To obey, wake in the dark and put your head
in your hands. Look out the window and rest
your cheek on the shoulder of the mountain.
Rise and walk to where the creek falls finally
into the river—there an apple tree stands hung
with one last fruit: pick it or if it hangs too high
knock it down with a branch and eat it with three
juice spilling bites. From your knees kiss
the rill surrounded by forget-me-nots, beckon
a brook trout to your hands and if one arrives
study the vermiculate script worming along
its sides. Over a stick fire cook the fish until
its skin pales and peels back from the orange
flesh, then feed yourself—clean every last
silver rib and feed the skin and dead-eyed head
to the mass of ants on their moving hill. Fold yourself
into the small boat of those final bones. Row.
When the termites have gnawed holes in the deadfall
birch the downies adored before the windstorm,
the bobcat’s former perch from which she ambushed
grouse, smooth bole to which November’s thin light
clung—from that trunk, peel a yard of bark and wrap it
around your face. Then sleep. As you dream, the ravens
will arrive with sinews stripped from the haunches
of a fawn the coyotes ran until it crumbled, to stitch
your new mask shut. Without caw. Don’t startle
as, standing, you feel the small black ones that whiten
bones tumble from the sockets of your eyes. Your old eyes.
Who does not see this must blame his blindness.
Poem with the Downstairs Voices of Children Inside It
15 December, 2012
Down the lane in the dark
all the milkweed pods
open and empty, a whole field
of palms held up.
A loss of faith begins
with a loss of ritual:
cardinal I’ve never seen
but whose bright call I know,
please come this morning.
Our middle daughter has a tree
she calls “Buds,” sits inside
its branches and talks to it,
hears it talk, and a friend
invisible to us she calls
Bumfer: “When I got tired
of hiking Bumfer carried me.”
They’re downstairs drawing now:
if you could just see what
they drew, old December,
with candied armor, crowned
girls with pet Tyranosaurs—
you would turn the lock
for us, you would
let us through the door.
“Jumping on the bed
all day long, all day long,
all day long,” the little one
yells: the little ones,
all those little ones.
Small creature with hollow
bones whose burden is light,
I’m waiting. “Dad, Dad, you have
to see sunrise,” the boy says,
busting into my mournful room:
“It’s like a cut from God.”
Chunks of the bay, buoyant
in the bay. Spiders hibernating
in the pine I split. Shilpit
doe’s eyes strangely vacant
in porchlight. The gullied
heart. Root cellar drifted in
with leaves. Many letters written
without a pen. Each long nap
as a temporary death. The shut
pried momentarily open.
Three beach stones stacked
on the mantle. Cup filled
with water, bead traveling
crack in the porcelain. Wind
come upriver, quietlike, shining.
Marrakesh to Traverse City, 4,150 Miles
Then, right there, smack dab in the middle of winter,
a fig. On the sample tray at the health food store.
February’s cold rain shading to sleet ticking
against the windows, February having seeped into
bloodstreams, silent as a pesticide through fruit skin.
But it says organic? O poet laureate of boot slush,
The snow outside is strobing now, a density
of white the air seems reluctant to receive, clemency
nowhere if not within the gritty sugars of this
fig, offered now on a palm covered by plastic glove.
Biodegradable of course. A gesture only unabashed
pleasure can redeem. February, coy ash spreader,
leave our foreheads alone: we’ve enough reminders
of the dust to which we shall return. Take and eat.
Swirling outside the window a flurry of archangels
waits to gauge the density of your joy. Reports to the Lord.
Autumn birches reflected in pond photo by Renata Apanaviciene, courtesy Shutterstock.