Homage to Donne

Baltimore and Brazil

 

Just when our Ravens kick off, we hit the bottom
of the wrong exit:       old downtown, sinister bricks
hosting browns as cold and varied as alpine snows.
Nothing else is      so high, that overpass thrumming,
dangling with speed. The glass shards, the streets here—knotted
oblique angles of anxiety      and slow dark cars.
Next week I’ll clip a camera to a handheld wand
nosing canopy:      sunned feathers in full palette,
edging the space of tenacious scarlet macaws,
vocals loud as their garish colors—their feathers
inspiring the makeshift belts of young girls and boys,
voluble on the arrows and headdress of chiefs.
In minutes we’ll weave our way out of here—to the highway,
tossing back beers, cheering,      the loud stadium miles away.

 

 

 

 

Black Pond

out back

 

Even when the sun rises
high enough to cast light      for an afternoon made short
by tall, surrounding maples,
the pond is blatant, black with foreboding—
when light is a trowel      slowly smoothing the surface
yet bringing a complicating glare—
when black goes transparent,      an eye’s pupil,
a cold wind from an open window
hitting the skin at the same moment
you fear the end—even then      the pond builds fog.
Whatever drinks from this
will be a thing I can’t explain or know.
A tree swallow flies inches above      but doesn’t skim a drop.
The only snakes are black ripples every few moments
from a weak wind. If oxygen exists, this exists, too,
a secret lived without knowing.
Something is cooking here. An old skillet piles up
scabs of burn—a furnace deep in the earth
knows the compression of gravity      and not much else,
like God. The pond is round as zero and goes down
more than miles.       Or maybe it’s a piston, about to turn on—
when it does      I’ll be close without having planned it.
A widespread engine spans the length of eyesight.
I reject it. Thick as it is, the blackness doesn’t do great harm
at its edge—golden Koi swim there, flourishing
just below the surface, not even trying.

 

 

 

Power Line

High Summer in Georgia Mountains

 

Alive in the color of bark,
a power line emerges from trees, thick woods
outside my cabin—and plugs in
below the ridgepole. I notice the strength of my chair.
I walk on hardwood and grip
an oak knob to open the cabinet. I think I get it…
then wonder—what part do leaves play
in bringing power to this place? Their contours, partnered
with wind, might add shading
to assist my vision
as, drinking from a blue tankard,
I raise my eyes from beer to ceiling. 
Trees are leaning together in conversation
outside the big window—
that’s wind, too. A decision’s been made.           
Now the wind dies down, the trees grown
introspective, pondering. I hope their plans
don’t leave me out.      I’ve willed myself
against the rational: birds twitch on dowels of feeders
like busy words. When they fly—always
abruptly—their conclusions
are open-ended      and going away.

 

 

 

Timothy Houghton leads birding hikes for Audubon. He also teaches at Loyola University-Maryland. His latest book is The Height in Between.

Photo credit: Tau Zero via photopin cc.

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