Samuel had crept into the photo unawares
and was in a quandary as to how to extricate himself
from this sudden and curious fork in the road.
There’d been that restaurant where the future waited,
where they’d talked about all that had gone wrong,
that calendar upon whose every good intention
there was hung the inevitable noose.
He was no longer sure why they’d decided
they should take a drive into the country
as if Sunday blessings were so easily available.
The distant tractor might have been a Hereford grazing
the hillside, plowing the mysterious red clay
The sheep remained accomplished at standing still
and so there was no accounting for his impatience
beyond his clever ability to ambush
dreams he’d hoped to follow elsewhere.
There were pigeons puzzling over rosaries and
a penguin skating on a pool of frozen light.
There was sweet talk and the kind of subtle perjury
stitched perfectly into stories
he’d believed without effort.
Sometimes the light came on just like that, almost
within reach, if only all the mirrors
hadn’t been broken.
Though he kept waiting at the intersection
the light refused to change and all the one-way
signs kept pointing towards a town
to which he’d sworn never to return.
It all was going in a direction they’d not planned
and the god-men appeared to be running away.
If only you had had the fish, she kept insisting,
but he’d grown tired of her absolutes
and so stood up just as the camera clicked.
after Charles Baudelaire
The jigsaw puzzle of snow-heavy branches
is suddenly pierced with a dozen, steel-whitened
blades of west-falling light.
The moon-faced owl nods as if it had more
on its mind than mice.
The deer might find the blackened head
of cabbage I threw toward the tree line earlier.
They might survive winter’s heavy shadow
still leaning over this first week of March.
A stranger inside a forest loud with rain
follows the slant of the hill toward the inevitable
running descent of a stream
that must find ever larger streams, rivers, ocean.
He is looking to find a mirror large enough
to hold the echo of her voice, the chance
that it’s still moving outwards from Kentucky.
It is not the place that maps you so much
as that throbbing pulse
snaking its way down
the side of your temple.
It knows where every rendezvous
must terminate if there’s to be hope in logic,
if the albatross is to lift again
its wings from this crippling deck.
Up early, the street wore itself bravely
with its fog, frost, and bright
disarray of trash cans spilling
their gratuitous alms.
All are waiting for the loud hump
of the truck, its gloved
and chattering men.
I’m waiting on my stoop
to witness and salute,
to wave my red toboggan,
to cheer on
the essential work of Monday.
But it’s not enough, no, it’s not.
No, I will trip down the steps, waltz
out the drive, invite the stray dog,
and the cat, and the first of the men I meet
to dance as if the sun just might
not make it up over the factory roof.
And if these kind men refuse me, as they must
—they have their essential work:
all those stinking leftovers,
all those broken things
from broken lives that must be seen to.
If, as I say, I’m refused, I will go, then,
door to door, knocking,
issuing my waggish invitation to join
in the only game that matters,
this one wild as a fresh horizon,
fresh as a fistful of violets,
as subtle as ripening fish guts,
ready to rise risible and strong
as my hands holding someone, you perhaps,
up into the ballroom of this,
can you believe it, this brand new day,
perfect, unblemished, heroic, and brave,
and only the two of us mad enough
to know what to do with the music
of the garbage pick-up on a Monday morning.
There Was Time
It was one of those evenings
when the sun worked its shadows
in endless flickers across the stiff snow,
unrelentingly broadcasting news
in some language from beyond.
The mindless village kept to its houses,
and the streets transfixed so long by routine
had nothing to say for themselves
even as a murder of crows flung themselves
on to every steeple and flagpole, every
war hero’s statue, every plinth
graffitied with memorials
to sexual prowess, and so
fixed their perches
and sought the answers
they’d left behind last summer.
Soon the moon would arrive
towing galleons of storm and the heavy luggage
of unwanted dreams.
There was still time to work it all out
the janitor told himself, leaning
on his broom, smoking his cigarette
looking out to where the frozen lake
met the sky and into which the crows
were already returning.
There was still time, he told himself,
to work it all out.
He had no bird book, not even a dictionary.
They were birds. They were black. They were noisy.
There was time and then
there was only this,
the smoke and his heel
grinding out the ash.