from "a long calendar in sleep"


a rake draws mazes in small rocks,
loosens an ant-thorax
clattering the dirt to echo
in the small wind that is
a constant winding
between weeded lines.
the colony left weeks ago—
they dug into the bedrock
& old copper pipes
to escape a fallen window
that trapped the June’s sun
into points. my hands
guide the rake past a conscious
image of stone. an eye
of crystal
on the top of it. the eye
wears this light well…


this is not an aubade: the wind
can’t properly harmonize
in the labyrinth’s passage.
the ant’s legs once crawled
over the walls in my Zen garden,
a straight line over curving paths.

a teacher once told me that a maze
without a roof should be surmountable.
we watched rats build ladders of stone.
this seems like it should be a metaphor
for sleep or a map to something...

maybe an X to mark where the ant’s head
came to rest, kicked up in air
of bird-feathers & leaf-blower 
operated by my neighbor’s 8-year old.
there are no leaves in June,
but he likes to find tumbleweeds
in the open spaces 
where the river used to be.


each passage will have grooves
in a wall of varying heights
where fingers or stones are dragged
in a variety of patterns. each
a story:
           glyphs of loss, of blindness, 
of the slow rumble of the earth
mistaken for the actual beast
that any explorer believes
exists at the center. if you start 
at one side of a maze
& navigate to the exit, you may
never encounter it.
if the stories told by ants
at night around the green earth-fires
are to be believed, this
is for the best.


the rake’s lines
are fractal, imposed
on the image of the stone’s eye.
in this rock garden, I take care
not to cast a shadow—any disruption
of light can shift
the corridors of small winds
& break the open paths
into fragments of dead-ends.

the ant-thorax cleaves pebbles.
it’s a measure of decay
in the languid flourish
of sand & perfectly eroded stone.
I’ve forgiven its body
tumbling on air currents—
I hope my teacher
will forgive the bodies
that accumulate in his dreams.

if I am not careful
as I stretch from my driveway
to the far corners of the garden,
footprints will cut fresh lines
in the ordered labyrinth
& rocks will slice blood-motes
out of our feet.


an old woman turns
cornmeal into gruel
& patches the stone
courtyard where her
chickens eat. she
often speaks in riddles,
of night wolves or
how a single orange tree
takes root in the eye
of a rusted needle.

when I was a child
in this same house,
she was old. she
blessed my rake, once,
but she never spoke
of mazes or ants.


she is not crone, the archetype. 

my mother left this house when I turned 


I was the only child.


my teacher shares a gift with her:
to dream in what once was called
             —words I’ve often
called into question.

in these words bodies lie,
sand-motes trembling
in rivulet of wind.
Avoid sinkholes, no matter
how small. & the graveyards
of ants shifting…

sun refracts in glass
shifts of red or blue
between the open spaces
where weeds could’ve grown 
except for these chemicals 
of the dead.

RYAN HOLDEN received his MFA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. His poems have been published in Country Dog Review, ditch, and Ampersand Review. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2011 by the Hobble Creek Review.
The Adirondack Review