I smile at you, the sort
I’ve been warned
about, across the barn.
Pale hair grows
above your lips.
Light from one lone
bulb high in the rafters
in every direction.
Horses swish and stamp,
lean out to be touched.
We ride, you behind,
racing from the gashed
mouths of our mothers,
our fathers’ broad
Filled full, electric
the dome of sky
covers us to the end
of wheat fields and rivers
where another world begins.
The horse that you love
carries us far from the farm.
Your hands touch skin beneath
my wind-billowed blouse.
and on the table
mangoes and pears.
a bird sings.
Pineapple stencils, faded red, ring
the room, a border below the ceiling.
Late afternoon light confettis through locust
leaves, lacing the walls where we lie, discussing
the habits of hawks, on a white iron bed, covered
with blue-striped sheets, cool as a summer dawn.
Doves coo and prowl the undergrowth. Down valley
thunder trembles and the air is suddenly still.
Golden hairs shimmer on your arm
then rise electric next to mine.
You grasp my hand across
the oak table rubbed smooth
with years. Fire from the stone
hearth lights our eyes tonight
as words, heavy as snow,
fall from our lips.
One summer evening
dancing on the pier
under a low-slung moon,
my ear next to your heart,
the sky flashed tiers of fire.
Today we trod the woods
below the barn. You wore
your frayed, red-hooded coat.
My arms lashed your thin waist
to mine as we journeyed out
across the sea of leaves
slippery beneath our feet.
That last Sunday he asked me to take
down pictures, cards and streamers.
He was going home.
Then I touched his skin,
papery from radiation,
the first time in months.
I even kissed him.
In the bed where he died
he lay covered except his head.
I hated how his mouth
didn’t close. I wanted him to look
beautiful loosening the mooring
One summer, years ago, we climbed
the canyon, hawks floating high
on the thermals.
He lifted his hand,
shaded my eyes from the sun.
Tonight the air in the attic holds
secrets. Papers scatter the chestnut
floor, spill over the rim of a dusty
box. I lift one thin letter
from its envelope.
It is what he wrote to me
the night a starling
flew from the linden tree.
Five years on the hill beneath
the hundred-year-old copper beach
you have watched days rise
above your slender grave.
Difficult to believe you are contained
in airless space, you who filled
rooms with laughter and ideas,
restless for the world and for me.
Seven or eight times I have lain
where you rest, faced stars,
the dark sky teeming,
alien and vast. Not once
have I been brave enough to turn
and lie face down against the grass.
AND THEN AGAIN
Most mornings I awake with courage
which usually vanishes by noon.
Then the high sun obliterates all shadow
and the winds have died.
The village horn sounds lonesome
remnant of the rural life.
Afternoon hours settle still
over the land, the lake and me
as I thumb through a throng
of possibilities which tomorrow
I may take seriously.
As the day begins its burn into evening
I again feel as brave as the warriors
who once owned these hills, as bold
as the red-tail that swoops down
for its prey. And then again
I know the boat will be there,
its nets in fine repair, oars in well-oiled
oarlocks, the water calm
as I journey out.
Come with me into the garden,
see especially the fisted peonies
where tiny ants crawl, an opening.
And over here
the feathery nepeta attracts butterflies
Earlier, crows everywhere.
I wonder about the lives of crows, how
their intelligent, ambitious hearts
get them into paintings, novels, and poems,
even the garden at Howard’s End, calling
from the gate post to other crows
close by in fields.
Think about the care and thought
it takes to make a garden,
about how knowing there are cool pastures
of grass and glade beyond
gives added sweetness to the bright scent
of a summer morning. How the coyote
prowling the meadow with its fierce dream
can will the heart to move.
Who does not remember the first garden.
In the beginning, Eve, completely comfortable,
stands naked beside Adam enjoying the shade
of the considerable apple tree. They are innocent,
unafraid, about to understand shame, what I
sometimes feel when I cannot let my mind
run wild, knowing I am the bee, the butterfly,
that I am the ant, the blossoming.
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