Yarrow

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for Danny

Imagine, for a moment, standing in a field,
the grass stretching around you in all directions,
the damp scent of soil mixed into the wind,
the day not yet full in the sky.

Imagine the silence broken only by the chafing
of leaf upon stalk, the roundness of the sky
domed around you, the weight of the sun
on your shoulders and neck.

Imagine, among the slouching stalks of grass,
heads bowed even as the sun climbs from morning into day,
a cluster of flowers, small and white,
showing above the green, the flowered head tall and smiling.

This is why you have come to the field in the first place,
to know the love of such a fragile thing,
to hear the girlish laughter of its leaves.

You have come to remember the seed that grew and blossomed,
to remember that beauty has no cost,
to honor those things that do not last.

And, even when you have left the field, the flower gone
from view, the silence broken by the routine of everyday,
the damp scent of the earth faded from your memory,
you will still remember the small white flowers,
as bright as the last time you saw them,
and the world will smell only of yarrow carried by the wind.

Litany

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I think I am a better salesman than mechanic;
good at the interview, not at the job.

Maybe I am the rain spattering leaves
and never sunning itself in the pond,
the layered colors of  morning
rather than the noontime shadow.

I worry about the match drawn across the box,
the sudden flame extinguished before reaching its goal,
the first star wished upon
before the stippling of the sky.

I know I am not a machine left to rust
a second skin, or paint flaking from a house.

There is still ice left in the drink,
still sweat on the side of the glass.
But eventually stone keeps company with sand,
becoming sand itself.

Eventually there is no pollen left
to draw the bees.
And it is nice to think that even the wind
does not stray from the valley,
even the moon keeps the same lover every day.

Things needed to build a time machine

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A photograph of the girl
who almost loved you back
when you thought you were not enough
and words were sufficient gifts to give.
The girl you pretend not to think about
on long drives, when the road curls
out of view, or on waking
from dreams of her long thin legs.
The image of what might have been.

2-
The last page of a novel
that you have not finished
but know how you want the story to go,
what you want to have happen.
The end that you imagine occurring
each time you leave the house,
or daydream about
when your coworkers aren’t looking.
The plot with no heroes and ambiguous conclusion.

3-
The sweater your mother kept
in plastic after her husband died
opening it only at night so the scent of him
would not disappear like he did.
The thick wool woven with his fragrance
pressed close to her face, the warmth of her skin
releasing him as she struggled to keep him.
The reminder of what was.

Perception of external stimulus

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1-
New snow, roads and trees hushed
under white, like geishas hidden
by their makeup, as if the silent man
upstairs covered his furniture, and in auditorium
rooms stories get lost in telling, words
winnow in artificial warmth.
I look at the shape of things, searching
for more than is shown, learning only the outline.

2-
Clouds above, white from horizon
to tree line, like the inner dome of heaven
were drywall, as if the tenant overhead
drew his curtains to hide, and on the ground
things open to the rain, alive in the damp
afternoon possibility. I think of fingers,
slippery, and how hands yearn
for so much, but learn so little.

3-
Winter still, daffodil greens
pierce the monochrome, cutting
through weeds and shade, as if the lodger
one flight up dripped as he painted,
and the sun rests cat-like in trees, stretching
orange on its back. I think of skin
flushed red, the warm flavor of salt,
the cherry taste of hunger.

4-
Dusklight stars, waking slowly
in spreading dark, like motes of dust
caught on a dress, as if the neighbor above
was lighting rooms one by one, and inside
windows, artificial light licks everything
clean, pale as a pretty smile. I breath in
sweetness too early for the season, holding
it deep, knowing lungs will soon forget.

5-
Night sky, circled around
the moon, like black ribbon
around pale skin, as if the apartment upstairs
were newly vacant, and in the distance
young voices share thoughts, words mingle
with dew, in the distance. I hear only the moan
of the dark, curled ballerina toes under sheets,
and the gasping voice of completion.

