unfinished Easter sonnet
the poultry processing plant worker dead
every morning more green buds
the folk singer dead
snow melting the trail to mud
the neighbor’s mother’s mother dead
the toilet paper factory worker has a fever
the dental hygienist dead
the city council closed down the river
Good Friday 2020 my sister
gives out the free lunches to hundreds
spring in time of a disaster
where the body was now only blood
Note: this poem is my attempt at a ghazal, a poem that uses a repeating end word and includes the author’s name in the last stanza. Read much more about the form here.
What comes to me is silence so I stare at clouds.
The air is filled with birdsong and the sky is dotted with clouds.
I sit outside alone and close my eyes to escape doubt.
I open them and see on the hillside the shadow of clouds.
Can I name even one of the dozens of birds on this slice of the mountain?
The robin, the magpie, the warbler are dark specks below the clouds.
As usual, I want this to last forever, the blue, the warmth.
I know it will fade to dusk and evaporate like the clouds.
Come back! cry the birds against the backdrop of the manmade fountain.
I search the changing shapes and coded messages of the clouds.
I imagine the suffering I know is happening everywhere
and send my prayers like birds up to the clouds.
If my name were a birdsong–Kim-ber-ly–what would it mean?
Above me the hawk circles and caws against the clouds.
The sun was setting and the moon was rising,
the moon was almost full and shone large over the mesa,
the sunset lengthened our shadows as we walked our regular route
talking and laughing in the warm, barely-spring air, the dog was lunging
at so many rabbits we decided to turn back just as two neighbors emerged
from their houses so we greeted them at a cautious distance and the girls kicked
a ball around in the twilight, and then a howl erupted out of the growing darkness,
and another, and another, all at once, and it was people, out on their porches
or in their yards, howling at the moon, howling into the darkness,
and we started howling too, our voices moving as breath
and sound from our healthy lungs and out into
the night air and up toward the moon.
The animals visit my dreams.
The rabbit says if I freeze
in fear, my fear will find me.
The hawk caws take the long view.
The horse lies down on my body.
Okay, I say. I get it. Horse.
The spider says, weave.
The turtle says, slow.
The mouse says study the details.
But what about the hawkI
I ask. The long view?
The mouse’s whiskers quiver.
The hawk swoops down
for the mouse. The bear growls,
her paws dripping from fishing.
The fish flashes in sun,
bleeding. I lay still, finally.
The horse is heavy,
whispering wait. She stands up,
dips her nose into grass.
Not knowing what to say
I look for lines to steal:
But logic has no place here.
Somewhere someone was sewing a mask.
A rough beast slouches toward the foothills,
Today we will take a walk
and draw a map.
Our maps our meaningless to them,
as theirs are to us, for now.
I’m taking a break from my shelter in place poem on Saturdays, but if you are in the mood for some wonderful poetry today, check out John Brehm‘s reading. He is one of my favorite poets ever as well as a friend of mine.
His reading is today, Saturday, April 4 at 4:00 PM pacific (so 5:00 PM MDT, 6:00 PM central, and 7:00 PM EDT).
You can see his reading on Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/432138508
or on Facebook Live at https://www.facebook.com/john.brehm.37?fref=nf
His poems are funny and beautiful. Tune in if you can!
I am thinking about Tupperware. I am thinking about fire and air, earth and water.
Dear fire, when you take everything, do you take everything? The black field of your wake is dotted with seeds we can’t see. Right?
It was so windy metal chairs scooted across the deck like clumsy oversized crabs.
When the fire or whatever takes everything, it still leaves the dirty dishes. They still have to be loaded and unloaded. The Tupperware won’t dry unless it’s set out on the dish rack, in the air.
Dogs seem particularly of the earth, especially this one, who my neighbors found running with a pack beside a gas station in rural New Mexico; who came when they called, malnourished, mangy, wagging; who they dropped off at a shelter while they backpacked for three nights; who they picked up on the way home after no one had claimed him; who they offered to us to keep because I’d said we could get a dog “when one came into our lives.”
Our house doesn’t even really touch the ground: built on the side of a hill, it rests on huge metal stilts. It shakes when the wind blows hard, which happens often.
Snow. Snow is a form of water, my least favorite form, except for ice, which is worse.
The dog was good at first, and gentle with the cats. He sniffed the frosty dead grass stalks for rabbits.
I keep organizing the Tupperware and it keeps getting messed up, as though a tiny hurricane blows through the drawer each night while we sleep.
Dear fire, you can’t live without air, but water is your enemy.
The snow silences the street as the dog and I walk through it. He would prefer not to be on a leash; I would prefer not to be outside at all, though I try to notice how pretty the world is covered in white, how huge the moon when the clouds reveal it.
We walk the dog on the mesa. One foot in front of the other, we climb up almost every day.
Dear fire, when you take everything, everything does eventually return, bringing to mind a tree in winter, a tree in summer, a tree in spring, a tree in fall. Is it the same tree, or a different tree? It is not a different tree; it is not the same.
When we climb the mesa in the wind advisory, dirt blows into our eyes and mouths. We illegally unleash the dog. We can see the city from up there, shrouded in light from the sunset, burning. The dog prances in the troubled air.
drifted and settled
into spaces not taken
by trees or houses.
They mute the noises
of early morning
coyotes). A mist.
An airy layer of frosting.
It is a day
to stay home in.
I’ll stay home