Rockpickers Cattle Dog, Colleen
Beyond the sumac tangle, where a thinning father saws,
a grandmother shagbark hickory sags with loss.
Split limbs scrape like clay shards tied in wind. Wind
the sawyer knows and ice conspire some bad years
to open crowns and let a good son in. He revs
his Stihl. Green pulp sprays from kerfs and sticks
to boots, consecrating snow like scattered ash.
You stand a distance off and dream the taut trunk limber.
Remember a girl, smart, green as whip? You loved her.
This ancient snag, lithe in youth, was left by men
long dead for shade. You like to think she chose her ground,
bolted free of gloom so deep a bright moon hurt, and ran,
breaching walls to reach this mid-field stance. You're
confused. The figure you remember kept running.
Some bad years snap the stoutest dreams like twigs.
Cures fail. Stunned villagers inter a shining son.
A wife says 'leave.' Once each life thin fathers
flesh-out plans to restack stones, slash brush
and honor the old delineations. Buck up the knotted way
life doesn't go. Toss rounds to boys who still trust dreams
and cart your grief like cordwood home in snow.
Stopping For Pelicans On A Summer Evening
Driving the Road to the Buffalo home,
Oldensoul, over my shoulder, spots
a helix of featherworks bursting
the cloudless blue near where
roads and waters merge. We pull off.
Low over yellow grass, black wings
work the yellow grass for what
it's worth, unaware, or perhaps,
unimpressed, by the grace overhead.
Flashes of winged bodies appear
out of nowhere unencumbered in air.
They flare white, a hundred points
of light, a flock of blossoms,
each banked turn when sun hits right.
Up and up they climb, uninstructed,
free, repeating explosions of ecstasy.
It takes our breath. They bloom,
fade and bloom again, delirious
anarchy on zazen wind.
This whirling is a public mirth, a stirring
of rapture, loosed of earth. And isn't
this coming together of a green day
with affirming moon and the scent
of new-mown hay a way to sing
our love song back to a black-winged world?
Waiting For The Signal
These pages that bring us together
are the fire in the cave above the stream,
no dream we move in and out of, faceless,
expendable, waiting for a burst of wings
to spill our pooled bones like coins
over the chilled and silent ground
we fell in love with so long ago,
singing the green hills home
under that shovel-shouldered sun.
Fatigue works grim the stone of souls.
No talk is needed to believe the bleeding
will be ours all too soon. Needled dust,
that settled itself in honest lungs, cut
with each rasp, yet the bleeding
wasn't stemmed. Quick, black tongues
flicked from windows, floors below dustified
slabs, while the Street slumped with peanuts
and a beer, cheering each new diversion.
In our rush of voices a stream curses
the murmur of pines. In our names,
what we begged for never to be done,
is done with no shame. And the day
drags its blindered self to toil. Night trades
whiskey pete for oil, while down slope,
death-drummer birds with blazing eyes
ascend the holy crags to raze dissent
before we waking innocent arise.
I'm waiting empty in a cold house,
with shamrocks, the dog and favored books,
listening for the old tread of new boots
gunning to kick- in this loose-hinged heart.
The grasping hands of those with much
to lose, I imagine, close on me.
They drag me, incendiary,
into their unmooned night.
Half a shot of Tullamore on the table
is how my neighbors find me gone.
No bloated stench. No skeletal sneer.
Only a storm door banging mad in wind.
A Question For The Commander-in-Chief
When a bunker buster
falls in the desert
and no one
shows you photos
of the shadows
of little bodies
on concrete walls,
are the screams
of insane mothers
by the drone
White Lies Over The Passamari
Since oxygen and hydrogen combine
when kerosene is incompletely burned
at thirty thousand feet in crystal air
to form a gaseous water we can't see,
but know it's there because it changes
state, cooling in the rarefied minus seventy degree
Montana sky to first, (briefly,) liquid, and then to ice,
fine particles, yes, but solid enough
to refract a wan sun. " Contrail,"
we say, looking up over garden walls,
over the ridgelines of neighboring houses.
