Dropping from the sky
Like flakes of soap,
Big heavy chunks
Like frozen leaves
Or pieces of poems.
Dropping like wings of small birds
Like thick onion skins
That freeze their own tears,
Like bits of alabaster flesh
Searching for bone,
Like sugar cubes or lily petals,
Like clumps of feathers or dandelions.
Crumbs of white bread.
The dust of clouds.
Snow falls because it cannot rise,
Cannot bend its knees,
Spread its wings.
It has no arms and cannot
Climb the thin threads
It leaves streaming from the sky.
The more it falls, the more
It remembers its absence of rising.
To descend is not to ascend.
And not to ascend is to fall.
And to fall is to lose.
Snow is tired of losing.
Snow wants to watch TV on Sunday,
Wants to hibernate in the winter,
Wants to wear glasses
And put on a tie,
Wants to learn to tell time.
Snow wants to eat Bar-B-Q ribs,
And listen to Elgar,
Wants to kiss a man or a woman,
Wants to wonder about God.
It so happens that
Snow wants to be rain:
Wants to dance on leaves when they’re green,
To be made love in,
To fall on alfalfa and corn stalks,
To make noise when it lands
Or to remain on clothes,
And slide down buildings or bodies,
To feel like the ocean.
Snow is ready for water.
Snow wants to keep flowing.
But instead it must remain snow,
Must wait for December,
And dream of Rangoon,
Must disappear inside
The brown of its shell.
It must swallow its own voice.
Snow must continue to fall on clothes
Left out on the line,
On underwear and workshirts,
And must wait for the moment to melt.
When it slides to grass the color of sky
In big heavy drops, salty as tears.
I can see her in the kitchen,
Cooking up, for the hundredth time,
A little something from her
Limited Midwestern repertoire.
Cigarette going in the ashtray,
The red wine pulsing in its glass,
A warning light meaning
Everything was simmering
Just below the steel lid
Of her smile, as she boiled
The beef into submission,
Chopped her way
Through the vegetable kingdom
With the broken-handled knife
I use tonight, feeling her
Anger rising from the dark
Chambers of the head
Of cabbage I slice through,
Missing her, wanting
To chew things over
With my mother again.
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise
It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,
and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.
All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of your shoulders
that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the way that stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.
Then all of the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all of the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row,
giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.
Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.
curling them around
i hold their bodies in obscene embrace
thinking of everything but kinship.
collards and kale
strain against each strange other
away from my kissmaking hand and
the iron bedpot.
the pot is black.
the cutting board is black,
and just for a minute
the greens roll black under the knife,
and the kitchen twists dark on its spine
and i taste in my natural appetite
the bond of live things everywhere.
Gift of a friend, the stone Buddha sits zazen,
prayer beads clutched in his chubby fingers.
Through snow, icy rain, the riot of spring flowers,
he gazes forward to the city in the distance—always
the same bountiful smile upon his portly face.
Why don’t I share his one-minded happiness?
The pear blossom, the crimson-petaled magnolia,
filling me instead with a mixture of nostalgia
and yearning. He’s laughing at me, isn’t he?
The seasons wheeling despite my photographs
and notes, my desire to make them pause.
Is that the lesson? That stasis, this holding on,
is not life? Now I’m smiling, too—the late cherry,
its soft pink blossoms already beginning to scatter;
the trillium, its three-petaled white flowers
exquisitely tinged with purple as they fall.
I love how books begin; those passages
that lead us by the hand across
the luxurious lawns, that portage us
gently up the gravel drive,
toward the manor house.
The author is still a kind host here,
anxious that we mingle
with the other weekend guests, that we note
how even the banisters are polished for us,
that we feel free to walk out
with the lady of the house and smoke
a cigarette, down the grand alley of elms.
We’re not expected to have things down pat
yet, like the family tree, or the route to the old Abbey.
Nothing really happens now,
beyond the delivery of breakfast trays.
It’s not scheduled to rain
for two more chapters, and no one
who matters to us has died yet.