Somewhere On The Eastern Shore
Last light collects across the creek
and there like jadeite or in a dream
it grows in evergreen hollows.
The water carries a softening music.
Somewhere, someone’s lit a fire,
the wet smell of hearth opens to the sky,
and farther off a loud door
Who knew we’d never go West?
That the veins down this neck of the woods
would keep us? I imagine
our primeval pioneer (ear
to the ground, finger finding windward)
like an auger in the heart of things. He must
have gazed on collapsed light
and place creeping both inward and away.
Tides shift, yes, but come morning
I’ll see jets trail a railway for the sun,
the whole country asleep
knowing its station is fixed, if forgotten,
necessary as the split-second silence
between some and where.
The sky more a spleen
over the horizon.
Today, an earthquake, but I
down tar-chip roads,
heard only the workings of
wheels and gears,
saw only one field’s givings
give in to the next. “The land moved,
but they did not,” said someone.
“Red sky at night . . . ,” we say,
cupping our hands
as to catch
the broken yolk. Open
with lights from crusty watermen bars
and citronella candles lit in vigil
To pronounce the world phonetically,
I think, but to disturb
the dumb ritual of a moorhen
(a thing rare as an earthquake in these parts)
and her “feathered balls of soot”
might untangle some intricate webbing
beneath our feet.
Drown us all.
At High Tide
“Eureka!”––Archimedes, stepping into his bath.
The creek broadens, sweeping
shoreline into self.
It reads barnacles lined on reeds
like braille, incanting
the solidness with a saline tongue.
High priestess, reader of scrolls.
A blind mother searching
for her litter of brilliances
––the shore, the stone, the reed,
toothy alder rooted
riverside. She is all
a metastasizing medicine. And the land
but be swallowed. Call it
what solidity will reply
when her liquid larynx lets loose?
The old timers had river-mouths. Divining
an oyster’s origin took only as much
as tasting the thing: a thick smack of salt
meant it was taken from the Tred Avon . . .
Or was it the Miles? Or did the Miles
have a marshy musk—-mud and something appetizing?
O damn it all, dead men!
If I could eat your tongues, revive within me the unborn palate!
On the night God’s seed lay fresh
in the somewhat swanlike
egg beneath Mary’s navel,
who was it
rustling for a bite to eat,
unleavened bread, some dates?
Whose hand went unmoved but
hopeful on the belly
as the other tapped the keys
of his cell phone:
“You’ll never believe. . . .”
Stranger has happened.
Now see Joseph on the job, the roof
of some house he’s built.
His cup of nails rests, aloof
in the shade of a palm tree,
and he himself is standing
in the shade the sun’s carved out
of the universe, gazing west
to where hills go green with envy.
So what if the absolute opposite
of strawberry is not-strawberry?
I’m inclined to say ash.
But now I’m wondering why
the way we so often get at a thing
is by getting at what it’s not,
how, you insisted, I shouldn’t mistake
this glass for champagne.
How I didn’t eat that strawberry you lowered to my lips.
You left without even an hasta nunca.
I was checking my matchbook for matches.
So be it if, given the rings around my double helix,
I’m prone to start a scene or two, the center
of a field where people gather to see the tree
mutated around power lines cured.
Or to disjoin some siamese twin-oaks.
To cut the timber that builds your house.
I’ve already run the gypsy-moth out of town.
Property value’s up. The streets are safe.
So, so be it if the only draft card I ever burn
is my grandfather’s, the one giving his occupation
as “Tree surgeon.” So be it if all I inherit
is the remnants of his daughter’s dowry,
the family business given my father. So be it if
I die on a square acre bereft of any shade.
What Became of Josef?
I can hear my father pacing the room above.
Frau Schwartz sets before me wet eggs
and a glass of buttermilk. She says thank you.
I can see his rolled shirtsleeves.
The sweat in his underarms.
And I imagine the sweaty hell that boy’s going through,
the fever-dream, calamities doubled
like siamese twins, the clamp light
beyond his eyelids an eclipse.
When I woke he was in his overcoat.
Mrs. Schwartz outstretched a pouch.
“It’s not much, Doctor, but please. Doctor Menegele, please….”
In the station sunshine polished
each car in succession.
Father bought me a danish
from the midget at the stand
and I slept at his shoulder the whole way
and he carried me at his shoulder the whole way home.
A robin so suddenly
I can’t explain how she got here
in her shawl and orange evening gown,
nor how readily she’s taken
to my company. Having deserted
my bride-to-be for the fresh air
off this post-sex cigarette,
I feel as if I’m now being put
to trial in which I must swear
a Roman oath in the presence of two witnesses.
Neither of which, how shall I say, is the robin
who’s moved on anyhow, quickly
as she came, to some other subterfuge,
her shawl trailing like an ellipsis.
Tree & River
Trees grow along a riverbank
and never know the river. Even when a storm yanks
a few limbs for the tide to carry off,
I would hardly call it a standoff
at the intersection of 1st & Knowledge.
By “trees” I mean myself, how I’ve rooted near his bed
an hour now and have yet to understand
anything my grandfather’s tried to say. His good hand
cups itself, wraps at his thigh.
Is it his voice or my ears washed away with the tide?