Under lake blue patches of clear
Sky filled with sudden resplendent light
I see them; they’re back in full bloom;
Cupped in green with glowing flower eyes;
Back though winter might well return
With frost and further snowfalls.
Here and there in the desolate garden
Primrose, hyacinths and daffodils have
Pushed their way out of the soggy soil;
Elsewhere there are scattered pools of
Stagnant water and a little swamp
Filled with last year’s death and decay.
But in their midst the stalwart violets take
Their stand; their perfume, with its innocent
Allure, once inhaled, is never forgotten and
We are forever lured into their charmed circle.
Birds and Spring Rain
Let the light fall gently on the first leaves
And the sparrow perch on the green twig
Shaking loose the rain drop on its tip; in the
Darkling sky the shadow of a thrush seeking
A wandering sunbeam; in the barn doves
Cooing in the well of silence; a vagrant wind
Stirs the sleepy trees and the sky turns wild
As lightening slices through the rain then
Exhausted fades away and quiet rain slides
Silver down the window pane.
I love the little lights, each with a small circle
Of earth beneath it, basking in its golden glow and
In the shadows the white roses pale and lovely,
With the black pines rising above them;
The emerging stars vague points of silver light;
In the shadows the lilacs stir, scenting the garden
With their purple perfume; the magnolia,
Burdened with blossoms bathed in moonlight
And geraniums glow like rubies in the grass.
Like Spring Never Left
I didn’t see the leaves come out this year,
I don’t think they ever left; never saw any
Bleak and barren limbs, something soft
And tinted stayed; in fact we’ve skipped
A winter; had a season like the midnight
Sun. I’ve only noticed that the chestnuts
Are out; the little ballerina blossoms
Flared like tutus on our tree; and the
Church yard grass is already running over
The old tombstones like green water.
A lovely blue evening where pleasure
Is suspect, like a lantern glowing in
The middle of a vacant field.
My warning light goes up in darkness,
Shying at shadows; the essential dust.
Lazy and indifferent, shaking space easily from his wings,
Knowing his way, he passes over the fields and forests
Far beneath the sky, absorbed in himself, the sky
Covers with clouds and uncovers, endlessly.
A lake flashing blue. A mountain. The sun golden
On its slopes, a waterfall, the water falling
Forever and ever. Clouds flaunted, the falcon leaf like
Drifting on currents of thin air, blown across the
Silver splashed squandered white space suddenly
Plummets into its blue content; still lazy and indifferent
Returns to earth. The night sky unveils its stars.
The Curse of Memory
Though it had been five years
I recognized him
Instantly, even in profile.
He didn’t see me in the crowd.
I made my escape seeking solitude
To begin forgetting him, again.
I concentrated on the rain,
Umbrellas, a yellow cab; my hot tears
Disguised as raindrops.
Forget I told myself; forget his
Strong hands, his quick smile
And soft eyes; forget the passion,
The deceit, the heartbreak.
Concentrate on sidewalk cracks
And neon signs; the cool spring night,
The Starbucks on the corner;
Forget his voice that thrilled and
At the end forget the pain of
Parting that almost killed.
My little world turns slowly in your absence.
Your arrivals and departures change
The quality of my inner climate.
Your proposed visits take form gradually
Coming out of a haze of rumor, and
Seem but lightly superimposed on the vital
Pattern of summer till your departure
Tears ragged rents in the season’s fabric and tenure.
Innocence always calls mutely for
Protection, when we would be much
Wiser to guard ourselves against it;
Innocence is like a blind leper who
Has lost his bell, wandering the
World meaning no harm.
Half of the fence pickets were missing
And the gate hung by one rusty hinge.
The remains of the burned house were
Covered over with ivy; weeds had long
Since conquered the grass but dandelions
Brightened the shade under the catalpa tree.
Roses gone wild smothered a broken
Bench I barely remember. An almost visible
Silence filled the empty air where no birds
Sang and the loneliness of afternoon
Seemed to settle in the forsaken birdbath
We are curiously self made creatures,
Carrying our personal worlds around with
Us like snails their shells, and at the
Same time trying to adapt; we are never certain,
for all our style and superficial panache we live
With insecurities and doubt; vain, timid,
Mostly harmless dreamers, never certain.
Under the winding wooded way
Old oaks share their shade, so only
A little light falls between the
Boughs of burgeoning green
To play upon the dancing leaves
Above the grassy ground.
Daylight’s dimmed to almost dark
Along the tunneled trees where
In the black bark hearts are crudely
Carved with pocket knives,
Making a hidden history of lovers
Linked and still may be seen upon
Those time twisted trees the age
Mutilated marks of love’s identity.
The Way It Is
Life works to dispossess the dead,
To dislodge and oust them,
Their places fill themselves up;
Later people come in,
All the room is needed:
Feeling alters its course,
Is drawn elsewhere or seeks
Renewal from other sources;
When there is not enough
Love to go around it is
The dead who must do without.
The Old South
Under the smothering sky I felt
The authentic shimmer of the past
And something of the iridescence
Of decay; places of beauty
And strangeness overlooked by time.
