This is my Hand
On the way back, it rained. Wind blew
the rain, in regimented gusts,
across the asphalt, shivering
the car. The road, gray as the river,
kept to the river, led as though blind.
It was on this drive back in the rain—
I say that it was on this drive,
since these things rarely, if ever, know
where they come from—that I thought again,
as if for the first time, headlights
of an oncoming car sprinkling
into view, the slithering hiss
of the downpour turned up by the slash
of passing, and the wipers whacking
back and forth, spreading the water
like Vaseline on a piece of toast,
that I thought again, and hopefully,
for the last time, that I might drag
up from the bottom, shovel-mouthed
and scaly, squinting at the light,
some creature equal to the way
life happens on an afternoon,
flooded with sensation, but
with nothing on its mind to tell
where it came from, what it wanted,
other than to keep us rafting
this waterfall of urgencies
in a storm of interrupted calms.
Red thread, circle of flame, small noose,
I wear a string around my neck
these days. It’s supposed to protect me.
From what, I forgot to ask the man
who gave it to me. I knew I would need it
someday, so I took it and thanked him.
I may have always needed it,
but I had gone about the perilous
intricacies of being afloat
in the world without it, without
even suspecting I might need it,
not knowing such a thing could be.
And I had survived. I was still here.
This is my hand.
The little knot
at the front won’t stay at the front,
so I tug at it from time to time.
The perils I thought would be mine
were not, and the little string with the knot
that won’t stay at the front of the neck,
fraying, tied there until it rots,
reminds me of my ignorance,
that I will never exhaust it,
that the sun rises somewhere, always.
The charcoal greens of the white pines
wet down by last night’s rain packed tight
in cloud. We could be out in that field
counting the footprints of a vole,
the number of wings on a dragonfly,
how long it would take to forget
who we were, long enough to come
up with an answer. The fog hawks
slowly over the river stones,
lifts off when it has seized its meat.
Reading Durrell again. Exotic
isolation, exiles from
the ordinary, prisoners
of exquisite ripples drawn by the wind
across the sand. No past except
the palimpsest all pasts have scratched
faintly on our breath and breathing,
like the glacial markings on the bare
stone of the mountaintops I look at
each day. And floating through my mind
that line about the crow I wrote years ago
but couldn’t find a home for, and so let
rattle about at the back of my mind,
an idea stumbled on
in thinking, one that imitates
the hidden movements of the sky,
the crow perhaps, the crow itself.
Late May. The glower of the clouds
low in the shallow valley, river
trembling in its banks. The tall candles
of the pines begin to flare. Never
has grass been greener or the dirt
more lovely to turn. It falls with a sigh
back to the earth. Worms are ecstatic.
The beetle shouts, Come see, come see.
I bang the clods against the tines
of the fork. Dirt drops on the dirt.
I pick a stone from its teeth and take it
up to the house humming something
unrecognizable but true.
They Ask Me What I Do
Continue my researches into clouds.
Clouds keep secrets better than stones, better
than years. Today they float above me, a fleet
of barges cut loose from outer space.
Maybe they wish they were down here sponging
the last shivers of winter off the twigs.
That big one in the middle of the sky
looked at me, I think. He likes the way
I’m sitting here on the deck scribbling
with the dog handy at my side. I have
so much to do, am only half-way in
this life, but the other half is watching
the afternoon’s best cloud come undone
so slowly it can’t be seen. If I turn away, though,
then back, there it is. Everything has changed.
Reunion of Strangers
Yesterday, I went out into the world,
and as often happens on days like this,
there was poetry and rain and a long drive
in the car and people who had lived
so long in their own worlds and been
so long themselves the world seemed
invented just then, unaccountable
and just like it was, gathered next
to a river rushing against its banks
so hard and fast the stones quivered.
Who were they to have lived so long
under a mountain, away in a valley,
way off in a life like mine, and why hadn’t
we met, or did we, and did we forget
when we went there? Yet there we were.
It was like a reunion of strangers,
of people we’d never been or known,
but people we knew we would be
one day and be glad to come back
to the place we left before the river
began and the town slid and the rain.
It was an afternoon, and we all looked
at each other like we knew something
it was so hard to know, and so old,
it was new, though we’d always known it,
and again, still, couldn’t say what it was.
I was out last evening
with the dog and the wind
and the light going down
and the trees up in their branches
beginning to sway.
And the dog and I sat
on the grass and let the air
go by, plus whatever it is
that air requires to be
what it is, transparence,
most likely, insistence
on being everywhere.
It was soft and smooth
and the new spring leaves,
lemon green in their newness,
caught just enough of the wind
to carry off the meaning
of being anywhere but here
on the grass beside a dog,
taking as much of it in
as we could and letting the rest,
whatever it was, find
other minds to tease.
It seemed for a moment this
was what we had, or were,
a laze on the grass with a dog
and the wind sanding the air.
It was like we were not there,
that all the contraption of being
was meant to help us see
by first keeping us from seeing
how pleasantly the wind
stole and calmly the dog lay
across the grass, and finally
how succulently held
in the mouth of the wind
we and everything were.