We offer in evidence
our grocery list—
its crabbed scribbled
archeology of hunger
of how we’ve settled
whether the week
augured skim milk
cantaloupe or ice cream
smudged on the back
of an envelope
his marks and mine
the exchange of whim
an account not just
of comfort and ordinary
cravings but how
of rescue and surrender
Who would have thought the afterlife would
look so much like Ohio? A small town place,
thickly settled among deciduous trees.
I lived for what seemed a very short time.
Several things did not work out.
Casually almost, I became another one
of the departed, but I had never imagined
the tunnel of hot wind that pulls
the newly dead into the dry Midwest
and plants us like corn. I am
not alone, but I am restless.
There is such sorrow in these geese
flying over, trying to find a place to land
in the miles and miles of parking lots
that once were soft wetlands. They seem
as puzzled as I am about where to be.
Often they glide, in what I guess is
a consultation with each other,
getting their bearings, as I do when
I stare out my window and count up
what I see. It’s not much really:
one buckeye tree, three white frame houses,
one evergreen, five piles of yellow leaves.
This is not enough for any heaven I had
dreamed, but I am taking the long view.
There must be a backcountry of the beyond,
beyond even this and farther out,
past the dark smoky city on the shore
of Lake Erie, through the landlocked passages
to the Great Sweetwater Seas.
Twice a year
wings about to spread
the oldest music
through wing bones
If the moon happened once,
it wouldn’t matter much,
One evening’s ticket
punched with a
round or a crescent.
You could like it
or not like it,
as you chose.
It couldn’t alter every time it rose;
it couldn’t do those
things with scarves
Wet things smell stronger,
and I suppose his main regret is that
he can sniff just one at a time.
In a frenzy of delight
he runs way up the sandy road—
scored by freshets after five days
of rain. Every pebble gleams, every leaf.
When I whistle he halts abruptly
and steps in a circle,
swings his extravagant tail.
The he rolls and rubs his muzzle
in a particular place, while the drizzle
falls without cease, and Queen Anne’s lace
and Goldenrod bend low.
The top of the logging road stands open
and light. Another day, before
hunting starts, we’ll see how far it goes,
leaving word first at home.
The footing is ambiguous.
Soaked and muddy, the dog drops,
panting, and looks up with what amounts
to a grin. It’s so good to be uphill with him,
nicely winded, and looking down on the pond.
A sound commences in my left ear
like the sound of the sea in a shell;
a downward, vertiginous drag comes with it.
Time to head home. I wait
until we’re nearly out to the main road
to put him back on the leash, and he
—the designated optimist—
imagines to the end that he is free.
Of course it was a disaster.
The unbearable, dearest secret
has always been a disaster.
The danger when we try to leave.
Going over and over afterward
what we should have done
instead of what we did.
But for those short times
we seemed to be alive. Misled,
misused, lied to and cheated,
certainly. Still, for that
little while, we visited
our possible life.
I have read volumes,
Taught from volumes.
Now my words are fewer,
More long breaths between them.
I look up after committing
A single phrase to paper,
Linger a while,
Note the long shadows
On blackjack oak
In the late afternoon sun.
At times, I give up
Words altogether, listen
To the wind, watch
The winter wheat grow, savor
The taste of silence,
And give myself over
To the speech of the stars.