GATE BY A BOAT POND
Like a logo, one tree shading the gate
previews a whole silver arboretum
along the southern shore. These make up
a larger, more approximate bank to secure
the meadow against waterís encroachments,
though the opposite is more likely:
that earth will seal the place of reflection,
ruining all the spin-offs of heaven
that can be assembled from sparse sky
whose only cloudís a thumb-smudge
of white. Why not then, a formal gate,
a square, old-fashioned lock hungry
for graphite, that will nonetheless
show the bars of heaven falling away
at your shoulderís heave-to
and the three fettered boats scarcely moving
in their cove, their oars blistered,
oarlocks empty as music lyres sticking
from the bells of discarded instruments?
NOT THE TALL GRASS
Even spotted with sarcomas, leaf-mould,
egg-cases, and the clean-bore holes
left by complacent worms, the fig tree
sees to its own dead indiscriminately
with a seamís load of fruit.
Mounting sun-warmed church stones
miles away one could rise to its window-
apertures to locate spiritís participation
where green bounded green, and a hill
became plural. For on one side
bars of rain advanced on the promontories,
announced by sticks of lightning;
on the other, a field of sunflowers
like lungs before diving, stood
at fullest bloom for miles. We
came to affirm an identity in stone--
until earth could yield a second
figure equal to our mass, as granite
and marble trimmed the spirit with irony,
and the eyes could be startled again
there, where the mower stopped.
Foreground: wheat close up
and the morningís birds. Doves
packed in stone chatter brilliantly.
Background: gauzy, not much help:
hills are nets, each node a village.
By the cinquecento, the mariner myth,
like the bookish shepherd who lugs
a sacked lamb across the landscapes
of countless murals, had set in: time-
as-sea, as much time as a net lets pass,
until waves rise up into question marks
before rolling on to find, everywhere,
stony coast materializing from mist.
And sea-as-si, that term of assent, that
agreementóso long in coming to let
stones take the place of waves.
Church bells send no picture but hover
in consciousness the way bees
slog away at the last sprigs
of wisteria. Spring-like October
warmth is equally for form's sake,
its month-long drought, a yawn.
But inside, the letting-go
continues unabated. How quickly
and with what fine a sense,
you hesitate to speak as presently
of still-present things!
It is a feeling unmarked in the forest
where the letting-go, also,
continues unabated, all the way
to the solid canopy of leaf and wood.
Sparrows too remote to be other
than mere silhouettes
follow each other down
paths degenerating into vectors
where every sighting becomes a V,
before which the mind enacts
the passion that figures possess,
when pictures share the destiny of a wall.
SCENES ON AN OBELISK
The people across raise the flag of their laundry.
A cypress blocks St. Peter better than atheism.
Little bits of animation link up
into archipelagoes: beetles are the traffic
up and down a trunk, the trunk forking
in time to wave alike over a passing car
and a rooftop full of aerials.
All that was spirit seems naturalism
caught in the light.
A cross-dressed monk feeds the poor
cats of his block from a can.
Their satisfaction leaves them mild
for the morning, as he slips behind
a human-dwarfing door, exchanging sunlight
for a dark hallwayís eroded slate,
and the darkness takes him
before the perspective does.
SUCH AS STONE
A man on the pavement sweeps
dust down an incline, ìthe dust cure,î
someone calls it, as more dust behind him
rising from a construction pit
gets a ride from windshields and fairings.
The silhouette of an old woman
framed more delicately than a Giotto
becomes the profile of a sink
which flares, in turn, into a sunburst.
Thus did mannerism acquire a bad name,
but not among pots and pans
nor a porchís disjecta membra--
urns, ladder, hoses, tables--
for which regulation is greeted
with the inertís equivalent of a shrug.
Nor among pigeons whose sameness
imposes upon nothing, taking nothing
as text. Rooting among tiles,
bobbing under cars, they almost remember
their squeaky pinionsí logical finale.
But of escaping stone there is no end,
nor of finding it where air would be,
the lofty reaches, where a little dust
scouts the spaces, doing what air does
when speech and exhalations
move it off the stone.
END OF SIGHT
At first I thought of the leaves:
soon only backlit, except for streetlampsí
ambient blank. But then I noticed
cars moving between trees
and on the next block, porch lights
and lighted windows half given
over to blinds. Finally the last
in the harvest of lightning bugsó
just one or two, really, like tugboats
into some depth (once a regression
of poppies swallowed by the infinite)ó
went out in time to draw the ear in
to the soughing of the treetops
and a private plane somewhere,
invisible, pulling its weight.
And that pulled the eyes after it, up,
beyond the darkened green to the smooth,
featureless presence of the sky,
until they were finally on their own
and useless at the same time,
as if the end of sight were
the point of sight.
Sunset burns a mansard slope
into a Hopper painting, complete
with the Doppler effect of tires
changing tenses and distances offstage.
A mosquito speculates about the terrain
of my hand. Clouds stiffen
as they settle into treetops,
themselves whispering, leaf-reversible
as an all-weather jacket.
Birds pair and return to silhouettes.
Things settle, as nothing is settled--
the hubbub and vexations ushered out
as the cat ignores the squirrel,
whose practical Wallenda stride
expands into a rueful spring
until the rooftop is breached
and the lamp which was eclipsed
by opaque daylight, reasserts
its singularity, and gaps close rank
until whether it is all gap
or not-gap presses no curiosity
to the fore, only further deepening,
since it was always deep out there,
always trees hushing something.
Where the hummingbird sleeps my murder
is atoned for: invisible repose is the thing.
The lurid nightmares of Mother's last spring
lie down in a flower pot in centripetal order
like frieze-petals, while below the border,
a little rat tests the patio ring--
rank tail, whiskered snout sniffing--
a hunched coke-head cruising the French Quarter.
Three sparrows and a low-slung robin
vie for fountain space--all striving and fuss,
and now space signals the all-clear.
Such dreams play escort down the dead-end.
There is no calming the pronouns--I, her, us.
Does light rest, if beauty begins in fear?
The light flat like this and the garden
given over to riot. There was my father
waving his arms and whistling ìTales
from the Vienna Woods.î There was my mother
reduced to a bird, propped on her deathbed,
staring in anger at all who appeared
within her nursing home ken. And my brother
the day I confirmed my misericordia
riding in my car, and his ample solicitude
and silence. A light like like this one
that turned all to mugshots, as if implying
a story--Holbein's face, Van Gogh's boots
before the ground tilted and offered
its old face to the dusk.
Enough leaves to make a nation
blow at once; their branches dip
like actors, like Hopper
and wife Jo in harlequin dress
when they had done with nature.
New green, hungry generations
shimmering just off the yard.
The hunger and the beauty bridge
the space between them, a split
second wandering a moment
in its partiality before righting
itself and, contra Zeno, making
a conclusion, messed and hanging,
the outcome of the start.