brown and resistant to the finger.

Cool in pans for a while, then turn upsidedown.

Frost with

  • ¼ c soft butter
  • Juice and skin (zested and squeezed through cheesecloth) of one lemon
  • enough powdered sugar to make a soft frosting

Belted Kingfisher

Despite your gentrified black featherdo,
carefully spilled upward hard and ragged,
despite how you slipped so classily–yes
royally, I’ll give you that–just over
the surface, almost touching, almost
wetting the tips of your excalibur
self; when you speared that fish and pounded it
to death and then, having swallowed it, skinned
off over the water again for more,
you looked just hungry, like everyone else.