Two legs at noon: new poem-like things

I want to give myself back to myself, I thought, sitting on the porch at dawn & watching the dark details slowly filling in between the scattered patches of white, which, among all possible fallen things, I suspect will once again turn out to be nothing but snow.

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My first published poem in years & they fucked it up, printing double spaces between the lines. And they’re short lines, too. I’m amazed by how well they manage to bear the burden of their isolation. My words have never seemed so measured before. They pick their way over the page on herons’ feet.

*

Along with What do you do? & Where are you from? I would like to ask each new acquaintance, What do you grieve for? Because I have this hunch that everyone clutches a portion of the self-same grief. We give it endearing names, as culture & circumstance may dictate. Our male or female nipples ache to give it suck.

*

I remember sitting under, inside, encircled – surrounded by her, as ripples in a pond surround a water-strider, rowing the skinny boat of his fish-bait body to & fro.

*

After a day spent hunched over a keypad, to stand outside in my slippers looking at the moon seems wholly fatuous. How does taking this in for a few minutes make up for everything I have failed to witness? The calendar on my computer tells me to expect a full moon, so I wait for the clouds to thin & the trees to grow shadows as they should. In the space of ten minutes, my front yard expands to an enormous size. The calendar on my computer says it’s Good Friday. Resist the urge to pray long enough & the sweetness will rise & spread to your outermost branches.

*

Easter Sunday: thick fog, dark shapes of redwing blackbirds in the walnut trees, all calling at once. They drown out the song sparrows, the robins, even the creek. It’s the auditory equivalent of a rolling boil: the overtones rise & burst, rise & burst.

*

Whichever direction I walk, the fog keeps its distance. It reminds me of driving in certain parts of the Midwest where trees are spread just thickly enough to make one swear there must be a forest on the horizon. Here, the woods are never far. A pileated woodpecker drums & cackles. This corner of the field where plow & mower have been absent the longest has the highest concentration of ant mounds & small mammal burrows. Leave land alone long enough & it will grow – not in acreage, perhaps, but certainly in surface area. Its dreams are no longer yours. They multiply, re-drawing the horizon. Like a girl turning into her own woman – a rarer thing than it should be in this over-farmed world.

*

The snow lingers on old logging roads & on the weather side of abandoned plow lines. On a clear day in the middle of March one can see such scars on wooded hillsides from miles away. But today we’re socked in with fog; I keep my eyes on the damp leaves beneath my feet. Here & there I can make out drag trails from last fall’s hunting season, tufts of white hair from a deer’s belly.

*

Coyote shit always lies parallel to the direction of the trail. Here’s a case in point: three hairy gray turds side by side, half caterpillar, half pupa. Remember this if you’re ever lost in the woods. As much as its priorities may differ from ours, a coyote can be trusted to follow a straight line for miles.

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Orange on the ridgetop where a porcupine has chewed the bark off a fallen red oak tree, limb & branch. Orange in the Far Field where my father always mows the same path with his tractor, a stripe of broom sedge through the gray-brown mess of old goldenrod.

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Fifty feet off the trail, a tree drops a limb just to see if I’m paying attention. I am now.

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Winter-bleached leaves on a stand of beech saplings hang tip-down, curled like funnels, holding moisture for no good reason I can think of. When the wind starts up they drop it all at once. I hear the patter from around the bend & picture things running – yet another harmless conclave broken up by the approach of a human being, two legs at noon.

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