Personal Mythology (pt. three)

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Sarah Woodson

They will tell you it was the neighbor,
his hands a knot of knuckles and skin,
who held off the attack; that it was oiled iron
and skill that saved us.
But they did not see the old man wet himself,
the scent like stale cider filling the house,
the urine wicking down his leg.

They will say that a woman, her skin hidden
from fieldwork, will only cry, her mind lost
to the madness of her sex, her panic predetermined.
But, they have never kissed their sons safely away,
hiding them in darkness,
felt the weight of their lives return again
into the body, the clarity of protection.

They will talk, in years that come, of the loss
of my husband, his body found in the trampled grass
at the end of the farm, the soil already rusted black
with his blood, the loss to the community.
But, they have never heard the sound of my boys
sobbing in their beds, the damp sounds of terror and loss,
they have never known the fragile truce
between survival and grief.

Some of you may recall that I have intermittently been working on poems about my family history, and such. This is a continuation of that process. Sarah Woodson was not only the mother of Potato and Tub Woodsons, but the namesake of my mother.

 

Quicksand

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The universe is quicksand, countless
tiny particles floating in liquid, stippled
so closely together they appear solid.
Think of the dust of galaxies, solar systems
swirling so closely to each other that at a distance
one cannot see the boundaries between them.
Or the body, composed of cells densely packed
so that their uniqueness is lost to the naked eye.
Even the atom is built of smaller parts, made
to look unified by distance.

So too is it with truth, each one the composite
of a great many vague thoughts,
each the blending of wants and fears.
Even ideas, single flashes that are gone
almost as they begin, are the product of sense
and imagination, are the mixing of sensations,
pressed tightly into a moment.
In the fluid movement of things, the mind holds on,
believing things to be whole, believing there is a solid
place to stand. But, nothing can support such weight,
nothing is more than particles in suspension,
and so it slowly sinks, swallowed by solidity,
enveloped by desire.

Fire

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Fire, rolling up the edge of the wood, like a wave, bending when impeded, curling around a thing until it cannot stretch itself any more, until it is so thin it loses its orange heart and trembles red and blue at its edge, carves the night into liquid patches of brilliance. There are shapes in the shifting patches of light, bodies that dance and shift, figures playacting at life, stories that glint and fade away. In them the wheat field finds its echo, the cloud sees its cousin. In them the past escapes for a moment into now, the future waits to bloom into sight. There, in the red heart, unwavering, if one looks just the right way, is the face of the world, the bright eyes of the sun, the breathing beginning and silent ending of everything.

Turning back

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The sun an hour behind the mountains
and the road already lost to darkness;
white lines mark the edge of the world.

Below, lights announce themselves
on street corners and porches, glittering
awake as everything else readys for sleep.

There is a small moon, smiling
like the Wonderland cat, among cloudless stars,
and somewhere between the two,

between the perforated dark of each,
I remember how you smiled an extra moment,
a strand of hair blown across your face,

awkward in the silence,
turning back to the life inside your door.

Lesbian, mountain, erotica

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Trunk, gnarled by endless
pruning, branches knuckled out
toward sky, stoops under

countless little leaves,
breathing the light. The white-pink
blossoms have fallen,

a confetti of
new life strewn by the wind,
and apple bodies

plump with dew and rain.
They have ripened until the
crispsmooth skin blushes

with the desire
to be eaten, the juice
already in the flesh.

They long to be seen
and desired, for a hand
to feel their curved bodies,

to at last enjoy
the caress of a mouth.

Sepia

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The backward gaze is not about the past,
the photograph not a record of who we were.
We look at grainy replicas of moments,
mirrorless reflections of what was,
and discover who we are now, how far we have changed.
We see the ghosts of identity,
clinging to life on crumbling paper,
and understand not what was,
but how that is not what we are now.
And those faces stare forward, fixed
in moments already lost before light fell across film,
unable to see who they will become,
not knowing the critical scrutiny they will use
upon themselves later. They will stare forever
at a present that faded long before,
their faces held by aging chemicals,
the mirror only ever allowing a one way gaze.

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