I HAD TO WALK BESIDE A LOT OF RIVERS
I had to walk beside a lot of rivers,
miles, lightyears, trying not to impale myself
on a mace of dead trees or be swept
down a bank of slippery starmud
like an otter overconfident around the water.
I wasn’t breaking trail for anyone to follow.
A broken trail is where we all end up.
Poor Medusas. The toppled roots of snakey trees.
Frog spit on the stargrass and the trees
and the wet leather of last year’s leaves.
Dung, duff, and detritus. Sounds like
an epic poem. How burlap fell in love
with the aristocratic velvet of a rose.
Is that how it goes? Then let it.
With this proviso. That it never ends.
Misery and finesse were never friends.
The nightbird doesn’t begrudge the bell
its one note, and I drop anchor these days
like the moon going down behind the Lanark Hills,
just for a night or two, until the wind
can mend my sails like broken ear drums.
The chittering squirrel tries to have
a conversation with me but I’m sick
of the busy colloquies of hack writers
who think they’ve got a fix on the dark matter
of the mind in autumn, bluing
the post partum depression of the harvest
with shades of the moon that just came
to say farewell. The waterbirds have already left.
Homesick starmud exiled from death awhile.
The black walnuts in their jowls
are about as big their skulls, and it’s hard
to imagine anything larger than a chokecherry
for a heart. A drop of blood. Nuts
stored in trees like gravegoods in a library.
I’m imbued by the silence of the afterbirth
of the sacrifice that still wonders if it was worth it
to unburden its heart like an emergency exit.
There’s a sad equilibrium to what I become
in the fall like water finding its own level
because nothing much is going to bloom now
under the changing guard of the cold, cold stars.
I could cry my eyes out but the roots won’t
make flowers out of my tears until late next spring.
I could sing arias all night like a thirteen century
troubador in the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine,
but there’s no one at the window of the heron’s nest,
and the crows roost when they should be on nightwatch.
I walk in the ruins of all I tried to attain
like a warm summer rain that had washed
the corpse of a human the night before
and felt the abyss of what it is to be no more
and throw a few cornflowers you grew yourself
into the grave like metaphors of what you hope
might come of them, or, at least, might
speak for you like the proxies of an everlasting silence
when death sees what’s it’s done, and lies about it.
Odes of rosaries around the skulls of the firepit
that hung itself from the rafter of a shedding oak
in one last attempt to come to fruition
like mistletoe for the lovestruck, and acorns
for the feral pigs with the tusks of the moon.
Too lush, too cold, the grass greens the husked fields.
The cattails explode like upholstery.
The cedar rail fences are slimey with archipelagoes
of orange mold. The bracken Jurassic in nature.
Eras roll by like oceans playing musical chairs.
The rat snake slows as its blood runs cold.
The waves flap like wet laundry on the line.
The inconceivable goes on forever, but it starts
long before we’re born and and goes on even longer
after we die and die and die and die
as if life held a grudge and couldn’t kill us enough.
Sixty five autumns have I seen. And the spring
begins where life left off at the first snow as if
everyone had to live November all over again.
Life’s a catacomb trying to build a water palace
out of uncashed pop bottles. Death’s
a pale young man on a crutch that isn’t
going to let the surgeons take his other leg off.
Or an Aztec conduct a heart transplant.
Must all living things suffer what they love most?
I hold a child in my arms and life is
perilous and good. An old man cries
like chrysanthemums for a woman who
once ran like a river through his dry heartwood
and though there’s no argument that time
can’t abide humanity, life is torturously beautiful
to no purpose in the damp solitude
of an old man’s eyes humbled by a second innocence.
The white meteor of a salt lick for the deer.