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I roll, water-struck men
with beards like weeds
and eyes like a sudden storm,
where the tall waves smack and dance
under a blanket of blue-black sky.

Stars sing themselves to a dream-lit sleep
in the high thin voice of the whale–
the right whale, the wrong whale,
the humpback whale or the sperm,

and there from the shallows comes a salt-soaked man
risen up in a clatter of cowries and clams,
sand between his lips and on his tongue.

Turmoil of crows melts into cold fields;
chickadees throw arcs of whistle across the trees.
Winter creeps from the corners of a great gray sky,
twists back with a glower and a growl:

Come away to the crackle of the ice-bound seas
and the long white hands of the giants of the north.

Or stay in the warm wilds,
in the feather bed of some pine-scented saint
who swallows the swell of the young days
under a thick sun, fat as butter.

Lower your red-rimmed eyes
before the push and rise of the newborn green;
fingers that scrabble like spiderlings
across the breast of the breathless world,
leave stripling shadows on the face of a two-poled God.

The Black Cat Purrs

The black cat purrs, generates its own kind of luck.

I see you silver, edged in pink,
eyes like a salt-grey sea.
I struggle not to reach for you,
not to gasp for the last tick of breath.

Our late lives close over us,
first in roils, then calmer, in slow waves.
Your perilous eyes look away.

They hunt for a moment,
seek a time superior to now,
a place of equatorial heat,
where life is like being asleep,
only flying.

Be quiet in the art museum

Tiger may waken,
ambergreis spill.
Subsume yourself
in the solemnity of the mass.

Men in dark suits,
women with stern hair,
eyes like opium
passive in prayer.

Granite walls between god
and a boisterous day.

Laugh bubbles like cardinal’s song.

Girl on white pony
gazes at nothing in her misty way,
sitting sidewise under the glare
of a high New England sun.

A Poem That Doesn’t Hurt

He wanted something bright to settle in his hand,
to brush its sunset-colored wings across his cheek.
She gave him white-faced dogs and apples in the fall.
She took him to the winter woods and kissed him there,
making him forget his lust for spring
though he recognized her when she came,
cloaked in speckled furs, a flock of
bubble-throated blackbirds by her side.
Then the solstice with its heavy air
left pollen on his lips and clothes;
he might have seen a new-born butterfly,
if he had turned a milkweed leaf aside.

The scent of milkweed bloom is fairy breath
laced through a summer breeze;
you see them when the sun has burnt away the dew-
the magic things at play. They taste and tease
and drift and rise among the pollen-heavy flowers,
orange and black against the lavender and green;
you gaze across the broad-leafed sea and breathless,
watch your wishes fly, your heart take wing.

Above Freezing

A circle of cat warms the blanket over my thighs.
I have been reading poetry, scouring for secrets in the lines-
secrets, answers, keys.
Outside my window is early Spring, she’s having a drink with her lover
the sky, they’re watching the brown grass and discussing their unruly young.
He frets about them more than she, and grumbles
when she only smiles, and touches his hand.
Robins set their round bright notes adrift through the rain.
The house is cold, it wants a fire in the iron stove,
but instead of laying wood and setting flame,
instead of chasing after words to settle in my fat and bones
I sit and watch the fluid, rising day
while the round cat hums and bathes.

it’s the gaze of the June sun
assessing you
your misted skin an ember hue
a hand across your brow
it’s the breath of the warm air
when first light cotton slides
it’s the lap of the cold sea
along your toes
you feel it higher than your knees and so
you let the next soft something go
from the place that the close heart knows
it’s entry gained by heat and sigh
till nothing’s left to cast aside
old skin for new, wet wings untried
chrysalis and butterfly.

too many hands

too many eyes seek for the bright key
you have gone blind and lost God
you cannot pray.
too many mouths seek for the ripe seed
you are cold and laid too low to meet the sun.
too many hands beat on the red door
set deep in the blue wall;
you turn the key to find
it will not go.

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