Sunday, June 16, 2013

In a photograph, my father

I. In a photograph, my father:
skin red from the sun,

his sky-blue shirt
hangs open, his eyes

wide open and calm.
He looks at the camera

like he can see who sees him:
on and on his eyes

on an ocean of time,
the sinking and his sunburnt


II. A group of kids had found him
for their scavenger hunt:

they laughed and took his picture.
I don’t know --

he doesn’t know, either --
what item they thought him.

He looks through the lens,
like all of us, wondering

how did this happen?
And will the end be just

as surprising?

(Begun 8 June 2005 [!], revised 19 April 2006, revised again on Father's Day 2013. This little ekphrasis really is in response to a photograph, and there really was a scavenger hunt. How a scavenger list predicted or accommodated my father is anyone's guess.)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

An Iowan brown

Brown like the shadowed undersides of overpasses,
they flicker: a flock of birds against clouds
of glistering, oil-barrel ashes, clouds
of poured concrete, still drying, like drops
of water from rusted metal, a post-
industrial leap of muscle and friable
bones from earth and electrical wires
to the sky.
In a seemly rush they are flying
away from the blue and deepening blush
of rain.

(And on the same stiffening wind,
a drift of distant cows: a waft
as faraway warm and soft as each mildering
roadside farm, each squat and sagging
building rotting like an unpicked fruit:
a red body sickly sinking to the ground,
its skin giving way, in the "smokeless burning
of decay" -- of time -- to a fine, compostible brown.)

(Found and finished 9 June 2013 while following I-80 from Chicago to Omaha, first via a lovely Y-shaped flock of birds flying north across the highway ahead of a tremendous cloudburst, then remembering the astonishment of a friend -- who had recently driven across the Midwest for the first time -- at the industrial remains of the 'Rust Belt'. The quotation is from Frost, "The Wood-Pile".)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Four Midwestern views

I. Every so often, an ivyless tree:
they might seem barest for wanting that scaling,
enameling green,

but the birch is fairest to me: its skin,
like yours, my dearest, a papery white
and black pepper into cream.

Or so I believe, for nights like whispering
ivy, nights like obligatory fig leaves,
kept true colors unseen.

II. A tree, trunk split
like a rod for finding water had been planted in the earth
in the shadow of a crystalline cellular tower --
a rigid and uncompromising metal structure --

its branches like languid rivers bridged
in diamonds of darkened ebony and alabaster:
a tree like the evening before, but already

there comes, obscuring
the sun, the morning after.

III. A cloud foregrounded in passing: a dragon,

its massive jaws open, its right nostril smoking

in anticipation of air turned to flame,

back arching and bearing its squamous way down

on a knight -- like a lightning

strike to a tree --

who is found all shaking, his mail gone to flickering 

scales, in the salivary

rain, of leafy


IV. "What you don't see is her riding the dragon."

(Found and finished 1 June 2013, in pieces on a drive from Rochester, NY, to Chicago, across Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. The day had a high albedo -- it was bright but clouded -- and so seemed conducive to reflection. The quotation constituting the fourth 'view' is due, with gratitude, to an astute reader of poetry, with a specialty in such metamorphoses as might take place in [stories about] the heavens and the trees.)