Ponds are spring-fed, lakes run off rivers.
Here souls pass, not one deified,
and sometimes this is terrible to know
three floors below the street, where light drinks the world,
siphoned like music through portals.
How fed, that dark, the octaves framed faceless.
A memory of water.
The trees more beautiful not themselves.
Souls who have passed here, tired, brightening.
Dumpsters of linen, empty
gurneys along corridors to parking garages.
Who wonders, is it morning?
Who washes these blankets?
Can I not be the greeter of souls?
What’s to be done with the envelopes of hair?
If the inlets are frozen, can I walk across?
When I look down into myself to see a scattering of birds,
do I put on the new garments?
On which side of the river should I wait?
Inside the starboard window
of his room in a boat at sea,
the piece of earth he’s scraped from a dead gull’s leg
sprouts eighty different species, green
under bell glass. By the sunlight
of the oil lamp he makes rain
as the wind picks up toward Chiloe,
Port Famine, Concepcion, and then Galapagos.
Here he finds shipwrecked sailors’ epitaphs cut
into the shell of an old tortoise
who’s tame enough to ride,
too huge to slaughter.
Here the birds are fearless.
He can catch them with his hands, let them
perch on his finger before he
breaks their necks and wraps them
in his shirt and sets their eggs on branches drifting
from the shoreline, island to island.
Now everywhere he meets himself.
He’s tired, and half the world from home.
But his mind has entered the morning
the way all the animals
kept in his cabin in jars along the wall grow
smaller in sequence
until the window opens on the sea,
so that what he’ll remember
are the wasted spaces, the desert rock spread out for miles
as if the earth were flat again,
dangerous at the horizon,
where the stones, piled, shine
against lava black.
Dew pools in the evenings.
A few pale leaves appear.
My life’s calling, setting fires.
Here in a hearth so huge
I can stand inside and shove
the wood around with my
bare hands while church bells
deal the hours down through
the chimney. No more
woodcutter, creel for the fire
or architect, the five staves
pitched like rifles over stone.
But to be mistro-elemental.
The flute of clay playing
my breath that riles the flames,
the fire risen to such dreaming
sung once from landlords’ attics.
Sung once the broken lyres,
seasoned and green.
Even the few things I might save,
my mother’s letters,
locks of my children’s hair
here handed over like the keys
to a foreclosure, my robes
remanded, and furniture
dragged out into the yard,
my bedsheets hoisted up the pine,
whereby the house sets sail.
And I am standing on a cliff
above the sea, a paper light,
a lantern. No longer mine
to count the wrecks.
Who rode the ships in ringing,
marrying rock the waters
storm to break the door,
looked through the fire, beheld
a clearing there. This is what
you are. What you’ve come to.
See how the first dark takes the city in its arms
and carries it into what yesterday we called the future.
O, the dying are such acrobats.
Here you must take a boat from one day to the next,
or clutch the girders of the bridge, hand over hand.
But they are sailing like a pendulum between eternity and evening,
diving, recovering, balancing the air.
Who can tell at this hour seabirds from starlings,
wind from revolving doors or currents off the river.
Some are as children on swings pumping higher and higher.
Don’t call them back, don’t call them in for supper.
See, they leave scuff marks like jet trails on the sky.
The wind blows
through the doors of my heart.
It scatters my sheet music
that climbs like waves from the piano, free of the keys.
Now the notes stripped, black butterflies,
flattened against the screens.
The wind through my heart
blows all my candles out.
In my heart and its rooms is dark and windy.
From the mantle smashes birds’ nests, teacups
full of stars as the wind winds round,
a mist of sorts that rises and bends and blows
or is blown through the rooms of my heart
that shatters the windows,
rakes the bedsheets as though someone
had just made love. And my dresses
they are lifted like brides come to rest
on the bedstead, crucifixes,
dresses tangled in trees in the rooms
of my heart. To save them
I’ve thrown flowers to fields,
so that someone would pick them up
and know where they came from.
Come the bees now clinging to flowered curtains.
Off with the clothesline pinning anything, my mother’s trousseau.
It is not for me to say what is this wind
or how it came to blow through the rooms of my heart.
Wing after wing, through the rooms of the dead
the wind does not blow. Nor the basement, no wheezing,
no wind choking the cobwebs in our hair.
It is cool here, quiet, a quilt spread on soil.
But we will never lie down again.