Brain Fog

awoken by a dying rabbit
its shrieks in the night

i dream a cleaver-shaped moon
rain soft as fur

in the small hours even
the mosquitoes are sleeping

i listen to the surf of blood
pulsing in my temples

a cloud has come down for us
we don’t need to rise

Dog Days

linked-verse sequence

small talk…
the enormity
of the heat

dog day cicadas
in and out of sync

calling once
for old times’ sake
wood pewee

a hay rake at rest
with its teeth turned up

distant shot
or just the ice settling
in a glass

the old picnic blanket
attracting hornets

swimming hole
the low drone
of an incoming horsefly

blades of deer tongue grass
parsing out the shade

dolls’ eyes
clustered on a stalk
daddy longlegs

her schizophrenic brother
searching the sky

the sudden press of bodies
under a roof


amanita half-eaten
by a white fog of mold

what makes me think
i alone can stay dry

we appear to have entered
a monsoon season

and the spongy moths are mating
having prospered during the drought

the dusty-winged males flutter up
at my every step

through an ankle-high
grove of sassafras sprouts

to my seat against an oak
the sassafras in my thermos

and a seethe of traffic
from the interstate below

losing all its teeth
in the rain-fattened moss

a foot away from my right foot
a green stick caterpillar

clings to the end
of a ghost pipe

the way new beliefs
take root in a convert

held up rigidly
against the clouds

White Solstice

sun summoning from a white sky
the ridgetop oaks’ fuzzy shadows

gnomons enough to mark
the summer solstice

in one patch of half-sunlight
a box turtle’s red eye blinks

while a scarlet tanager flutters
in the canopy on dark wings

how cool the ghosts
of burning forests have kept us

it’s late morning and i’m still
in long sleeves

a breeze pages through the oaks
a revelation of caterpillars

and the tanager is a quick study
warbling as he hunts

one tree bears a vertical slit
of sky and leaves

crossed by a wide scar
straight through the heartwood

where two intertwined trunks
failed to fuse

and this cross made by a cross
bears an immense green crown

as it should for standing up
to all our weather

eyelids drooping i walk on
into a summer afternoon

the field has its sparrows
and the eastern wood its pewees

but i am melancholy as a catbird’s
parody of a wood thrush

for true refinement can only
be learned from the masters

which is perhaps why the sun
in firefly season

models itself after
that glowworm the moon

Extra Terrestrial


hiding out is hard
you get mistaken for a hermit

beaches are retreating inland
water is retreating to the sea

i continue to dwindle
like an old seed potato

giving all i have
to my wandering eye


i’ve taken to sleeping
in a sleek reflective coffin

i’m trying to trick the planet
into swallowing me


reverse engineers
reinvent the wheel as a halo

sugar too was once
a rare gift

then some sold others
into slavery for it

far away they said
in a new world


everywhere more alone
in an expanding universe

dark are the matters
preoccupying the stars

East of Eden

millipede under
the lip of my rock

curling into a question mark
as i stand to go

among mountain laurel blossoms
their sticky white cups

falling in the drought-stricken woods
with audible ticks

we’ve had a taste of rain
the moss is soft underfoot

the breeze carries the despairing
rage of a pair of birds

watching their children die
in the sunless tunnel of a snake

who is presumably savoring
her only meal of the week

knowledge of good and evil
extracts a terrible toll

while two trains
meet at a crossing

two broken chords disharmonizing
clear to high heaven

the way my two grandmothers
sometimes meet in me

the strident one
and the contemplative one

on bad air days when everyone
else also sees

this achingly beautiful planet
through a veil of ash

and i don’t know how it seems
to extraterrestrial visitors

but on earth the truth is bitter
it’s an acquired taste


sun in the crowns
of the oaks

ringing less
like a church bell

than the beeper on a truck
backing into a quarry pit

coming over top of the mingled
voices of birds

whose throats each mix
two vocal tracks

into a single braid ah
the wood thrush

redstart red-eyed vireo
and that alluring odor

from a bank of dame’s-rocket
trembling in one spot

i thought just as a chipmunk’s
tail was disappearing

into the lilies
of the valley


Natures are close to one another. It is by practice that they become far apart.
Kongzi, Analects 17.2 (tr. Brian W. Van Norden)

Bullshit Walks

found in a flower
one beetle’s quota of sleep

longhorned to graze
in pastures of white

Clintonia or Solomon’s plume
and soon the black cohosh

looking up i spot a raccoon’s
wide-eyed mask

returning my gaze from the crotch
of a dying hemlock

every day has its dog
on Thursday for a long moment

i walked with a yearling bear
ahead of me on the trail

whose walk is it then
one can only wander

on the steep slope
above the railroad

i find a patch of jacks-in-the-pulpit
that the deer missed

a train hurtles past with blue
containers of stink

our daily delivery of refuse
from the megalopolis

i climb through century-old quarries
rocks shift underfoot

still settling
where mountain holly blooms

the breeze wafts ambrosia
from some reclusive azalea

i pause for breath
a vireo chirps in alarm

i stop for lunch
a hooded warbler scolds

down-trail a second-generation
mourning cloak butterfly

circles its dappled
patch of sun

territory folks defending
their stake in the sticks

while a distant cuckoo
chants her own name

gorging on tent caterpillars
and spotted lanternfly larvae

letting strangers
foster her offspring

this is the background
i can’t include in my shots

whenever i stop to snap photos
of new or bigger plants

how green is my mountain now
with so much CO2 in the air

my ankles brush against
the Aladdin lamps of pale corydalis

rising through the still-tender
hayscented ferns

and a mosquito sinks her rig
right through my hat

the sun may descend into haze
but the light’s still perfect

the mountain’s shadow stretching
across the farm valley to my east

i watch a manure spreader
ply the rows of a sterile field

growing the dead zone
out of mind in the Chesapeake

until the wind shifts
and i beat a retreat

back from my walk i turn
the garden with a fork

straining out noodley roots
of invasive brome

dry fists of dirt
crumble at the touch

Next Exit: Xanadu

one must leave the garden
of earthly delights

where it belongs in a chest
or dresser drawer

the true Beulah is more ordinary
swaying on its stalk

lure and haven for a host
of nectar-seekers

blooming quick as thought
before the trees sprout new shadows

shaped like gaywings bellwort
mayflower windflower

thin as a spindle
in the fat of the land

or massive as an old red oak
encircled by bear corn

supplicants turned parasitic
must leave their own leaves behind

diminutive towers flowering
out of the ground

till the corollas lose
their erections

and the teeth of the calyx
turn brown and drop

what would you give up
for a life of ease

the garden of earthly delights
slithers on its belly

quieting the cries of nestlings
one by one

it lives as angels do
only in the moment of contact

upside-down and electric
from a thundercloud’s dark soil

a devastating epiphany
heartwood preserved in charcoal form

as the oak grows its hollow
for wilder life

Out with the Old

Barely noticed below the riot of spring wildflowers, last year’s leaves are breaking down into a common duff. Towhees aren’t as noisy now as they rummage for roughage.

deer skull and spine
on the old skid road
stretching my legs

Even the once-waxy oak leaves have worn thin, though the tailoring is still sharp—a close fit to the planet, which I see caricatured in a freshly fallen oak apple gall, green and glistening, the remains of its hacked leaf sticking out like a hitchhiker’s thumb.

standing water—
a birch tree perches
atop each stump

It’s humid. As the air warms, a cloud of gnats gathers around my hat.

of a flycatcher’s beak—
winter’s gone