with Owl and Clouds
Owl-night, moon-gone, my wherewithal
is yellow pine. Is trillium and unfurled
Clouds,---a cantilever of the trees, vapor-
plied architecture of the ephemeral---teach
the apparition-life, what tunes the branches'
nocturne off-key: how do bodies turn into
song? Glow of dust and sandstone light,
dropped like pebbles, like crumbs, heretofore
a fairy tale trail. Barn owl, secretive
spoken, you spout two minds, a hiding place
and a traffic sign. What's this absence
you speak of? Nonsense-yakking lost soul,
lost soul, the self-question that
what?---odd and old. My rude reply: Me,
Build me up into the fog, into brevity
made beautiful, the wet-dressed disaster
that's rain, that's the storm-threat of
I want to be ornate and ornery. More than
a vapor-child, a night's ward like the
monkshood tucking under its bud, too shameful
to flower. I am hearing it: spring's first
each drop trickling into the next, a minor
chord. So snow's gone, so how can I be
ice dissolving in water? (What was ice-fist
is now creek.) Cloud me, sparrowing and
loose, each season's dark ambition: a patient
gone. O, I am hearing it: this say-nothing
noise, how the world's clamor-born and
sorrowful, tricked for loss, the silent
of crocuses mouthing back at the owl:
I will not, and soon---
Thou turnest thy face
all things tremble and grow cold.
--Raphael, from Haydn's Die Schöpfung
He shows me a place in the forest
that sounds of creaking doors. The young
are growing. They are
in pain. He shows me:
his hands wring a beech tree's neck
and it moans.
Even my fingers wrap the bark
to touch my wrist. Listen---
Each tree fights out its earthwork. Branching
around us, beneath us
they are an imbroglio of roots---
a chokehold chorus.
From trunk to trunk, we do
the strangle, we do the wicked pole-dance.
He loves the birch's bone-thin pallor
and I watch him match his limbs
to the scrawniest wood.
He will not embrace the wider trees.
Blue-eyed towhead throbbing with falsetto:
Teurer Gatte, dir zur Seite,
schwimmt in Freuden mir das Herz.
He remembers our mother. I don't. She
was, he admitted, a weak soprano.
Dear husband, at thy side
my heart is bathed in rapture.
Blushing at rapture, he gestures,
Eve. Turns the duet solo, Adam gone
silent. Der Abendhauch. Because
sing. Echoes the forest: the evening
Every puddle rivers with desire.
Paltry pools palming a leaf
long to pond.
What is that like? To not fit
one's true shape.
To be less than. Today he pretends
we've run away. I want to
kick him in the shins.
I want to say
Father orphaned us
before his time. Father
would thin the forest
around our house, his axe
a second wife to marry.
His wife, an axe to bed. A stepmother.
I am a stepped child.
I am through
with chokecherries, through
with loam in my throat---
three weeks gone. Pussy-toed,
elegiac, he avoids the pools
and will not answer to Brother.
The Creation ends in love. He places
a hand on the well of my stomach, says
I am more hollow---his hand, a single
bone. We sleep on weather-brittle leaves,
pine needles that fail to sting, and listen
to our bodies' private rumblings. We are
a thunder each. The Creation ends
Alleluia! He fancies a garden
of cotton, a rock sugar house that we'll
tear down with hunger. But where will
We were born lost. The forest is our home.
I only read in bed.
Father roosts on the edge of night,
waits for the book to drop. In the forest,
the princess blackens her face with dirt.
I understand. It is forbidden.
I cross the hall to become my mother
---we are one face---
and hide her ashes in a shell.
This is where Father wants to be.
Walnut, he calls me,
I only bite your hem. And it is
true. It is
a tale Mother told
of the dark envelope. Inside, she
were morsels of women, skin
as cold as sand.
She did not know then
that her limbs were stitched
white stain on our sheet. Father,
I know, loves me.
We pass in the garden. How
not infinite passage?
I cannot look
but his fingertips
my lobe. How is forsythia
gold gate that won't permit me?
Under my tree, I survey
the ineffable names of things.
I call this tree Keeper
though its fruits do not fall
to feed me. Walnut,
child of this mistaken wonder,
I am infanta, Mother's
half wife. I
only bite your hem.
Spoken promise. Again. But hem
is what keeps me from the ground.
is what divides word from sound.
I read and
I turn like pages.
the bed stations me,---
I surface, the climax, and gently
the story is the trail.
Father wants a word with me. He sheds
around my bed, shifts
the room's dust.
do not budge.
I am in the margins. Far
from the castle
there are crumbs that will lead her back.
There are hunters
who will remember her
tucked into a fur mantle,
with a season of leaves.
There are the bees who saw her
sobbing ponds. Their hive,
a curious dangle, an eye. In
bees will talk.
I say Go
but the word whistles.
Go is a kettle
gone weird on the stove. Go
is Father's left brow, left hand,
shoe. Take these
to the garden and bury them
in the muddy roots of my tree
and they will grow blue hemlock.
They will grow old
What Mother called useful,
To each pin
tie a thumb-sized stone
and to each inch around your hem
lock a pin. Wild
will never blow you over -
your skirt, your obedient whim.
live the story
is to be safe.
Father, I know,
loves her. In
books I have finished,
the books I'll never read. I
am the stone locked
in his mouth.