A Selection of Poems from
If Not These Things

Poetry from
other collections

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WEATHER MAP

The jet stream dipped down like a gourd,

ladling away summer, putting out fireflies

and spilling the language of barriers:

trough, ridge, pressure.

 

Though it makes no sense to say

the weather is wrong or

out of sorts, we insist on tying

common rags to the tail of its numinous kite:

outburst, rage, calm.

A high cloud like a cold morning word,

followed by an arid week of silence.

 

Still, the weather feels strange today,

sleet ticking my nylon jacket as I

range the same miles of field and woods

I do almost every day, no matter.

Seventy degrees yesterday, and a sky as blank

 

as the green screen behind a weatherman,

figures ghosted on a small monitor,

every forecast an illusion.

                                                                                                                    

PLEASE STAND

Praise to the people who read directions

before assembling the bookcase, and praise to the people

who don’t and say, “Where does this piece go?”

Huzzah to lovers of multi-lane freeway, its interposing grass

and routine facilities, and hip-hip to drivers happy when roadwork shunts them onto a shoulderless byway.

       

We salute all ritual beginnings—green flags

and baptisms, the elegant unfolding of napkins.            

We salute the impulse too—ordering the novel entrée

or taking an uncleared trail. Hallowed are

all humble acts of courage: hands

trembling over a keyboard, waving a child

off to school, unpacking a suitcase

that has just been packed.

 

We honor the private ceremonies of continuance, when

just getting dressed is a prayer. Honor upon all uncheered miles

pedaled or run in the rain.  Honor to those who show up,

who keep promises made in public, keep the ones

silent and heavy as snow.

 

Praise for the rich soil of hope, for the precious seeds,

and for hands working, many hands, more than enough.

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THE JIGSAW PUZZLE FROM THE SECOND-HOME THRIFT STORE

is missing seven pieces, now that we can count

the unaccounted for, amorphous cousins absent

from this family mottle. Their truancy reveals

brown amoeba voids in our panorama of cowboys

chasing mustangs, a splendid Palomino shattering

sage and cactus as it flames around chuckholes

 

dark as the dining room table, little misshapen caves 

of knobs and sockets, a Freudian mosaic with

discrete omissions, none touching, none

betraying the gray underside of desire.

Still, we miss the cousins who cannot see

the space we built for this reunion, how we

 

laid out a level floor, squared up corners and

framed the sides, then carefully raftered clouds

into a turquoise sky. They leave ghost shapes hovering

in the high plains air, a beautiful horse

slipping the uncoiled lariat.