(with a line from D. Bonta)
The cloud of beetles is gone, and most of the fruit
that hasn't been flayed by their gorging is hard and green
as if it were only the beginning of spring. What will you do
with the time that, night by night, is unraveling? No one asks
for promises. No one has locked you in or cast you out
of a nest. It's true that not even the vagrant birds
are interested to know your name, but you're never
as alone as you think. In the dark, you could stub
your toe on a root or trip on the teeth of a rake.
This is the part when
a little moonlight can shine
on a path of stones.
Some say a landscape is made up of fields and hay.
Somewhere, a horse and wagon; a barn with a rusted roof.
Under the rusted roof, an owl hoots; flies bother the horse.
A scarecrow is supposed to frighten creatures in the wild.
The scarecrow doesn't frighten squirrels or foxes or mice.
Something always manages to come through the cracks.
A snake can come through the cracks. Rainwater. Mud.
Sometimes you find a long sheath lit with old scales.
A long sheath lit with old scales, abandoned in the barn.
No blood, no scar: no one can tell how it manages this change.
Does blood or a scar guarantee the change is real?
So much grain to separate from chaff. Dust everywhere.
Separate the grain from chaff. Dust everywhere.
Remember the landscape made of fields and hay.
What comes out of how we press
language upon the mirror of the world?
The body breaks and manifests: its wound,
hunger for pink peppercorns and fish
sauce; shrimp laced with the tang of dancing
feet. We get up in the morning to roll
the dough upon a counter, salt it
with poems that never made it past
our dreams. Each knob is dusted with crumbs
before it even passes through the fire.
Warm globes emerge with a crust
we'll tear apart, history a narrative
we've tried to classify into parts: past,
present, and a future we say we can't
predict, though we never really fall
out of love with time. See how we
make all these tiny corrections—more
leavening, more air, more heat, more light.
I know every robe of light is edged
with a hem of dark stitching and the sea
is always raising and lowering its curtains.
Once when I put my arms around you
I couldn't hear the crash of waves.
These days are loud, though:
the billow of wind, the sermons
of thunder; the undercurrent of all
nostalgias turning into something
we only think we understand. O trigger
releasing a spring, tensing a mechanism,
seething with too much feeling.
O outrigger. I am an island and you are
an island and everyone else is an island
and we could be an archipelago.
The world is currently a film of heat,
a swelter of fires, and at the same time
the depletion of water tables. It's the high
watermark that shows how the last flood
descended from mountains into the valley,
filling all open-mouthed vessels in the glass
museum. It's the fig tree that erupted
with green nubs before spring
was underway, each inward facing garden
unsure of the meanings of begin and end.
Now the yard's littered with discarded skins
and the beetles are determined to take apart
every last bit of soft, ripe flesh dangling from
the branch. The days are their own
horoscope, sliding from fish to fawn
to bleating goats in the pasture, kestrels
and gulls crying about what else is left
to be done. All the while, stars revolve,
each in their own dark pocket. I look
for leftover change in coats and jackets,
saving them in a jar for when I need
to feed a parking meter.
The mouth is an instrument
of unknown appetites, and the body
its sound board. When it frets,
every note carries: from the scroll
to the neck to the upper bout
to the waist and the end pin.
I am always looking for mountains.
Where I am, the fingers of the estuary mix
fresh and salt water. Along strips
of highway, furniture stores and short-
term car rentals hum with their own kind
of static impatience. In summer,
ships make a procession into the bay,
their flags furling the colors of countries
elsewhere. Some of these
countries must have mountains too,
but I have no ability to imagine them.
On the other side of the river,
you can see office buildings of a small city
with cobbled streets; signage of new hotels,
new high rises. Once you learn
a shape, it is likely you'll recognize it again—
tern, crested cormorant, heron;
the loon's drawn-out and silvery call
at night; how loneliness seems to make
its own shape, threading in
and out of the mist.
The takeout place is still only a window.
No one's allowed in to sit at oilcloth-
covered tables. You can see the owners
in the kitchen, plunging the fry baskets into hot
oil, lifting them out and tipping wings
into a plastic box. The girl takes your card
and asks Soy sauce, duck sauce? It's
the usual cornstarch-dredged pieces
of chicken with a smattering of sesame
seeds; rice or noodles on the side.
"Happy Family" is still on the menu:
that dish with three kinds of meat
smothered in some kind of brown sauce,
a chaos of vegetables seared in the pan.
Bodies started falling
like sickened apples first
in Wuhan and then in most
countries of the world except
for a few, like Vanuatu or
the Marshall Islands where you
might still find flame angel fish
because all the tourists left
and won't be back for a long time.
Many of us kept a diary, observing
our loneliness and the loneliness
of our neighbors; which of them had
milk and eggs delivered and which
had pizza or Chinese takeout.
No one wanted bodies
bagged then taken away
for cremation, the confusion
of paperwork left behind by
the newly dead who didn't see
their deaths coming.
It's an industry
all to itself, this thing called dying.
Some profit more than others.
Meanwhile, scientists keep
working in their labs, testing for
new ways to kill any germ at its root.
Others say they've found a serum
that brings to life the heart
and liver or kidney and brain
of disembodied pigs.
Not so long ago
we used to have parties
for which a whole roast
pig was ordered. It presided
over the buffet table: caramel
colored crackling skin, Red
Delicious stuck in the open
mouth of a grin.
Think of it—
As if living inside
the shroud of death
weren't enough, now we also
have to consider the possibility
of zombie animals.
globe after globe,
each dusky sweet
streaked with the lingering
trace of the not-yet-ripe
and my hands
with milky sap—
flower into itch
and burn. In the heat,
we say nothing
about the plots
we haven't cleared,
the grass beginning to choke
at the foot of a still
very young persimmon.
Not all in a garden flourish or fall
together, as I've learned.
Come, let's not hide
our faces any longer until
they burst from the effort
of pretense. Let's just tune
each other's clocks
as well as we can.