Sinking Valley

the longer you gaze at the face
of a limestone cliff

the more beasts
begin to emerge

a puzzle of muzzles
a marl of snarls

don’t call them angelic
they’re not here for you

convening as if
to meditate on a corpse

where the creek makes a brief
above-ground appearance

oh white-breasted nuthatch
with your anxiety song

who’s to say what’s real
in a valley full of sinkholes

bare trees are brooms
for this bitter wind to ride

right into the earth
vibrating where they live

red cedars giving
shelter to juncos

a locust still ornately thorned
against mastodons

threadbare hemlocks
unaccustomed to so much sun

i follow the groundwater
back underground

and my glasses fog up
in less than 50 feet

the creek has gained
echoey voices

that may or may not
be cave divers

drowned in pursuit
of an inner space

hidden from the sun:
a grove of impossible trees

stems said to be slender
as drinking straws

having long ago met
their better halves

growing down
as they grew up

i emerge shivering
into the frigid sunlight

the cliff is empty
i come to no conclusions

at the next farm
a hundred goats

graze their pasture down
to the nubbins

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