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Thorpe Moeckel


Old Cypress of the Black

To have watched the pin oak, because wet, burn slower than the birch;

to have felt the teal’s every roost
at the margin of twilight’s last shard,
to have had & to have held,

to have seen beneath the bark the wood’s harvests of sugar,
and heard it hiss, and smelled its kinship
to earlier stars;

to have marched forth, to have retreated

and then entrenched for years in love’s holy war;

we came to a place where the leaves
did not care for us anymore

than the returns. There

we stayed, two birds, flitting
among the fallen limbs.


Two wood ducks on a westward beam,
the sky a laminate,
a low ceiling—there
was ease again. We had no words
for the standing by. It was a burn.
It was toothmarks
on the cypress knee. Nobody spoke
of black sand or of smoke
from the fire
where February laid
its hands, gave another fragrance
to the rain
that we darkened with beans
and sipped by the bank
watching the beavers go
like need
this way & that.


All blemish & swarth. The bottom
wasn’t far,
               was sand, roots, blowdown.
What underwater
mistletoe grew? Nuthatch
in Spanish beard.
Low February sun in every face that lived
in or on the trees. A hard breeze, a harder stillness
to undo. The canoe far
too red & long. This way was fine.
That way was okay, & grew.


A dark translucence
of cinnamon: how the openings began
to swallow us
                    slower. Heron,
kingfisher, titmouse. Nothing dramatic,
yet a gulf of minnows,
            every edge,
a feathering of needles,
   bay leaf, tupelo,
in the loam.


To the edge of edgelessness we slid.
Even the turning had learned
to spill. Land again
like a disappointment.

The channels came together again.
There was no way
in the now unbridled sunlight
but out of cypress

to be hewn.


The river, without teeth, was darkly tongue.

We meant to stay under forever.
Life had rarely felt
so ribboned,
so what.


Two thousand years.
After that, things got tidal fast.
There were naps involved. There were children.
Another shoreline.
The wind gave us hell.
The ocean couldn’t stay put.



Thorpe Moeckel teaches at Hollins University. His third book, Venison: a poem, is forthcoming from Etruscan Press in spring 2010.
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