The quivering, Three hunters kneeling, Occurrence with an elephant head & Caladium
[ poetry - march 09 ]
Gone to chips, particles, layered groundcover,
into these the shagbark hickory
has brought her glory, sixty-foot height
and single straight trunk,
branch free for three-quarters
of its stature-despite the frostbitten arborist's
words, outdoors before the chainsaw:
"junk tree" and
This breathing thing
spent her life sailing winds
of rustic uplands, creaking a bit
in gales, it's true,
before dropping a rattle-crop
of shagbark nuts for the wren,
possum, woodchuck and raccoon,
for a walker or two.
defies tradition, some might say, having
a quivering for a tree.
honors the movement, the dance
that was hers -
and now this call, rousing those around,
come and gather, sitting down
to tell stories.
How lumberyard men
stripped the trunk, planing and fashioning the wood
into tool handles, skis, wagon
a kind of art.
Ghost of what swayed here, gone passing,
sighing, shell bark, seal bark,
butternut and pecan hickory.
From our mouths drenched with words,
to the sweet taste of nutmeats, now we bend
shovel and rake, laying her gently down
under another green, this shaped bed
of renewal to be born-from photosynthesis, water, seed-
over and ever again.
Three hunters kneeling
Laid out in rows on South Carolina's burnt grass,
a square of ten by fifteen shapes, a quilt of limp forms
of crows, their dusky tails and feathers changed now,
gone to will-not-fly-again, will-not-caw-or-cry-out,
life's sheen disappeared from their discerning eyes.
Three men in camouflage kneel behind, grinning, their puffed-
out chests making me think of the top bird on the tree,
the alpha bird at the suet cage, chasing the small birds
off-though not slaughtering them, ever, one by one.
Overnight, pulling them into my eyes and brain in sleep,
I set them on the wing on the updraft air under the sturgeon moon,
alive in my hands cupped, the lifelines breathing life
back into them, blessing them, giving them peace,
dripping a bit of cool water into their beaks, and one
shakes its head, the draught silvery down its throat,
and it revives. If their crime was eating the whole crop
of pecans, now I give them back acres more of them,
the ground thick, and pokeweed's berries, dangling and dark.
I turn the men into bird droppings-and now the crows
go swooping down, parading there, turning, eating in the sun
what has passed through undigested, whole and still sweet.
Occurrence with an elephant head
When an elephant head comes into the room,
this scene is altered, the atmosphere of the atelier
shifts like tectonic plates slipping, wooden easels set on
crossbars start crying out to be adjusted, the painters' backbones
aching, primary colors daubed in rows onto glass
palettes grow prismatically brighter, the north light hues
waver greenly, all because an elephant head which is a skull
and lies first in a box, then is lifted out, raised on a platform
so many can view it, has a way of reordering thoughts-
now the room grows warmer, there is a whisper of savannah grass,
the far-off call of a cheetah pierces air, those in the room
knowing the sound without ever hearing it before, and there begins
a low rumbling, sub-sonic, not humanly heard but yet sensed,
toe-talking rippling out, tidal, an alarm quaking through the floor.
Leaf-struck, I study up close the onionskin thin
elongated heart-shape with its green edging,
a double line, and its bleeding rose center
from which all the vein lines, rich, radiate out.
This leaf or asparagus fern, new plants of
my universe in twin windowboxes-look!-
even the noxious pokeweed struggles up tall
with its creamy blossom spikes bent now by rain.
The life force ticks on in the tissues and cells,
themselves discrete boxes filled with llysosomes,
ribosomes, Golgi bodies, chloroplasts, and
more. Walking now, I stretch out a greedy hand.