For several languid afternoons
the blackbirds have gathered
like a congregation of frozen ash
in the broken live oak shading the highway.
Their muttered, muted gossip
reaches me on the rotted porch
that’s hemorrhaging its paint
in the thin winter gloom,
a fast-decaying tape
unspooling its last threads,
magnetic flakes vanishing
between the roots and leaves.
Inside during the maelstrom,
I press an absentminded hand
to the upstairs window
at the end of the hall,
where a wasp’s nest
is trapped between panes
like a fragment of amnesiac time,
and count the milling number,
mourners assembled at a wake,
seeing the season underground.
The View From Thompson Mill Road
Friend, stand with me at the threshold of the ebbing,
near harvest-hour of leaning cornstalks and carved gourds,
where the careless wilds of summer race raggedly
towards autumn’s melancholy frost.
Let us share a small ration of lingering warmth,
for this is a season of impermanent gestures,
of voices half-heard through walls
and long sighs in the dooryard,
amidst the rust and weedy cinderblock.
These are the fast-gathered months of time forgetting itself,
of cold and getting lost in hallways,
sealing holes in last year’s sweaters.
Our house tips bare and hollow in darker weather,
its watermarks slow-slipping across the ceiling to the splintered rooms,
it’s stairs ascending to a nest of shadows.
Fall is rooks in the live oak and long gazes from cracked windows.
Let’s linger for a spare moment here, in the equinox’s fevered clutch,
to remark sweetly on clouds passing over towers atop the mountains,
our heart’s landscape of shattered and blinking lines,
of steam-draped chimneys and half-erased suburbia at the woods’ swarming edges.
All is focusing here, the haze and heat crystallizing and turning to fine glass,
and we have only now,
another summer blurring towards amnesia,
plaguing us with ghosts for all Octobers to come.
An X On A Photograph
In forgotten days you were suspended in the air,
a haze in the void that moved like waves of thick glass.
Between yawning pines you hovered, curse-like,
a portent unremarked on but witnessed
in side-cast glances and anxious shuffles homeward.
There was a gravitational pull to your freeward float,
unable to lift skyward, like a spectre trapped in a room.
Disembodied but present, glimpsed in reaching shadow,
you were conjured at a remove, in those held breaths
between telephone calls, in the static throb and burn
of lost frequencies on endless drives to outskirts.
You were in the streets like electrical fire,
all negative space and a careful grave,
tended like a frozen pond or barren field,
a safe distance torn apart by blank forces.
I have felt a weight
like a collapsing house pouring down around me,
littering its splintered doors and
jagged runners of glass in my hair,
opening veins for blood to seep
through clutched hands through a darkening nowhere.
This quiet inertia will eventually pull the stars from their
drag the very sky itself into the black hollows of the earth,
to disappear beneath an undisturbed surface
with me at its center,
dazed by flaming years too bright to see directly.
The Weight Of Years
The weight of years
all collapsed and broken in the yard,
left to corrode in a ruinous winter rain
between many draping stalks,
all stuffing-sprung and leaking
days months hours like black-tipped toxins,
to ferment along the crumbling
banks of the drained and fallow stream-bed,
evaporates to fine dust when touched,
yet lingers like a hand pressed against
a curve of shoulder at the blue hour.
How long until this winter’s over?
Last week it seemed the streets
bled dust like forgotten attic trapdoors,
a grit so solid that a thousand
lawn sprinklers failed to carve its surface.
Now the streets run cold and black-ice slick
clear out to a snow-hill’d horizon,
all ribbons of frost like the powdered ash
of ancient mammoth volcanos,
far out beyond this corridor of sagging
houses and tangled, crumbled fields,
sleepwalking like a trance into an aether.
Polar Vortex, 2014
To dust and ashes, the late season’s gusts,
whipping about the house as if feverishly
seeking out some mystery tucked beneath its beams,
whistling through the upstairs halls
to stitch a veil of chill along the posts and the staircase.
This end-of-day blue at the curtain of our southern sky
is stretched taut like old paper over the night swelling beneath,
bleeding like a bruise capsizes worried bones,
a stain of wine pooling on a littered tablecloth.