I registered that beauty out of the
Corner of my eye with unwilling love,
Intoxicated by fairytale balconies,
Ornate verandas shaded with honeysuckle,
Bow windows and inglenooks inset
With jujubes of stained glass.
I trod the ermine dust of haunted halls,
Down which nothing but moonlight came.
I wandered dreamily down dim paths
Between ancient oaks trailing strands
Of Spanish moss; confronted at every turn
With lichen laced statues, toppled
Colonnades, dry fountains and shadows;
Vast sweeps of lawn from which arose
A green coolness; gazed greedily at bowers
Of extravagant roses and white water lilies
Floating on a dark pool where starlight
Shone like shards of mirrored glass.
The Good Father
As a child he was my safe harbor,
The location for my often dislocated
Life; without him there was no security;
Now I know that safety and happiness
Is a game that grownups play with
Children to keep them from understanding
That life’s nothing but waiting for
Awfulness to happen and trying to think
About something else until it does.
Reign of Roses
Wind and rain battered the roses; sodden
Petals littered the ground; the white roses,
Loose globes of colorless shadow, were still
To fall; the pink blooms faded and falling,
But glowing in dawn’s first light, the crimson
Roses, still closed and virginal, drank in the
Sweetening rain; the blossoms were picture
Perfect, where each rain drop fell like a kiss
On the petal’s lip, but these were real roses,
Living through to their tender hearts and like
All earthly beauty doomed to fade and die.
The grazing cattle moved in the fields like saints
With a mindless certainty. Aspen, oak, elm,
Maple, and pine sucked up the light like water.
Only the massed trees spread like a rug
To dull some unbearable brightness, break
Contact between self and senses, perilous to
The routine of living. The orchard trees
Were dark and heavy with fruit as dusk rose
To lie stagnant on the fields, obscuring
The sleeping corn, the shinning wheat, dulling
The air like a rain of ashes. It lay wherever
I looked, as though the fountains of darkness
Were in my own perception. The farm house
With its encroaching trees seemed a reservoir
Of night and the chimney smoke, drifting over
The menacing leaves doubtfully, seemed
The very breath of life.
I never knew his name.
The newspaper said
He was murdered in the park,
Then I pictured him
Lying cold and dead in the dark.
Were we all to blame.
Was his epitaph his claim to fame,
That none of us, then or now,
Ever knew his name?
It kindly leaves out quite a lot
And only lets you down gently because
It’s half a fake. We remember to
Suit ourselves; if we didn’t how could
We ever bear the past?
Except at its one moment there’s
No such thing as truth; ten minutes,
Half an hour and we begin to embellish
Pleasurable memories and quickly
Gloss over painful ones like
An oyster does to produce a pearl.
An Early Frost
He handed me a bright bouquet
Of autumn flowers picked in the snow;
Fragile beauties brittle with cold
Obviously verging on decay.
The leaves were frost bitten and curled;
The blossoms drooped, the sad petals fell,
Leaving me with a dead bouquet
In a strangely bleak and bitter world.
Golden summer was fading into rusty fall;
There were days of little sun and damp gray
Mornings; cumulus clouds crowded the blue
Horizon; the smell of ripe apples in the
Orchard and dead leaves burning.
By the Lake
I swooned with the sweetness of roses
At the height of their last blooming,
Their pale petals scattered on the crushed grass
From which arose a green perfume.
A black swan floated regally downstream
As the sun set in flames, dazzling
The lake whose blue and bronzy sheen
Reflected only the drowned clouds
And the blue infinity of space.
In Pity and Piety
A sheaf of purple, almost black dahlias
Were wilting in the grass, trailing faded ribbons;
A garland of limp lilies had slipped slantwise
Over the grave, and a wreath of red roses
Shedding petals stirred sluggishly in the sultry
Barely breathing air; candles for the glory
Of the dead were stuck in the unhealed earth;
A glass vase glittered cruelly in the sun.
Above all this uneasy rustle of remembrance two
Stone angels were poised, nervously, as if for flight.
Soft as snow the morning mist lies
Dreaming on the pond and
The aspen trees still half asleep,
Roused by the barely stirring breeze,
Welcomes the sun that dances on their leaves
While the white ducks paddle contentedly
On the serene surface of the pond;
The day begins its too brief stay in peace.
I don’t look for the first robins, their
Permanent residents or watching for
A daffodil to poke its butter yellow head
Out of the snow, we don’t have any snow,
Well, hardly ever, except in the mountains.
Spring rains start in the winter; trees
And shrubs stay green all year round,
But today I felt the promise of spring
When I saw that the first buds had formed
On the rose bushes and the sun was
Peaking in my bedroom window waking
Me earlier every day and melting away
The morning’s velvety veil of mist.
The last of the dahlias blazed
With desperate color
Beneath trees on which each vein
On each turning leaf
Was perfect against the sky’s
On the lawn the first of the fallen
Leaves lay singly and in drifts
Of scarlet and rusty gold;
In the sweeping up there was a sad
Brittle sound like broken glass.
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