river in November light between bare woods and mountain
Pull the strings and set the paper
disk into rapid rotation— so the fish

leaps into the bowl, the bird
grabs the fish with its feet

and flies around and around
forever. The eye and the brain

hold on to the vision even after
it has disappeared from view,

the same way your image keeps
flickering behind my eyes.


river in November light between bare woods and mountain
The dictionary explains: not all pauses 
are preludes to a tapering off or an end. 

And pauses are not always instances 
of hesitation. Some pauses are brief 

stops on the way to an intended destination— 
the stop simply provides some kind of rest, 

relief; a chance to refuel, after which 
the action that came before the pause 

comes into play again. Regular 
traffic pauses to let a funeral 

cortège through: hearse after hearse 
after hearse, seemingly without end.

Voices at Night

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
I confess my fears to the dark
as it rapidly descends— 

how I imagine the paralysis of a world
that has lost its capacity to regenerate.

So sad, cries the bird hidden in its nest.
So sad, even as it's pushed out

and it hears the air 
murmur reassurance.

Winter Mother

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
To ban is to summon, command,
or proclaim; to send someone away,
as in exile.  

Skeletons of hydrangeas in the back
garden, the vacant arms of the fig.

Almost everything has left
or is leaving. 

Soon it is the winter solstice, 
when the sun stands still and the folds
between dawn and dusk shorten.

In that story of the girl's 
going to the underworld, we know
more about the seeds than about 
the mother: how they glinted with color,
fecundity, increase; moon-drawn shedding.

Of course we imagine a god in his dark 
kingdom of the barren. 

Perhaps she wanted none 
of that other future: the body swollen with 
its own heaviness, the curve of another 
spine pressed against one's own.

No one is the villain, not even
the mother. Not even when she shreds
all foliage from the trees and forces
the earth to harden its heart.

White is the color of blame-
lessness. Or is it the color of death,
the color of truth, the color of forgetting?
Perhaps one day, we'll return 
to everything we thought 
we hated, which could also 
be what we once loved 
before it was relinquished.

Self Portrait, in a Collective Dream

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
Somewhere in the course of a day, I try to find ledges 
on which to rest. Yesterday, I brought out bookbinding 
tools and a box of ephemera— things that caught my eye
or were part of something else once important, but it 
was the seemingly inconsequential thing I wanted to save.

The lettering on the side of a pasta box, a piece of vellum
from an envelope; a rivet case with a pull-out tab like a drawer. 
I wish I could call my daughter in what people used to call  
the old country. Or rather, I wish she would answer my calls.
But here it is, another year-end approaching. We are all

no longer young. I have troubling dreams where we lie down 
on a road stretching from the front yard into the dark blue 

distance. Who are all these people crowded together, their 
shoulders touching, waiting for some kind of sign?

Camp John Hay

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
It used to be a military camp and air station for the Americans 
in colonial times. They named it after the Secretary of State 
who called the Spanish-American war a splendid little war. In that 
war, the US defeated Spanish forces in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and 
the Philippines. When I was growing up, my father liked to take us 
there for breakfast on special occasions. His favorite was a restaurant 
called The Nineteenth Tee, overlooking the golf course. He pointed out 
the clipped bermuda grass and the clean sidewalks, saying this was what 
made it look like "Little America." Later I realized the menu was just basic
American cafeteria fare:  burgers and fries, chipped beef on soggy 
toast, milk in cartons, apple pie. Now, it's what the city calls a multi-use 
development: forest watershed, chain stores, Starbucks, tourist cottages 
next to call centers where any of the agents of global corporations  
will put you on hold before taking your customer service call. 

Self Portrait with Yard in Need of Raking

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
          Three days of high wind—the row of pines out front
rains fusillade of dry needles on the yard. I tell
           myself, perhaps one day I might muster the daily 
kind of industry I see the neighbors apply 
           to this everlasting disorder. But they are armed
with leaf-blowers, leaf-collection chutes, lawn
           edgers, as if the sky won't last longer than any of us.
I go out with a bent-toothed rake and gather dry
           leaves into piles, though what I've read is they're better
laid on a landscape bed as mulch instead of stuffed in bags
           that end up in landfills. While the season is busy
with dying, it's also true that nothing dies. Though it's hard,
           I try to remind myself that every change is not merely 
a vacating. The sky will last longer, almost a kind of love. 

Fire Signs

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
Because she always falls         asleep last, she regards
the nape of the man beside her          in bed, the outline
of his leg, the slant of either       moonlight or the motion-
sensor light on the deck          coming through bathroom 
blinds, then coming through         the door. She remembers
where they keep one fire              extinguisher (at the bottom
of the stairs nearest            the stove) but doesn't know where
the other one is.               In the event of an emergency, says
every ad that leaps out          when they watch the late night
news or when she's scrolling                    idly on her phone. 
She wants to tell the man beside her          about her friend's
husband who probably has more             than two dozen
fire extinguishers throughout             their one-floor 
apartment. When she visited                    in April,
they were pointed out to her so she          wouldn't trip 
on them in the dark. His trauma,       her friend explained:
how an arsonist set fire               to the safehouse 
he was hiding in        and he got out, but not his other             
activist friends. Now she finds              herself more 
watchful sometimes                 and amazed at how many
things in the world are shaded       the color of fire or a burn.             


river in November light between bare woods and mountain

Undulant as banked blue 
             asperitas clouds, bright as the film 

around a fish's eye— which is how 
            you can tell it's fresh, so you can harvest

its life. It's funny but sometimes  the dead
             seem to communicate better than

the not yet dead. Back when you were a child
            you took a pink plastic hair band and taped

a length of twine to each side. Then you looped
            the ends together around a hairpin and punched

connections through a paper switchboard. 
           Do you still hear that vast humming beneath 

the surface? Fields of seagrass scarred by boat 
           propellers; mangroves collapsed  in stagnant water.