Places like this aren’t invented.
The cold, industrial polish of this city
skews light, and what it reflects
it returns badly. Splitting the landscape,
an obsidian river carves
silhouettes of brush and rocks, banks strewn with mica
and quartz shards, pale smoke frozen
in crystal. A storm-split oak arcs into
bridge-lit water, a coral
reef suspended in dandelion wine. The trees
buildings seem submerged.
I know so little
about things that matter. How
to be a good man. Why rivers are constantly
moving, apparently toward
ends that mean completion. Whether, drinking
their waters, I would forget
these twilights—the smell of wet brick and broken pines,
indigo and sapphire-troubled
skies—or drown. My distracted heart beats codes
I’m unable to translate.
The only ritual I know how to perform
is rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
Big Sky Dust Jamboree
The frying pan girls are dancing
on the splintered steps of the bandstand,
thin fingers gesturing at rain.
They are overflowing
with wet smiles.
Some kids stroke the smooth back
of a drowned rat with branches,
pushing it against the swamped
gutter drain, to which it
sticks like a promise.
Out past the paper mill,
the river is still receding,
clogged with the white mass
of clotting pulp which worms
southward, away from
the drowned place.
We have never felt
How We Breathe
dogwood near my window—shadows in the branches move and fall
in unpredictable sweeps,
slipping the weight of rain. Yesterday’s storm flooded our streets,
gutterwash cresting sidewalks
and pouring through the muddy access roads I drove looking
for you. A shroud
of willow branches sway and fade against the sky’s elliptic blue
dusk. All cloud is still.
Fireflies catch in the leaves, their phosphorescent messages
shorting out, breathing
in their way. Watching, I can almost remember how we kept our lungs filling,
giving in to instinct,
to the thousand cages that memory and its cracked bottles
full of hand-built galleons, offer.