I’m walking on a beach,
the tide is low and no one is talking,
splintery crabs hiding in kelp beds,
an arrangement of mergansers
shuffled on the water, their loopy hoods
puffed up like forgetfulness—
absence mapping its piece of mind.
Give it fifty years.
mudholes in a rainforest
soaked in shades of green
going gray, appraising here and there
a nurse log with its row of sapling firs
lined up like a kindergarten class,
slime mold like finger paint
among glades of deer fern and maiden fern
I brush through
footnoting the dissertation of a wren.
Someone hands me a letter—
it was just yesterday,
it hit me like the oldest living thing
on earth still eking out its long resurrection—
seagrass silting, map lichen grafting
continent to stone to sketch
a scion life I never lived only
to read about it later the way a diver
reads the bends.
Delicately I cross
hectares of crab
the zodiac has stranded,
spiders by the causeway stitching
filaments of light
to leaf to shade
when overnight a fog arrives
dripping invisible ink.
What else goes
missing in a blink?
Heroine in a gothic novel.
Pebbles dribbled on a forest trail.
Snail whorled into
its own long wandering in place.
So Vikings in their longships
enter second grade.
Grass grows over the drifting harbor.
No one says I look just like my mother
sharpening a pencil or a spade.
General amnesty when the fog
rolls out again. Longships
unfurl longshoremen loading
and unloading trains—
so many nights rattling off
the boxcars in my head,
miles to count the sleepers
laid out one body at a time
born again three towns away.
Maybe you’ve seen those trees
joined at the hip—
towering trees like
yellow cedar mountain hemlock—
unlikely twins rooted in one
plot of loam—each cleaving
to the other’s shadow, each reading over
the other’s shoulder
at the sun end of the hall
that missive they’ve been
all this while mixed up in—
Cold streak in spring—
the city in scarves and down jackets
beside a bonfire that wouldn’t ignite
the frozen scowl of a taciturn monk.
A little snow falls between cobbles
dusting for fingerprints.
A stone fountain burbles in an icy tongue.
What people there are
out-of-doors, wrapped and padded,
scurry between heat lamps
looking for a place to warm their vowels.
Stray dogs move beyond the walls of the city
sniffing out catacombs in low relief.
Since part of this is dreaming anyhow,
throw in a snow leopard
shadowing an orphanage, that old tale
churning through ambiguous loss.
I have to take it in stride, the window howling
like hearing your name shouted over
a field of flowers cut and potted—no one’s father
calling you home for supper.
A tavola I call you, wisteria
to fresco this chapel of the polar vortex
mauve. One daughter’s a medievalist now
assembling her candlelight dissertation
by the Seine. The other moves reluctantly
through middle school watching as dawn
squares a window like the closing credits
of a movie she loved
reciting every character by heart.
I count the bodies in absentia as snow
falls like plaster out of the highlight reel
Romans in the piazza wave through saying
come out see for yourself the columns are moving
leopards prowling beside the river’s negative.
Walls beneath this city flash proper teeth:
backfill of statuary, broken dishes,
acanthus leaves dropping
from the tramway above. How easy to get lost
in someone else’s story. The only way out
is through that frieze of bodies disentangling,
naming each face until
you find the ones who answer their inheritance
sifting limb from loam.
– after Ötzi
Not much for conversation.
It starts in the feet—
heels like rime ice,
It calves in the frost-
bitten tongue. I was
a mountain dogged
by leaden cloud.
on a camouflage stone.
To each his own
renown. Snow mixed
with other verbs—mist
wrench (run for it) rage.
Nothing moves me
like ice retracting
up the couloirs of a trodden age.
So many things
I’d take back:
tattoo on the overlooked shoulder,
the quiver of wands,
grass seed clinging
to trousers like a sure path
through the meadow.
Let me hold again the ember
wrapped in oak leaves, middling
cubby hole of kindling
stripped of my name.
I live inside this
house of glass, shutters prying.
Hailstones pelt like a baby shower,
I walk in circles to keep warm—
the cabin glazed
with condensation. Self-
talk. Each day passes
like a century of smolder.
Face inside a floe,
breath inside a hanging
cloud, draw closer.
I’d kiss you for an arrow’s
worth of flight.
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