Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. — Leonard Cohen
This is what I’ve asked of houses in the past:
Keep out the cold.
Keep out the rain.
Turn aside the creatures,
The ones who favor crumbs and jam,
Those that lust for cashmere and merino,
The others who flit through torn screens
Alert to my breath—and how can I stop breathing?
Keep out the singeing breath of a Santa Ana,
The damp fog rising off the lake.
Keep the sun from stealing the colors
Of the carpet for its own glory.
Give me solitude, stillness.
Keep out the darkness.
Make of this place a sanctuary.
Now, of this house, the first of my own making, I ask:
Be at ease on this small
Parcel of ferns and moss
Under fir and madrone.
Bring me the noises of the night,
Soft scitterings that let me know I’m not alone.
Let the browsing deer keep me company.
Breathe in the fragrance of tannin
Distilled by gentle rains.
Hear the heavy winter winds
Churning the waters of the strait
To foamed brine.
Let in the light
Straying through a scrim of needled branches.
We will both bear our scratches
And not fret over their deepening
But grow more imperfectly perfect.
A black, silk ribbon
of an adder
ahead of our procession,
a black remmant
from the sleeve of a mourner
or a streamer
on a somber hat
I’d wear in the church.
the cheeks of some.
Mine would be dry
as these stones
worn smooth by a
thousand moments of grief.
She holds the yarn in fingers
Slim and white as birches lining the shore.
The yarn, a twist of colored strands,
Brown, scaled cones,
Gray, water-worn granite,
Bitter-yellow beech leaves,
And silvered blue of the lake’s wind-swept mosaic.
She knits the colors into a forest fabric,
Soft purled hills like ever-traveling swales that ripple inland from lakeshore,
Knit stitch vees, crotches of forked aspen and elderberry where orioles nest.
She shapes sinuous sleeves
And a windbreak collar deep as the cedar copse.
A dandelion seed, piloting the wind,
Lights on her wrist.
Deftly she grasps it between moon-white nails of forefinger and thumb
And plants it in the next stitch, one furrow from the finishing.
She’ll wait for the first rain and,
In the meadow, slip it over branch-boned arms.
I tend them carefully, these broken ribs.
In the bath, a warm amniotic fluid,
I’m no longer heavy as stone,
empty as a broken cage.
What remains are shards of songs,
faded feathered dreams,
all that could pierce the heart--
And the ribs?
Better broken than ossified.
After all, what can escape an unbroken cage?