Monday, April 22, 2013

To a Poet (Such as Myself) Writing a Poem on a Painting

            It stands still long enough
and requires no commitment.
The sea shanties and the stone bridge
and the striated evenings
that burn black in the hills
are not illusions, nor does the oak bending
indefinitely have words that are human
and wounded. You can gain solace
from the zinc-green inferences of the river,
but the stiff passages that seem glued
to the surface and suggest cruelty
are depictions of the light.
The wind rummages through the alders,
and the near hysteria of the leaves
where the branches stall
and fork downward is fallow
and as random as the clouds.
            You seek doorknobs
on the crust of a rainbow,
but the plaited forefingers
of the washerwomen who couple
harmoniously with the water
are almost lost in the glaze.
Equivocal like a cluster of stems, 
they mean more to you than intended . . .
the swollen inlet
that wheezes around the skiffs
and cakes mud on the morning
is a shallow blue.
            You glance down the ridges . . .
the broad dabs of sunlight
and gray horizon
are the hours of deception
where the minutes lose impact
and settle like dewdrops on their bonnets.
            Nothing is discomforted,
nothing displaced.
You move in and out like the dust,
you speak cleverly . . .
the round nuances
that disturb no one
and are preternatural
in their attachment to color
have events of their own.
The wall, where the falloff
levels out from the corners
and declines to keep still,
is too material and earthbound,
like the paint, and requires one's presence.
It lacks line and has a way
of sagging beyond your intentions.

(This poem first appeared in 
The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review.)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Infant Crying

Your wounded bird cry
at the base of each morning—
a stone tower rising upward, upward—
your two-foot-long body a plastic rattle,
it seems to me almost your infinitely small limbs
will snap off and fall to the floor.

A rubber doll with the thinnest of thin hair,
your mouth open and red like the fruit
of the hawthorn, the capillaries of your
blotched face about to explode . . .
there is light shining through you.
My skin winces when I enter your room. The efforts
of your nut-sized lungs is exhausting, frightening,
your whole body vibrating like an idling car.

An egg on my finger tips, a porcelain cup,
a goldfinch in the palm of my hand, bird
without feathers, my arms walk of their
toes when they near you. It took time to learn
you were durable, you would last.

Already you sense the ends of your body,
where something else is beginning.
Flashes, screeches, the infinite input, the walls
splitting around you . . . nothing responds.
Where there are arms, you cry. Where there are none,
you are silent.

Your fingers clench and open, clench and open.

You are the quince on the table
the coat in the closet. You were not born
for yourself. Ornament and machine,
you define but you lack definition.

I flap heroically at the confused dog
who sniffs at my nest. But the cat is more
difficult, more decisive. Its claws are immense,
beyond my understanding.
A nipple shrinks as it enters your mouth.

Your gums pucker and throb. You sense my
bewilderment, all bewilderment. We are existing
on each other's need.

Piglet, saliva bubbling from between your lips,
I smell your head like a flower.
I kiss it—a thousand times.
At night I lie on my back, my knees propped upward,
I lie there, awake, perpetually,
your parakeet heart thumping on the sides of my head.

(This poem appeared in Prairie Schooner.)