We follow the silver bird, and its vapor,
across the sky, the two small enough
to hide behind raised fists
because ice reflecting sunlight
takes on heat and changes back
to states we only dream. So what gives
with these spreading trails in tick-tack- toe?
Is it rocket science I'm not allowed to know?
White skies replace our deep blue days.
Shouldn't we expect a little say?
Sky Collapses On The Passamari
Winter sky drapes the land, like a canopy
dropped by unseen hands upon a cage.
Farm ground blurs between houses
at an imprecise place, over the creek,
beyond my neighbors' spruce. Past
what we can see spreads
the topography of an uncertain age.
Fence posts pitch and lose themselves
in fog, like stick men heading off
to evening chores, or the dutiful poor
marched off to kill the poor in forgettable wars.
What I took for granted and thought I knew
when sunbeams slanted through
transparent pain, seems now
untenable and untrue. Still, rockslides
and dying forests loom, like deficits
we must assume in this obscuring air.
The looted vault gapes, a victim's mouth.
Herefords steaming under willows
birth their calves. The little town rubs
its knees beside a flame and tunes
its set for a prompted reassurance.
I kick the empty streets in muffled gloom.
I bounce solid hopeful notes off walls
of unsold homes. Kept birds balance
in dim rooms, each night, a new deception.
With sky this low, could it be more clear?
What we need to know we musn't hate or fear.
On the Passamari, the dog star fluxes, red
to green, whether occluded or seen.
Fukushima, Passamari, Spring
Bow-legged two-legged, leaning on his hoe
peers for garlic, late, beneath the plum.
Shirt cuffs splay like stalling wings in wind.
He veers a stretch of sky between limbs
and bed, tallying spears as if a golden
gauging hares. Planes his friends insist
don't spray poison for many good reasons
and returning geese persist against
the pelt of fronts. A neighbor's tom
deserves his adulation. Clouds decay
to cumulus and haze when no fields burn.
A fat mouse dies without a kick in yellow grass.
Orach cotyledons pool in paths like blood.
Early spinach vernal under hog fence hoops
and plastic from the dump needs safe water
from the county's deepest well. Still, rain
threatens, at a hundred counts per minute,
not him so much but kids who play next door.
When did the world's backup generators seize?
The missing witness, shoeless on the tape,
muttering, stumbled- on by mistake
in a landfill heap. And this newest war,
when were there debates? He leans on stone
to sort intrusive roots from wanted stock.
One wind whips the town's flags all directions.
Doves weight air a gray he shoulders
like a bar. Admitting defeat so late and far
from sanctuary waves, snow geese argue
security measures all the way to straw. Truth
is north and hurts worse faced head on.
Land a million peasants hoed subsides
while dying aspens turn silver he can't save
and nations crash in gardens like the sea.
Aerosol merges white in ionized sky
when sun unwinds in tongues that peel his ears.
Teetering worlds lose bearings like bickering geese.
He takes the dog whose eyes yearn for a walk.
She shows him when you turn you're halfway home.
I came down in the morning
to find her, eyes open, stiff,
and let her lay in her blankets
against the sofa until mid-day.
When late- winter sun transcribed
the bare limbs
of the old Chinese elm
into inscrutable lines
on softening ground,
I laid her facing east
into her new day, covered her
with earth in the raspberries
and drove away.
The short trip to the dump
never seemed so long,
the muddy truck seat so empty,
as it did that day.
Magnetic Ribbons and the Yellowcake of Faith
When we wake puking shame
at last, and know the dream
for sham, embraced en masse...
When bells that rang victorious
hang mute, their tarnished claims
ignored in disrepute, and
bitter sons, having been all they
could be, can't wish back innocence
or the leg below the knee...
(This brash regime's trimmed reason
from its ranks, its black guard
in the street, protecting flanks.)
...then will we heed the schemers'
gloating leer? "There's no future,
for dissidents, here."
Row on row, with hand
in trembling hand, it's come to this:
We dreamers need to stand.