Come then, they said

come then, they said, and we did

set off across ochre sand. each dawn

the captain’s spirit followed arc of the sun, and we pushed on.

hope rose as the prow of some proud Fifth Avenue revelation;

by noon, aimed scope and yoke of sunlight

had buried it beneath time and her shifting rhymes.

 

yet, strangely, each blistering, immutable morning

was a relief: always there was a new

porthole to peer through, a new gargoyle to imitate,

and light years to live up to.

in tremulous haze, a shared cigarette took on apodictic significance;

the monarch’s feet steadily crumbled to sand.

 

as wind wrote lines, setting, in chancery font, editions of one,

there were those who peered out and prayed for even a speck of rock

with coconut palms, rabbits, sticks to hold a point.

a grey-eyed bird might glide by on thermals,

but always without song. we counted on nothing

but the sibilant push, hush beyond the prow.

 

would I could report I’d stood and spotted

a torch, a tower, a refuge for our kind,

but my lips were as parched as any.

hope in the hold had long threatened to stove in the ribs,

there was no longer any counting of beads.

anyone with a lunula rising understood: this is it.

 

‘it was a long voyage’ is the narrative we tell the young—

for it is a long voyage, and we weary of the light.

all we have is a chest of names for sun and sand,

and a belief as featureless as wind:

we will not remain forever

too weary for love.

What the Pigeon Said

here's a recent one, from a four-part sequence called 'Three Parts Pigeon, One Part Human.'

 

the world pours out of and over itself.

 

in choking surfeit,

clatter and froth,

dust and feathers

   and harder things: beak and claw

and faith.

                 I have always been one

    to float

on prayer and expectation

but the pulse of the crowd

necessitates savoring 

a single seed, a square inch or two of space.

 

red eyes, iridescent neck,

 

head moving

                          with each step

                                                     like a leather-worker’s awl:

 

I am some wonderful dancer. I am some wonderful dancer.

 

though flight is within easy reach,

I wrap my heart

in a shawl of wings,

scratch at the hard ground

and ignore how much of me

it already contains.

 

First publication in decades!

This is the poem that was accepted for and published in the new issue of Vallum (Montreal). There were readings in Toronto and Montreal in support of the periodical, and I was there. Standing up. Reading. No guitar in my hand. Back to it, after all these years...

 

it’s not as if I don’t know what I need to do.

                                                    this beautiful old barn. its

owls and mice, musty air, misty pale yellow light

   coming through high windows—

a musical staff, populous motes singing across the lines. here

      a well-shaped note lasts forever.

a blue pigeon, a delicate bat in the highest spire.

feathery wings homing in on the scratching.

old trunks covered in footprints and filled

with handmade wooden toys and treasures, couplets and flasks.

I know what I need to do here.            nothing.                     breathe.         

            no moment,

                               falling from heaven,

                                                           is identical to any other.

it is true my beard is greying.

it is true the river is frozen and tentative eyes

stare upwards through opacity, for a sign.

                                                                I need do nothing                but breathe        

   and step forward. accept

the nature of wind and its ineffable soul—

            by which is meant ‘time.’

acceptance in the upturned palms.

and generosity: what I am given, what I may give.

muted sun on winter and its black squirrels,

            its expansive hushed feet. out there.

and here, in the cavernous barn,

            the chapel of all I can remember

it would be easy—and I know those who sang this gospel—

to crumple under the weight of it all.

but I know: stand still and listen.

accept. love. and know, dawn and springtime will

always come. not sorry. not afraid, no sound of should in this old barn

of dust and thoughts and moments from each tense,

drifting down

                      through seven lines of light.