How many years of patience—patience like a rasp—
To grind, to quarry a mountain down?
Stone bridges, their moss-tagged undersides lush,
Arch just over the water—
Motion and rock, spume and static.
Where the paved road stops, the path begins.
Briar, scruff aster, little heaps of goat dung.
Our days are as short as the sparrow’s,
Tufts of goat fur in her beak.
Near the edge, near enough
To taste the stone and the river,
The rush and cold water rinse our words clean,
Even those we’ve not yet spoken.
Will’s Meadow Road
“Long live the weeds and wilderness yet”–G. M. Hopkins
Downstream, the quick-with-snowmelt brook
widens, flattens the grasses, plumps
the moss, softens the ground, and goes quiet.
April’s spate slacks and stalls,
swamping land that once must have been
some luckless farmer’s pasture and cow-pond,
slumped in, abandoned, and long overgrown.
The water stands, a soup of rain
and seep, a murk that turns here
and there to sheen when the light
slants in just right. Flitches of fern,
buttercup spatters, nothing worth
the slog in to see. Just as well.
Let the wood frogs and peepers sing
a while in broad midsummer’s peace.
By August, the sumps and little vernal ponds
will have shrunk to puddles, scummed and muddy,
dense with larval lives. The lees
of the brook gone onward, underground
to the river or ghosted cloudward to rejoin
the sky—a remittance of mist-turned-ice, soon
rain for wherever the wind winds up.
the way forms morph
from form to form
like thought leads on
headlong to thought or
pollywog turns to leaping frog,
the way the moth
becomes the mantis,
the shrimp the pink
in the salmon’s flesh,
the easy way the river
slows to oxbow lake or
ocean warms, swells,
shallows to tall-grass prairie,
the prairie to cities
and fields, a golden
roadside ditch of dock
and mormon’s tears,
the way the fragrant evening
vine overtakes in time
the trees or trees retake
a bombed-out road? Why
grieve the way momentum’s
rush through change
toward further change,
the way a touch
to a vibrating string
sets off a note’s
milkweed seeds in the wind?
Drowned in the arctic swells off Newfoundland,
a whale carcass floats
among icebergs, loose
drift-net and plastic flotsam;
shearwaters peck at its broad, lice-scarred back
until the orcas
and the great whites break
into the flesh from below.
The huge lungs
deflate, the gut fills, and the once-whale slips
beneath the slick surface.
Once those predators
are sated thousands of others
come to feast
on the body as it begins its slow
descent through sunlit
greens down to deeper
twilit cold—a ghostly, dim
of mute, sightless lives, whose hearts blink neon-
blue on-off, on-off
bodies. They feed on what falls—
bits and dis-
integrating flakes, motes of flesh, a blizzard
of what’s still left of
all the billion lives
that gave life to the whale. Rich
dust falls past
midnight depths and down into absolute
dark, where chemical
not solar, power
fuels a vast unexplored
of sulfur-dependent forms—a peaceable
kingdom, where prey and
predator, bone, ash,
rock, scavenger (and plastic)
come to rest.
So Many Ends of the World
apricots fall ripe
are left to rot
under the trees the wind
that shook the branch
is the same wind that unclouds
the light that carries the scent
over the orchard wall
a crow descends shadow-first
from a cottonwood tree
throws back her head
swallows the sun
and its almond seed