Reasons

Because
of a Persian blue pond
leaked out of time;

because
of leaves turning and
snow on the world;

because
of the infrasonic boom
of the planet’s lonely flight;

because
of the missing entries
in the log of the Marie Celeste;

because
of these unfolding stalks of light
(sea anemones of the soul);

because, perhaps,
out of confusion, as the way is,
and the chaos –

Ah
well.
Because I do.


Thaw

A company of rooks have commandeered
my tree tops, cawing their raucous orders
to the foul-mouthed platoon of carrion crows
billeted lower down.

Their croaking sorties darken my window –
but shush: from his high lookout a blackbird
raises his voice, rehearsing spring rebellion.
I clear my throat.

rooks

 


Operating instructions

Assemble all the implements.
Then lock the door and set to work
when night falls.

It takes the darkness
for the thing inside to stir, and hours
of tender teasing out before it shows its shape.

Then deftly, cautiously, you set it in a vice:
compress, condense, and purify;
decide what must be smooth and what left rough.

At last you chase its silver surface; polish round
and round until it gleams with hope
and sparkles with despair.

Now get up from the table
with its paperful of fragile words.
Unlock the door. Admit the day.


Chickentime

I sit quite still
on the weathered wooden bench

as the caramel coloured chicks
stalk closer.

The sharp tugging of beaks
at tender shoots of grass,

the homely hencoop smell –
and I’m adrift

in summer, giddy, cut loose
from my moorings,

lost but wrapped safe
in solicitous clucking –

The chicks nestle near
in the last rays of the low sun;

the hen, wary, patrols –
and I hold Grandpa’s hand

as we go and lift warm eggs
from beds of straw.


Recipe for happiness

go away
far away
alone

don’t phone

embrace
the longing


On Washington Crossing the Delaware

Not today, though,
in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
not today he isn’t.

The entrance to the room
is barricaded with plywood permitting
only a partial glimpse

of the General: upstanding, unfazed
by the turbulent ice floes,
unwavering gaze fixed on, well,

plywood. The impeccable turnout,
in democratically dun-coloured mantle
(lined with scarlet),

thrown in dramatic folds
over shoulders bearing the weight
of a nascent nation –

all for nothing today. He shall not
reach the far shore, shall not
trounce the Hessian mercenaries;

and this great nation shall never,
now, be birthed – and not
just this room, no, the entire museum,

Fifth Avenue, all of Manhattan
declared closed
for the duration; New York roped off,

the Empire State Building un-built,
stone by stone, steel girders
dismantled, the Brooklyn Bridge

melted down and Brooklyn cut loose
to drift out to sea.
By and by the prairie schooners

will return from the West (California
now only a word
whispered in feverish dreams

and no more), and from a non-place
not called Washington,
in a porticoed, pillared white house

that never was, a last tweet proclaims
the fading usurper’s futile fury –
then silence. Peace.

Washington Crossing the Delaware


Ellis Island

Sofia, age 23, from Siberia:
processed in Ellis Island, 1921;
destination Gackle, North Dakota.

You have to wonder.

Gackle, North Dakota:
founded in 1904;
located at 46°37′38″N, 99°8′36″W:

not even the middle of nowhere.

Population (1920): 424.
Population (1950): 606.
Population (2016): 291:

not exactly Boomtown ND.

Things to do in Gackle ND:
ˮGackle is home
to the Gackle Public Libraryˮ –

that is about the extent of it.

They must be doing
an awful lot of reading
up there in Gackle, ND.

And you have to wonder:

Did she find her home there?
Was it worth the loss of loved ones,
the heartbreak of exile, the long journey

all the way from Siberia – to Gackle, ND.