Winter Road

fades to white
from weeks of salt.

Ice stitches
jack-knifed feathers
in the ditch

the gray ridge
the snowplow made.

Phragmites rocks
in the wake
of passing trucks.


Blow on the stones,
clap wood and flint
to parry cold and
bleakest night; plant
decoys before sprinting
off with real fire—

What boldened rush,
what streak through
burning brush? A duty
bidden by the moon:
to steal the secret
of the buckle’s gleam—

O birdling, o almost
completely fledged,
the branch on which you
teeter is alight: come
now to bridge the air,
no vertigo or fear—


In response to Via Negativa: Buckles to my shoes and small stone (210).


This entry is part 14 of 29 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2012-13


And the poem: does it hold you,
welcome you, swallow you whole?

Does it burrow in you like a secret,
wind the key a little tighter

in the lock, unravel like a bright
string of yarn plucked from a sleeve?

Does it send down the night like a maw
or use the silhouettes of trees for fringe?

When nothing stirs, it’s easy to think
the mountain’s cold heart won’t thaw.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Cold Suite


In the brass section at the inaugural,
the cold is a mouth full of teeth
knocking against a fleshy cage,
trying to avoid the frozen graft
onto the mouthpiece—


On the corner, in the abandoned
church, the beautiful door
with ornate carvings that summer’s
high heat had held so close,
can finally be pushed open—


Who has not in childhood laid
upon their tongues the salty iron
taste of keys abandoned in the backs
of drawers? I can see them even now,
a row of skeletons beneath the alcove—


In response to Via Negativa: Domestic arrangements and small stone (208).

Where boundaries blur

The Storialist:

In the wild spots where few or

no people live, the places blow
about, blurred. The desert shifts

some of its cells. Water lifts a little,
sinks. No pine needles fall, then,

a pine needle falls, four more. Here
no one knows what truth is escaping.


This entry is part 13 of 29 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2012-13


Leave it; you don’t want to dwell there, you don’t want to know what might have happened if it didn’t happen the way it did.

At times it is impossible to tell intention from intervention, the thorny stalk from the hedge, floss from the papery husk. In the dark, you might think it hardly matters, but it does, it does.

And the bud? It might have been white, red, or yellow; a bird might have plucked it from the stalk.

Say happenstance, say accident, say unthinking. But no matter, someone decreed that you had to pay.

Sentiment costs; nostalgia’s a big cottage industry, especially when there are poets locked up in cells, beasts that pace the ramparts worrying about deflation and capital gains in the real world.

Under the eaves, wind mingles with the sounds of haunted things: mouth harp, train whistle, gypsy cutting through the woods.

Once, at a writers’ retreat, I slept in the tower room. Toward the end of the week, near dawn, a weight, a shape, sat on my chest and refused to move. For a few seconds I struggled toward the light-pull. Was it a dream, or had there been too much salt on the baked salmon at dinner?

I cannot live your lives again, o ghostly ones. But I can walk to the balcony and look down at the river where your faces occasionally swim up under moonlight. I can collect your delicate ululations like pearls, one by one on a line.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.