Poems

study one

I don’t know anything about myself
anymore.  I don’t know when I may die,
I don’t know why.  This wrist now is
without pain, I don’t know why it hurt.
If I begin to speak I don’t know
when I’ll stop.  I don’t know if this insight
will end first, or the words, each perception
drive toward every possibility, or, this
hand assert — no more words, Good Night,
I want my dream life’s home of sleep.
Trees tell me they die many winter deaths
on their passage back into earth,
while through many summers they gave
passage through rooms of shade.  Passage
ended some days or years past when
mornings turned so slowly they felt
like truck wheels backing up a rainy hill,
then round a blind corner, slow,
and then slower still, and so I wake
so late in the night I hear only sand
falling in the darkness of my study
in my grandfather’s empty hourglass


study five

but for eyes accustomed to darkness
colors lie in ambush, light has no age
and remaining alone has no weight,
sometime after I went on a dolphin to visit her
where she was letting the sun’s rays
warm her skin, it was morning
on a beach in a twisting island chain
they had randomly named after a youth
who had found the name – Ios – washing
in the sea and taken it for herself,
and, yes, blooms we called flowers
were everywhere about, spreading a sense
of peace and particularly of presence
which later we felt as freedom


study eight

where the pond flowed under the bridge
she stopped the car to turn her head left
toward the beach, then right past reeds
and fields, houses, trees, to where it passed
under another bridge, became a stream.
This was a certain place in the middle
of things, as were her eyes looking
first one direction then the other, as was
the earth about midway through its journey
from the eastern morning to the western
evening. Later, searching with a map,
the words of a lost text, here today,
then vanishing into what, came back,
as the road turned to gravel and the view
revealed a house half-hidden in trees
at the end of an inlet not yet in the sight
line of anyone — calm, with the sound
of water lapping. I thought she might
not mind, old, somewhat run down,
if we could see the sun descend
as the earth turned, remember the sense
of waking into time and at the same time
falling, little by little dissolving, while
holding as two. There we came to see
night, the wash of tides and stars, as
an opening to further light arriving
full from across the reaches of days


study eighteen
here is what takes place in front of us ―
explosions, rubble of buildings, destruction,
in that moment waterworks gone, plumbing,
water itself, then beautiful clothes, work
clothes, furniture to sit on, eat on, food,
each person’s sleep, gone, precious letters,
indispensable records, photographs of those
we knew well, gone, paintings of the garden
from its beginnings, the garden itself,
people and skills, more people and all skills,
crockery, cars, sculpture, each gone, every
kind of tree, the social contract between
people, the law surrounding the contract,
nothing saved, centuries of lifting up,
fitting together ― look, though it seems to be
taking place in a distant place, to a different,
alien other, that darkness invades this air,
stains this swelling sea, loss leads to loss,
nothing saved, people don’t return, the years
wash over, none return, craters of sadness,
rubble covered by what the wind brings,
wounded eyes lost in the mind of loss


study twenty-three

she is moving in the close darkness,
later her rounded form sleeps, slow rolling
inhalations/exhalations from which body
warmth is released, and after an extended
stretch through the cover and blanket of night
rapid eye movements begin to reflect
fitful dreams — lost children, lost lovers,
flooded houses — faster she wakens
through the warp of dark, rolls against
his length, he is listening to the closing
of a door, sensing what does not fit,
a seam in the silence admitting faces,
threat of danger. Where fear of snakes
and flying creatures move in deep,
primal memory, danger now is moving.
This man, this woman, the vigilant
and the sustainer, the defender and the giver
of warmth, share calm and fitful sleep,
the north and south of living history,
the bed of fear and the bed of waking,
the bed of love and the bed of sadness


study twenty-five

almost smaller than this eye can see
ants appear as if from celestial ether,
as if without a line or point of entrance,
from every grouted seam, indeed,
from under the bread toaster, the oven lid,
the dish stacking rack, the knife block,
the rounded base of the coffee maker,
beside the sink, arriving without beginning,
each next to another without jumble,
each engaging small, very small,
grains of sugar. Each ant smaller
than the smallest corner of my smallest finger.
Grains are disappearing, microscopic
jaws are swallowing, minute amounts
of stomach acid are absorbing. Cells. Cells.
Another universe and within that universe
swirls and nucleic chains absorbing
without effort, without interference —
conscious/unconscious energy,
calm in its coding, free in its working,
cells-universe-connections-consciousness
ants-observer-sugar-realms


study forty-five

more sad than death the thin evolving chords
for one left after, as if their life depended
upon each note being pulled through
the darkness of time’s beginning,
from there, as if it were irreversible,
an expansion into light. I will continue
though you have gone before, I am nothing
special, except that I hear your voice beyond
the high pitch of here this silent listening


study sixty-two
immediately it rolls and tumbles out of the tap
spreading over the plates stacked in the sink,
reminding me of the sea washing over
the boardwalk and houses of the Jersey shore,
essence and substance that divides but doesn’t
break, that driven against a small space can
lift anything. Think of it — lifting hundreds,
thousands of times your weight without effort,
think of it able to roll, break apart, re-join,
roll on, cover continents of deep land,
send evaporations to the deep sky, re-form,
fall back as rain into yourself, think of it
as if your children went out from you, grew,
changed, came back, went out again, came
back, no older, no weaker, still possessed of
every ability. Remarkable — yes? Grandly
flexible — yes? Can shed accumulations
of waste and also common earth, can return
to clarity on the moment, as if an angelic
presence had passed by heightening the color
of berries and leaves, paint, even coal
as it is washed. What might you name something
which can fit every shape, wake any
color? The word water feels clean enough,
has some weight with its two syllables, but
misses perhaps the chime of the infinite which,
for instance, the French l’eau seems to hold.
Someone some day will form one of those
compound words, a seven or eight syllable
sound, imagining that each of its sounds
taken together might contain it, and perhaps
the linguists could dispute among themselves,


study sixty-three

snow did not fall from the spring sky
though it was cold enough,
and I did not leave my entanglement
with the illusions of truth
though the tides of the world called with long fingers,
and yes it can be quiet here
if you are not stung by the sounds of those
cut by the lies of others,
and yes there are these beaches
where streams of light turn small fish silver
as they swim above the sand, and the continuous
rolling-in turns itself white
as the sand rises to swallow it, a closure
so effortless it seems as if it had been wished,
and if I look directly through this lens
there comes into focus a long departure of light
whose presence wakens
a sadness in the eye of continuing
which I now embrace
as if it were the end of my only day on earth


study sixty-four

where am I echoes from my eyes,
who am I looks down from the plain of ceiling,
what would I give to know?
here’s what I see standing —
I am this room I turn to look out of,
I am the woman asleep behind me
and the man tending fruit in the street below,
I am where I put myself,
and where I find myself when I am alone,
I am the last thought my mind spoke.
Trees bend when the wind blows,
if it blows hard they let a limb go,
if you approach too close the crow
on the fence flies off, learn the lives
beside you, the many eyes, the bitterness
in their voices.  I lean forward when words
are spoken, I walk to the front if the words
turn toward truth, if I don’t engage,
the minds in front take the fresh words
out of the air for their own remembering.
I am where I put myself,
I am where I am when I am alone,
I am what I am when the mind expands,
I am what I am when I walk
and who I am when I sleep with whom I sleep,
wake the next morning, look into her face