These are the half-awake days,
grasping for purpose and reasoning
in fogged alleys between the mills
and down the shattered cobblestones,
a bourgeoning of something pale and shadowed
and gathering like magpies on the traffic lights.
February Burlington Lament
Oh, smallest hint of spring in the wayward currents,
pause for awhile in our brick and winter-battered town,
light upon branches with the softest breath of warmth and hazy sun,
so that we might endure the grim finality of these grayest months,
and how they strike out with frozen fury at the houses and the street-corners,
where we pile space-heaters and blankets
as battlements against the fierce young year.
Earliest sign of approaching gentler seasons,
walk with us through the black pine and sumac trail,
and stir them to sing with your yellow-green fingertips;
this winter’s been so cold, we seek your kind reprieve,
so cast down your lot in our little city,
that we might emerge from paralyzed sleep once more.
Now the seasons cast their worried stones against this wall
where we’re burnished gold by a drunken, sagging sun.
Here’s the glow that haunts our celestial acreage,
darkening, quickening, a knife’s edge pressed against
the trembling hands of descending dusk.
These are seawashed bones upon a foreign shore,
where sand and soot plot passages away from tumbling waves,
and pine-tops crumble like the dust they secretly
know they are, the weight of hawks settling with
furious, beating wings, hazarding a view of a distant expanse.
I am alone at last with little but light and thought to keep me,
time for few regrets and to muse upon even less,
an outpost untroubled by spirits or more earthly concerns,
beyond the rocks, beyond the stacks of burning sulfur,
with only the fog for companionship’s sake at my table.
Early April, Burlington
Winter’s bitter grasp has receded now,
though lines of faded light still haunt
the distant hills at evening’s close,
and the trees remain gray configurations of bones
in the deepening green of waking backyards.
There’s still traces of earth and cold lingering in these walls,
territories of candied frost along windowsills and steps,
and though the birds have grown bolder in their stirrings,
we remember the silent cast of snow on unlit streets,
and the rattle of plows traversing the neighborhood.
Yesterday, the cat brought me a rabbit,
young and soft as a fallen feather,
a single claw piercing its heart, staining the
fresh white fur with the deepest cloak of red.
At day’s, end, she had felled another
and left it on the porch threshold where we ate,
and it seemed spring’s magnetic orbits
of birth and death were there with us,
like a feastbound ghost floating in the margins.
The Slow Fade
All passing fragments of days are denouements being born,
seeking out the joining of their twain in the gentle gravity
of moments lost sinking between tidal uncertainties.
We have little use for time, anymore.
The hills through the warped glass of the landing window
bulk black and out of focus, stained and vague.
These woods remain the fiery winter outlands
where roads meet like a secret pact among conspirers,
whisper-thick in the shadowed traces of branches
now swept against solemn highway-bound fields,
a foreground and a backdrop all at once.
A shroud drifts drunkenly down from blue rafters of sky
and night is in her still, drowned dominion,
held hovering past a bridge ensnared in vines,
a pale face floating through dusk like a foregone conjuring.
Spirit, keep us from our yearnings and our
sweet, nostalgic wanderings, and bear us through
these turning points where the walls give way to blankness.
Remember now the fraying of shadows,
the transparency of hours witnessed through a veil
stitched tightly with wandering forgottens.
Time lifts languidly past towered waves
that roar blackly against sorrow’s sands,
like tears and scratches on the lost attic film,
or wounded hands clasped against the darkfall.
Now remain indoors, the storm has descended
this snow-wreath’d mountaintop,
and no headlights dare cut the gloom
as you steer your crumbled way across
your map of worn, indulgent nostalgia,
thrust into the arms of regret, of towns
with stray-dog borders and
wayward allegiances devouring
along fire-carved hillsides.
There’s gravity in these harrowed fields,
these slow sleeping buildings and interstates,
and the glow through the collapsed birches
where the sun decays its abject half-life,
a land swept apart by candles in windows
and hex signs scrawled in chalk on barn doors,
the whisper of shorelines and skiffs unsailed,
and the songbird’s most desolate call.
© 2011, Lost Trail