R8 (Winter Effect)
There are no parables underground, no shows
of metaphor. The icicles are filth and hoar, not
stalactite. Square light marks divisions, yellow
and yellow, her reflection is merely her reflection,
despite what the conductor sees. She travels
backward, hands to knees: her knees are taped
shut. Faster trains have cut aside; the carriage
is a witch on frozen track. Each sound comes back.
The tape will come undone. There are spare lights
ahead where sound repeats; they shun the dark.
Snow reforms in gritty mounds. Her knees unite.
Sight returns, emerging lines; the passengers are
all asleep. They creep and gape with open mouths.
The city dashes by. Ash on window hides the sky.
Metal pulls and engines crack. She travels past
them, knees to tape, before the last mark on the
rail, before its close, before its shape.
** This poem first appeared in The Waybill
Eight of us, divided two and two and two, finally
one and one: the precise mathematics of travel.
One kilometer as measured by the diameter of
eight tires, their circumferences repeated
and this was all we had, the rest of our heritage
of German precision reduced to Achtung! Drive
on the left. Spend on Euro on each litter of gas.
We burned it on the ascent. As the mountains
dropped behind us, street signs disappeared.
Even the lines on the road were lost.
Finally, at the falling away of a sheer cliff into frog,
the asphalt itself vanished. Rain came down, as if
to swell the bogs, to overflow them brown peat,
to created flood out of rock, unmeasured liters of it
to move, as we all do, toward the eighth day.
off asphalt, flattened it
to puddles--nothing special
about wet cries of thunder
in this climate--nothing special,
Except what we brought to it--
bare arms palmed by falling
warmth, flushed and damp
three weeks form winter
solstice, thinking of its heat,
Returning to college, I discovered
recent excavations, foundations of a colonial
coffeehouse, each uncovered item granted academic
dissertation, carefully tagged and catalogued:
where it was found,
and who found it,
and what else rested near.
I gouged the dirt inside these pits, unearthed
dissected vertebrae, poetry broken into shards,
then dry bone scabbed and marked, a whole
skeleton of what we had shared here, long ago.
how deep the dirt had settled,
and how rich the soil.
and how much I exhumed:
the body and everything
Look into it’s siverless depth.
My grandmother. Her brush, the gray strands of time.
Inheritance, 1994. The frame is moved and hung.
2006, wind. The green ribbon clinging to the frame
rubs its button mouth. Dirt claims its foil horse;
its printed 1989. Broken feathers, blonde strands
in the air. Study them as you would a stranger’s face.
My mother stares beside the mirror,
her self-portrait a shadow blue. In the corner,
1962 and signed. Gold rings her cheeks.
Let in more light. Dust on the oils.
Her mouth pink, closed. No voice at all.
But her eyes--
alive beneath the grime