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, key holder—stegosaurs 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.
Chris Dombrowski is the author of two books of poems, most recently Earth Again. His sometimes-touring live-performance poetry trio, formed with Jeffrey Foucault and Billy Conway, is called Desolation Sound.