1. Between Grief and Sorrow
Grief staggers around the house
some thief has emptied.
It wants to tell you everything
all over again; blame is the story
grief hammers, hammering until your leg shakes,
your right foot won’t stop tapping.
It’s a dance for the shaken,
strung out with waiting, and now look
who’s back to guard the door:
grief’s half-sister, dread.
2. The Coldest Weather
Young trees bend, white trunks slender enough
to spring back, softening the woods however they stand.
But in the bigger ones, you can hear
ice exacting its pull in the pines and spruce.
A pause, a sharp crack
and they snap, the whole tree
breaking away from the heartwood,
long tears of sapwood
going to pieces as they fall. Violent and brutal,
that was our winter. The ground deepened with waste.
3. In the Woods
Because there were no words he could hear,
I made myself mute, and because
the binding ice of another year
held the same branches down, they were dying,
and trying to free whatever green ones I could
was pointless. Still, I choose this task
for what it says about hiding and watching:
pulling at a dead limb releases a clatter,
and as I stand there,
dark surrounding trunks come alive
and leap away. The deer
is designed to resemble a tree,
and I only need take one brittle stick
to brittle bark and bang it to see everything plain—
the deer tearing through woods,
believing he is running for his life.
Dead deer a week now by the snowy gate.
Do I have to watch it be eaten? Do I have to see
who comes first, who quarrels, who stays?
And there is the question of the night,
what flesh preferred by which creature—
what sinew and fat, the organs, the eyes.
These appetites: it’s enough
to know the swoop and cut of wings
over the snarl of something leaping away.
Do I have to see the icy figure fused to the ground,
scrabbled snow, not lovely or deep,
but the surface of something spoiled?
By now the rib bones arch above it all,
unbroken light shining between them,
above the black cavity.
And I hear the crows, complaint, complaint
splitting the morning, hunched over the skull.
They know their offices.
On the cape, in the changing season,
under that noise
of sloshing against pilings, the push-in-
push-away, close then farther out;
underneath the gulls’ bark, the desolate
ambient sound the dog understands—
the moving unstoppable current,
every complication reduced to repetition
as if to beat in some kind of lesson:
in the water’s fist
clenching and releasing, but being—
without need or purpose, and in my body all this time
the answering sweep of valves
opening and closing; just as the little
terrier, brimful of nerve and trembling,
alone, perched there, sentinel on the deck’s edge,
has been trying all along to teach.
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