I saw you fall to the ground.
I saw the oaks fall. The clouds collapsed.
I saw a wildness twist through your limbs
and fly off. The river fell, the grasses fell.
The backs of six drowned cattle
rose to the surface ice—nothing moved.
But a wind touched my ankles when the snow began.
You left that night and we stayed,
our arms braced with weight. What power
there was was over. But I switched on the light
by the porch to see if anything was falling—
and it fell, a few glints in the air,
catching sun although there was no sun,
and the long descent over hours, all night,
seemed like years, and we buried our faces
in what came to rest on the ground
or moved our feet over it, effortless,
as nothing was in our lives, or ever will be.
Robins in the cottonwoods,
holding still as the thin snow comes.
The sun seems to flood them with blood.
They have settled in the empty branches
while the storm-lamps spit in your limbs,
red evening swinging across the sky then dropping,
ragged, into your frame to stay with you
as you move and smile and have opinions.
Then a woman’s torso white with dawn—
their rich perch is yours, there is nothing you need
to expect or retrieve, like warm fields
floating toward an invisible moon.
A person learns stone-throated composures
and barters for days of calm weather,
like a man in a dream who understands the answering
pressure of eyes—you ask too much.
But the birds are not reckless.
Every minute their fat shapes are filling with sun,
and I apprentice myself to their candor.
Their bodies drift on the moving branches, solid—
they are not taking and keeping.
They are not torn papers in a rumor of wind,
their small backs brown fields holding thunderclouds up.
Inside their bodies, nothing falls to the earth and dies.
THE DEEP EVENING-COLORED ROSE of the sea
is closing. Sweet crude oil, orange as rust,
finds an open pathway into the marsh.
And what you thought would be your home,
lush with grasses, is no home, drives you out into the gray-glazed
gates of sleep. Blood flowers
where we don’t see it. And every chance event
is a high note racing from stars in sea-depths of brightness,
and every shock we feel we feel only with the slack
ropes of our arms. Someone
wants to hide the body of oil and cannot.
Someone wants to hide their hands from shame.
Shark, dolphin, manatee, fish,
each slick skin an undreamt tine threading its red
flute-dusk through fumes.
Sound of the flood-dark pulse.
Then the second when the water makes no sound.
When everything finally has been wrecked and further shipwrecked,
When their most ardent dream has been made hollow and unrecognizable,
They will feel inside their limbs the missing shade of blue that lingers
Against hills in the cooler hours before dark, and the moss at the foot of the forest
When green starts to leave it. What they take into their privacy (half of his embrace,
Her violence at play) are shadows of acts which have no farewells in them.
Moons unearth them. And when, in their separate dwellings, their bodies
Feel the next season come, they no longer have anyone to whom
To tell it. Clouds of reverie pass outside the window and a strange emptiness
Peers back in. If they love, it is solely to be adored, it is to scatter and gather
Themselves like hard seeds in a field made fallow by a fire someone years ago set.
In the quiet woods, from the highest trees, there is always something
Weightless falling; and he, who must realize that certain losses are irreparable,
Tells himself at night, before the darkest mirror, that vision keeps him whole.
On the verge of warm and simple sleep they tell themselves certain loves
Are like sheets of dark water, or ice forests, or husks of ships. To stop a thing
Such as this would be to halve a sound that travels out from a silent person’s
Thoughts. The imprint they make on each other’s bodies is worth any pain
They may have caused. Quiet falls around them. And when she reaches
For him the air greens like underwater light and the well-waters drop.
They will see again the shadows of insects.
They will touch the bark and feel each age of the tree fly undisturbed
Into them. If what is no longer present in them cannot be restored,
It can at least be offered. Through long bewildered dusks, stalks grow;
Rains fill and pass out of clouds; animals hover at the edges of fields
With eyes like black pools. For nothing cannot be transformed;
Pleasure and failure feed each other daily. Do not think any breeze,
Any grain of light, shall be withheld. All the stars will sail out for them.
Toward what island-home am I moving,
not wanting to marry, not wanting
too much of that emptiness at evening,
as when I walked through a field at dusk
and felt wide in the night.
And it was again the evening that drew me
back to the field where I was most alone,
compassed by stems and ruts,
no light of the fixed stars, no flashing in the eyes,
only heather pared by dry air, shedding
a small feathered radiance when I looked away,
an expanse whose deep sleep seemed an unending
warren I had been given, to carry out such tasks—
that I might find nothing dead.
And it was again the evening that drew me
back to the field where I could sense no boundary—
the smell of dry earth, cool arch of my neck, the darkness
entirely within myself.
And when I shut my eyes there was no one.
Only weeds in drifts of stillness, only
stalks and gliding sky.
Come, black anchor, let us not be harmed.
The deer leafing in the dark.
The old man at the table, unable to remember.
The children whose hunger is just hunger,
and never desire.
Some feel rain. Some feel the beetle startle
in its ghost-part when the bark
slips. Some feel musk. Asleep against
each other in the whiskey dark, scarcely there.
When it falls apart, some feel the moondark air
drop its motes to the patch-thick slopes of
snow. Tiny blinkings of ice from the oak,
a boot-beat that comes and goes, the line of prayer
you can follow from the dusking wind to the snowy owl
it carries. Some feel sunlight
well up in blood-vessels below the skin
and wish there had been less to lose.
Knowing how it could have been, pale maples
drowsing like a second sleep above our temperaments.
Do I imagine there is any place so safe it can’t be
snapped? Some feel the rivers shift,
blue veins through soil, as if the smokestacks were a long
dream of exhalation. The lynx lets its paws
skim the ground in snow and showers.
The wildflowers scatter in warm tints until
the second they are plucked. You can wait
to scrape the ankle-burrs, you can wait until Mercury
the early star underdraws the night and its blackest
districts. And wonder. Why others feel
through coal-thick night that deeply colored garnet
star. Why sparring and pins are all you have.
Why the earth cannot make its way towards you.
It began in a foyer of evenings
The evenings left traces of glass in the trees
A book and a footpath we followed
Under throat-pipes of birds
We moved through a room of leaves
Thin streams of silver buried under our eyes
A field of white clover buried under our eyes
Or a river we stopped at to watch
The wind cross it, recross it
Room into room you paused
Where once on a stoop we leaned back
Talking late into daylight
The morning trees shook off twilight
Opening and closing our eyes auroras
Beyond groves and flora we followed a road
Dotted with polished brown bottles,
Scoured furrows, a wood emptied of trees
It was enough to hollow us out
The evenings left grasses half-wild at our feet
Branches with spaces for winds
The earth changes
The way we speak to each other has changed
As for a long while we stood in a hall full of exits
Listening for a landscape beyond us