I’ve just cut the mower off, and now
a siren uncoils in the still air.
Late afternoon; the horizon leaks
a smear of iodine over the pear trees…
The wail deepens, and I am then afraid,
as if I could be hurt without
knowing it. No one is on the street;
the neighbor’s dog naps unalarmed…
And still I stand in my yard, watching
color pool into the orange tulips, thinking:
nothing is wrong, not here, not now.
Lady Murasaki was mother’s mare and Flying
Cloud was father’s, his favorite, a pale strawberry roan.
Little Fox was mine, upon whose back I broke
Loose those locked rooms, that
House. The Ranch, Goleta,
The impossible fire. A field, a world, a winter
Of singing that would not stop. At night,
Even now, I can hear the sound
Of great flocks passing overhead.
Knee-capped on the second Tuesday of the month
by two of the stringy cunts
he’d last bought a round for at Christmas
put paid to the plans for ascending Everest,
and playing for Rangers, even in goal
(though it left open Glentoran, as his father’d suggested).
The pistol jammed and they kicked him over.
They could break his legs, they offered,
but he waited, and another gun was brought,
and the barrel held against his calf
(friends, see, so they spared his knees),
and the trigger pulled and the bullet shot.
Opening fire: slitting the skin of the side of the flame.
He’d helf a bomb the same weight as he’d been when born.
Pan back. Agree with that, the thought he had until he blacked,
what with one arm splayed under, and the other
swung over the blade of his shoulder,
he must, from above, make sense as a signpost.
From the Royal’s window he got a clear view.
An air vent on a roof lent a heat haze to Belfast,
and two cranes swung their arms low over the city.
as if giving a blessing. Incredible to stay upright
with all that gathered weight. He spied his father’s house,
but all the lights, strange that, were out.
I guess it was the rain that sent them
To her room, the urban rain that starts
With a great fuss but nothing like the rain
That catches you on a field or shore with no
Place to go. They might have stood in doorways,
Under awnings or parking lot overhangs,
By the edges of other peoples’ umbrellas.
They might have gotten a drink or a cab
Or stepped inside the middle of a movie
When mystification makes all plots subtle,
The villain a hero of our own confusion,
Co-stars taking on the leading roles.
They might have indulged consumer desire,
Charging trench coats and festive rain hats,
Allowing themselves to be intimidated
By department store clerks, suited waiters,
Or couples who comment on the passing shoes.
They might have stood against a scrawny tree,
Pretending they had lost their forested way.
Instead, they agreed they did not like the rain,
That it bothered them and made them cold,
that they would follow the dotted puddles
Back where she would make them tea, where
They worried about their throats then kissed a lot
In the bathtub anyway. Leaning on the radiator,
Afterwards he wore her roommate’s fuzzy robe.
I heard a lone wolf howl across the snows,
On far Alaska’s melancholy shore.
The blinking huskies, rousing from a doze,
Voiced the wild music in their hearts once more.
It seemed that here was neither day nor night,
Just changeless bitter cold and long grey dawn.
I almost wearied of the Northern Light;
O’er endless drifts I plodded on and on.
I shuddered at the Northland’s want of cheer.
Her children drink sweet sadness at her breast.
Like love of lost ones whom we held most dear-
Who feels her spell, shall elsewhere find no rest.
In my bed your body is an island
inhabited by a cautious race of men
whose elaborate rituals were designed
for safety, like the shaking of hands
to show an absence of weapons,
or the sharing of food to prove its purity.
They are united, they rally
to a common cause, so that
when possible danger appears,
they line up, each with one knee
on the ground for balance,
shields side by side,
the reflected sun bright enough
to blind the approaching figure,
me, waving a hand.
Now and then one’s caught by himself
off-duty, the tribe’s chant
dim in the distance. Sometimes
he hears a song that seems
to come from his own blood’s rhythm.
But he checks himself,
returns to the village quickly,
rarely tripping on roots,
for he’s memorized the path,
cut away offending branches.
Safely back, he joins the others,
sleeps in his own hut, in tune
with the breath of his brothers.
He knows if he keeps still long enough
the music will stop.
From Birdsong, by Jelaluddin Rumi
I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow
and called out,
”It tastes sweet, does it not?”
”You’ve caught me,” grief answered,
”and you’ve ruined my business.
How can I sell sorrow,
when you know it’s a blessing?”
From under a tree that’s changed
in the seductive February heat, pink
centers and white petals spelling
spring, a friend and I look up to admire a woman
who wears a yellow scarf against the wind-
she’s stepped quickly to her car
with all her hidden intentions, and though
she’s thrown open the door, she just stands there,
not troubled, we sense it, by a bird
cawing or a book forgotten, but absolute,
as if she’d understood from the wind,
or from her shadow staring right back up at her,
how she might remain and remain,
Then I was back at the old house, my brother
The two of us racing through the yellow sagebrush,
Dust rising from the earth like mother’s
Drunk words, spies in the hallway.
Shadows in the orchard.
Billy’s hand in mine, leading me into the wood.
A boy’s beginning, as if for the first time, Come on,
He said, Let’s find something still alive
Left to kill.
Because what I liked about them best
was their ability to thole,
that weathered silence and reluctance,
fornenst the whole damn lot.
They’ve lived alone for years of course,
and watched their cemeteries filling up
like car parks on a Saturday,
their young grow fat for export.
There are others who know what it is
to lose, to hold ideas of north
so singularly brutal that the world
might be ice-bound for good.
Someone has almost transcribed
the last fifty years of our speech,
and has not once had the chance
to employ the word sorry
or press the shift to make the mark
that indicates the putting of a question.
The arch was put up wrong this Spring
outside my father’s office.
When you enter it states
Safe Home Brethren,
and upon leaving the place