It was always there.
Before me, before I was six.
In the backyard.
Rectangular block, perfectly hewn.
Who made it?
Was this rock God?
On my swing in the oak tree,
I flew alone within my woodsy world,
keeping the rock in view.
Mommy was in the kitchen making dinner.
Did she know where babies came from?
Had she ever thought of that?
I looked at the rock.
Did babies come already made like this rock?
I went inside to ask.
Sounds of House and Wood
swaddled in dreams
I listen to the gentle
closing of the door
and think of you.
Rising early, eating
alone, padding about
not to wake your loved ones,
you tiptoe purpose.
Today a hammer
strikes across the hill,
change and interruption
to this natural environment.
I appreciate the quiet
of the woods and
the kindliness of you.
Listen to the snow murmur down the pines,
strain to hear the snowplow finally coming through.
Listen for the phoebe bringing signs of spring,
saw-whet owl playing us a trick,
rustle of the wind rehearsing leaves for fall.
But my favorite sound of house and wood
always comes through you.
The gentle shutting of the door,
and then, working day past,
it opening up again,
and you’ve come home.
This morning I memorize that sound,
knowing that someday it will only be
a memory in the treasury
of my heart.
Puttied Nails and Peppermint Patties
Today I scrape the house Ezra, my grandfather,
built for his daughter and Brooklyn-bred husband.
Labor and love combined to last a century.
I attack an overhang, each nail carefully puttied over.
Perhaps a thousand thumb prints he planted in this house.
Simple Sears Roebuck design—Ezra added molding
curving with grace.
Ezra Moore known for his waltz
and fox trot at the brick town hall,
out of work during war years—
no money for carpentry
in this small town.
Almost September now, I scurry
to complete a section of his wall;
my school year starts next week,
all hours filled on my dance card.
Ezra smiles as we drive up-street in his
convertible buggy to buy a four-year-old
a box of peppermint patties at the A&P.
I sit on the carpet and eat the whole box
while he attends the World Series on the radio.
Mother storms the room.
“Daddy, how could you let her eat
ALL the candies!”
I scrape over another puttied nail.
The putty holds, and I consider
buying some peppermint patties.
We sit at the table.
I eat my peas,
you eat your broccoli.
Hey diddle diddle,
the cat and the fiddle.
We daydream out the window,
to the stove, to the clock, to our plate.
How was your day?
What did you have for lunch?
The cow jumps over the moon.
The knife slips in the salad,
the lettuce bungee jumps to the floor;
your bare foot brushes my ankle,
I gently stomp your toe.
The little dog laughs
to see such fun
and your dish cuddles up
with my spoon.
Winter Dawn, Winter Dusk
Gray on white
out the window 6 a.m.
You get ready to descend:
boots, outer pants, puffy
purple jacket, woolen hat,
Off you go into darkness hoping
to find the car battery still friendly
at the bottom of the hill.
Willing you not to slip,
I peer out the window
until you are out of sight
of the lantern’s feeble light.
In an hour the sun
will arrive in the east; or
sometimes dull gray will hug the
house like an undertaker’s glove.
Who can tell at winter dawn?
* * *
Now, day past, the lowering sky
becomes deeper, contributing
to a dark dusk walk uphill.
I’m at the window again
seeking a glimpse of movement
in the Breugelesque landscape
frozen before me.
Almost a surprise,
your measured pace
advances into view,
until you stand just yourself
stamping on the steps.
Late Spring Hair
I felt a whisper pass my cheek
in the warm thick breath of a late spring day.
The hair fell light across my face
as I viewed its closeness,
oh so soft;
and as I stared
I entered the pasture of my hair
to stand among the yellow.
Then it slipped slowly down my cheek
and out of sight,
as someone who has said hello
passes by in the burst of midday.
Funnel cloud of a heart
soft as deerskin slippers,
mushroom born of dark magic,
are you the heart of darkness
Conrad wrote about?
Funnel cloud of a heart
you lodge in my chest,
dark with velvet lies,
sometimes a leopard eating my soul,
sometimes a tabby cat soft to the touch.
Mushroom funnel cloud,
you provide so many choices.
1000 ways of looking at a blackbird.
I shall put you on my bedside table
to see if you change overnight.
Writers’ Conference Aubade
Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire
Holed up in this flowered box
of a room, “Cannon Ball, Number 3”
on the crumpled bed with books,
clothes, squashed paper bags,
watching fog wash the faces of
Mr. and Mrs. Cannon
and their baby, Ball.
A postage stamp of time.
One week licked clean from Dad, duty, and discipline,
drenched in confusing and cooperative conjugation.
And the Innkeeper scrambles the eggs.
Each word matters.
The same mantra as Breadloaf’s
30 years ago.
And guess what.
This morning 6 a.m.
I don’t give a damn.
All that matters is the movement of pen on yellow pad,
the clutter, the happiness of my inner and my outer,
as I skateboard back and forth inside
my head, yelling “Yippee! Yippee! Yippee!”
I frisbee my soul over
to the oak-rimmed mirror;
it ricochets back across the room,
breaks the window pane,
heading straight toward Mr. and Mrs. Cannon
who have awoken the baby
and are starting to play with the
big yellow ball.
Mary in cobalt blue,
I sit with other pilgrims
studying your face.
For centuries artisans have tried in vain
to replicate Chartres Blue,
the majestic color of your cloak,
but recipes whispered secretly were
buried with medieval craftsmen.
All of your fragile pieces
were removed from their leaden
framework, then hidden in a bunker
before the bombs of World War II.
Now you are restored
to your throne high
on the south wall.
Legend says that one priest
contemplated your face until
you smiled at him:
mercy passed in a burst
of sunlight like a trumpet from a parapet
heralding the arrival of a king.
But this morning,
I sit small and silent,
a shard of colorless glass,
seeking a home.
A Mozart concerto plays inside,
snowflakes free-fall down the sky,
bossy bluejays and the modest cardinal flit
to targets—feeders front and back.
My tree friends against a dusky sky
partner in the afternoon ballet.
They have been rehearsing their parts for years.
dancers tour jeté from bush to branch,
a pas de deux against the downy flakes.
This heart of mine
beats bright red;
the male cardinal turns
and bows his head.
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