A White Shirt
Later it will hang in a dark closet
beside your blue suit. When you
wear it, it will stand between
the lies you tell the world
and your heart.
But now, dangling on the line,
autumn’s slow conflagration
sparking behind it,
it has shaken off your claims
Startled with sun,
the wind captured in one swollen sleeve,
it is the purest thing on the landscape;
it is the Holy Ghostcome out to stir the flames.
-first appeared in The Tampa Review
While dreaming a poem about autumn
your waitress thoughtlessly poured
water in your coffee cup,
splashed chowder on your suit.
So sorry and excuse me but
in case you haven’t heard
there’s a high wind in the dining room,
a half-moon in the pie;
there’s a blaze in the crystal,
and wild weather in your eyes.
I know you wanted your meat rare,
some extra sour cream,
but just outside the window, trees
are bleeding leaves;
the sunflowers wear mourning;
there’s desolation at the tables
and tumult in the air;
an anarchy of color
threatens stability everywhere.
I know you wanted your tea hot
and your check promptly tallied;
but in case you haven’t seen,
your waitress has unloosed her hair,
has given up her tray
and absconded with her pen in hand
to catch the world that’s burning.
-first appeared in Nimrod International Journal
On Catching My Husband With A Cigarette After Seven
Years Of Abstinence
It is not the smoke that
coils around your head
in the garage where you’ve
retreated with coffee and The Times
for an early morning butt
that so startles me.
No, it is merely your expression--
the tacit admission
we seldom dare to make
That there is always
a life we hold in secret--
-first appeared in The Sun
Tornadoes Kill 8 In Arkansas And Tennessee
A photograph taken from the air shows us
It is a Jackson Pollock, a confusion of color
on a grey-brown background.
But somewhere in it,
is everything we know of the world:
houses, trucks, roads, people.
And there beneath the familiar--
that finds us behind our locked doors,
that tracks us
to the rooms where we lie reading,
that pulls us
from lives we thought we were leading,
and flings us out like broken sticks
into this aerial view
of vast and random darkness.
It always seems to be winter
when we come back here, miles
of trees glittering with ice,
cornfields flooded white--
and somewhere in the center,
a lonely figure in a snowmobile,
lost inside its mechanical hum.
Going back to the old mining town
that clusters at the top of the hill
is a process of rising, climbing,
ascending into a past as real
and unyielding as these mountains.
And just as unknowable.
Less than a century ago, my husband’s
grandparents came here from
Poland and Slovakia; they fitted themselves
to this sharp landscape.
Here they would go down into
the earth, and draw up an existence
we’ve grown too cossetted
to imagine. Here they would
spend the rest of their lives--
fifty or seventy-five
winters like this one, traveling
a road cut through mountain,
peering through black trees
into rough cut gorges, cold streams,
woods too deep and impenetrable to fathom.
-both poems first appeared in The Ontario Review