Fall 2014

Volume 9, Issue 2



Top Branches

                                               This Rubbed Page

     Beyond leaf-cover and pond, they arrange themselves
as the work orders detail, so that I set my page away,
its busying improvisations sketched, with something I need
to get to yet, a poem, a birthday, and this grill left boxed
last night, garaged in the truck and juked with expectation,
after two pre-assembled copies failed yesterday. 
How many names might this go by? Would this rubbed page
lift away without an imprint, recalling the procedures,
craft-times, under-respected, and under-practiced still,
until the thought too settles in, cooperates,
and a sense of place as explanation, all in the way
the language works, the parts snapped off
the tree and pieced, without a word
     from the instructions?


                                                  By That Much                                                                              

     Whatever I build, discard, whatever I scrap, haul off down
the stone road to Fifteenth, or think to build a future by,
what’s left but this little book to speak of it, something to read
before bedtime, when a mirror like this seems
better overlooked, impossible, no matter how snow-bound
the upstate dark will be at waking, or that dream,
only a dream, you think, piecing reflections back, a summertime,
and that sense of particulars undone, when
a teen-something newsboy and his four friends surrounded you,
threatening to burn your five-year-old damp eyes
out of their sockets, and holding that match, was it, or lighter
within inches, only a breath or tears away, with fears
you’re sure they’d meant to last a lifetime, for a moment then,
a moment it took how many years revealing, until
some neighbor happened up or short-attention mastered them,
that moment, and child’s revenge, lived out
and purified, whatever the thoughtfulness or nimbleness
or tongue made possible, older by that much,
and treed, daring the pinhead news-kid to top branches,
descending as he climbed, oblivious,
through that subversion turned on him, turning
him ridiculous, past fear, there, among
     the thinnest top-most branches.



Without Advantage                    

     A crack, a weakness announced, in deep woods, holds
its own, through the storm they’d promised us. 
Stickers and coins change hands, and passing years dreamed up,
through space programs, DeSotos, old routes
where rain and candle-light persist, where the match flares out,
and a child finds his ways here, leaving one
slow-witted tough without advantage at the finish, in high limbs
lingering, receding, say, as a five-year-old’s
first fears, a fifteen-year-old’s returns on the conditions, teasing
an under-schooled kid to the thinnest branches
where sky opened, where he could see it all below, in
uncomprehended signs, stylings, in contrasts
he could not resist discovering, how the sky itself could come
to seem complicitous, an undermining puzzle,
no less than the laughter you might imagine haunted him,
echoing, like some hollowed can
he’d strung and heard communicate, while a bright kid
dropped to the good earth under him,
into a life re-cast, undamaged, more private
     maybe, and more personal.


                                           The Custom Wildness                        

     The grill’s about done finally, and solstice, a week away,
these better sides of summer colds intoning seasons. 
We share the custom wildness, the world we work, stanza
by quilt by stanza and quilt to some perfecting,
tending the garden and green around, where a coyote, white
tails, and a lame fox make a place of conversation,
and the starlings number off, the heron, descending circuits,
screws himself, through tree-bound space
to the stocked water, year after year, revealing, arranging
themselves in signs we take as welcoming,
presaging, it may be, these several days of rain to come,
and the work indoors ahead of us,
even the heat due back and longer light, night flames,
the whimsical stars again, called
back, with these memories we mean to share,
of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and, not
for the first time now,




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