April in Maine

Sometimes I want nothing

but to stand boot-deep in spring mud,

to poke around the flower beds

in the chill April air,

to listen to

this heaving subterranean

gardener at work

on the seasonal meanings

of seeds and bulbs and roots

and the wordless awakenings

and the perfect beginnings of things.

I cry easily these days,

sleep lightly.

Has life always been this sweet?

Or is it because it is barely spring

and through the cold rain and salt,

in the most improbable

and in some of the desired

places hard green shoots

the tough bulbs of April in Maine

are finding their way back?

I remember, watching them,

the long nights spent waiting,

the despair that comes

from living

where things really die,

where one need not feign surprise

that tender-lipped violets

are resurrected

from the frozen land.

The garden is ragged with

crumpled leaf heaps

and straw mulch pushed aside by

the rubber knights of tulips

the spongey knives of narcissus.

The accumulation of cycles

looks in April like unmeshed gears

and broken bones.

In May it seems to work as if effortlessly,

like things that are never resolved

because they work,

work together,

have never stopped working.

Waves Like Glass

The sea calls out her name.

 

We answer,

trying to repeat the miracle

with a thousand hungry syllables

that scatter

on the pages of the tide

like undigested fish.

 

Again she calls and

a wild breaching

cracks the fragile bone

of the inner ear.

 

We mouth hollow sounds

to fill the dry space

between us.

 

We and the sea.

Relentless and reflective.

 

She is unmoved by our

literal bouts of naming,

yet we cannot stop calling out

while waves like glass

smash on the rocks

and are made whole

again and again.

In the Distance

In the distance

a blue heron

at large in flight

ungainly wing span

neck of necks

enigmatically looped

he lands at the edge

of reeds and mud

king of marshes

royal hunter of fishes

beak like a sword

he sights his prey

lengthens and thrusts

the elegant hose neck

majestic loner

of blue gray proportions.

Knowing full well

I am watching

he ignores me

on one leg

posed

for more important conquests.

As I approach

he fans his wings

lifts

and forgets me.

For a moment

I am lonelier

than I know,

receding,

my spirit unhooked

like a winded kite.

In the amnesia of insight

I write this

as if

you too

were hearing

the wings beat

the salt air

feeling the feathers

circle your throat

as the blue heron

leaves you

with this same unspeakable longing.

I suspect these words

are not enough,

slant and unstable as they are,

sodden with ink and overuse,

to thread my sight

through your eyes

to follow his flight

of hollow bones

and wet feathers.

All the same

I walk home

picking up words

like stones from a beach

placing them

in twos and threes

looking for a pattern

that speaks

this language.

Bones

Bones and bits

of bird flesh

wet feathers

sticking

to a body skeleton

long and leggy.

How unexpected

an encounter

death and a bird

at the turn

on a path

of berry bushes

of old trees

and wild irises.

I should have

walked on,

left dumb death

on the wet sand path

to stare forever

from a lidless round eye.

Instead I bent

and touched the wing tip

like a cat or a priestess

willing a sign.

But no.

The island air

was damp.

The great blue

was crooked and

broken but

perfectly proportioned

still.

Changed forever by a moment,

the body only slowly

catching up.

Nahual

Land I have lost.

Scars on my eyes.

A wounded deer

comes to my door.

The forest of her fate

is private property now.

Her hooves mark the woolly thyme

that edges the garden path,

her breath marks the coming of winter.

I remember, I tell her:

We dug a hole in the ground

we buried our treasures

and promised never to forget

the wordless knowledge

the bond from earth to flesh

the close fragrance of dampening leaves

the countless colors of brown and green

the circle of friends

offering ourselves

to the circle of pines

innocent in our rituals.

And now she comes

wandering wounded.

The rivers of her thirst are dust,

the old paths have been

carelessly renamed,

the pines of our sacred ground

felled.

I make a place for her

in my garden.

I stroke her fur,

look into her almond eyes.

I haven’t forgotten, I tell her:

You stood guard

over our innocence,

my nahual, animal spirit,

but the tables have turned

and now I must fight

for your life.

Grace

Two giraffes delicately circle

a eucalyptus tree

primordial necks

like swaying highways

running

they are the envy

of elephants.

Nothing is finer

than that place of grace

where each toad and tapir

meets its moment

of perfection:

the elegant sweep

of the extravagant-tailed quetzal

resplendent in the rain forest

the whiskered manatee

floating among the mangroves

like a perfect potato

the rhinoceros

wading weightless

in the watering hole

the lanky flamingo

pink in flight

in the blue Caribbean sky.

The Green Turtle

A green turtle

lies on her back

on the pink sand

of the turquoise beach.

The man’s eyes are dry

as he cuts

the beet red flesh

from her okra shell.

Tell her you love her,

I whisper.

Tell her:

that the soup

of her softness

will feed your children,

that you will wear her patterned shell

like jewelry on your wrist,

that you will make your wife

a dappled comb

for her thick black hair,

that when you sit on your doorstep

this evening,

having feasted on her flesh,

you will hear her

calling to her mate,

you will know her voice

in your bones

and when you turn

in the night

to reach for the soft flesh

beside you

only the tissue thin membrane

of your own survival

will shield you

from her revenge.

Kingfisher

A perfect pool

as red as blood

the round eye

of the kingfisher

searches

circles.

Wings,

then stillness.

A path beside the stream

traced through the forest.

Irresistible becomes the desire

to cross the moving water.

Plunge, then, into

autumn’s muted mystery.

Stir up layers of fallen leaves,

step into unseen currents.

On the other shore

rejoin the path

new to you

familiar though

it becomes you

this meandering

exploring.