A Selection of Poems from
If Not These Things
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.
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.
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.