Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mud Bottom

Drained to expose the mud that lies
beneath all sensitive membranes,
the pond looks ashamed to occupy
so much acreage for nothing.
On the shore the latest mushrooms
are skulls in memory of skulls
of creatures who’ve died of drought.
Their secrets aren’t available
anymore, although they understand
that draining the pond and drowning
fish in the pitiless air
meant something to someone elsewhere,
in another dimension, distance
the leer of mountains can’t explain.

I bag the edible boletus
for dinner, avoid the death-caps
standing aloof in the deepest shade.
Sometimes in the feverish light
of October I escape myself
and stalk naked but transparent
in falling woods, leaving no tracks
and calming the deer still browsing
the salad of this year’s growth.
Then my slack old skin-bag puddles
on the ground, an empty jump-suit.
If someone came along and found it
they’d mistake it for the rubble
of someone who drowned in the pond.

Today, though, there’s no drowning,
no escape from the body,
only a line of tracks that ventures
a dozen yards into the mud
and returns, tripping little bubbles
of swamp gas. I pack my mushrooms
in my hunter orange knapsack
and turn my back on the pond,
hoping my absence will heal it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

All Saints

A stone church tough as a knuckle.
Squat in the eloquent sunlight,
its tower thumbs the ether
with insolence. The transept
hunkers like a big-shouldered toad,
the slate roof shines with confidence,
the apse is the rump of a dwarf.

The famous architect enlisted
to plan this monument suffered
over drawings, and coughed a cough
that blazed with a rapt blue flame.
Now in the late summer glare
the intersecting lines hurt me,
hurt my disbelief the way shame
hurts the average child, the one
who’s halfway dutiful at school
but skimps on his chores at home.

Walking around the church,
beginning on the shady north side
where an abstract garden sculpture
prods and deflates the humid air,
I keep a safe distance from the faux
medieval bulk, more Romanesque
than Gothic. The colonnade loggia
shelters two rectangular windows.
Elsewhere, narrow pointed tracery
stained-glass lights, heavily framed,
rebut the slightest glimpse inside.

The curved but featureless rear
offers no grip on the cosmos,
so I proceed to the sunny view
from the south. Now the whole church
looks feline, crouched and alert
for curious, faithless souls like me.
I won’t tempt its great appetite                           
by stepping into the gloomy nave.                                      
With a wave and hello to the priest,
or priestess, trim in blue linen,
I dodge past the buttressed fa├žade
with its tomblike entry and skip
down the walk, across the highway.
But I still feel the breath of hymnals
breezing after me, brown tones
eager to enlist my scratchy tenor
in homage to the grave unknown.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Believe and Believe

Harrisville’s square brick houses
sun themselves like Renoir nudes.
Summer’s fading. Cricket re-tune

in the graveyard beside the pond.
A pair of white-haired women
canoe-race each other,

paddling so hard the water hurts.
I lie in the grass, risking ticks,
and watch the sky do nothing

but indulge its favorite blue.
You with your pearly religion
would mentally pioneer that space

with balloon-shaped benevolence
sure to offend normal Christians.
You’d postulate nuclear spirit

ripened over the years to a fine
hard gloss. Back on my feet
before I sink into the lichen

I wander back to browse among
the mill buildings braced on slopes
rolling toward Monadnock. A brook

tumbles one step at a time
toward a lake where growling boats
drag skiers to their doom. You’d laugh

as they tumble in prismatic spray,
dunking in bottom-feeder depth.
Whatever I say in defense of space

eroded by ancestral glaciers
applies to your right to believe
and believe. The hard brick houses

track the light like sundials. We’d live
a little unhappily here,
the winters shaped like bell jars;          

but when loons set the pond ringing
your imaginary benevolence
would apply, and the warmth

of sun on brick would penetrate
with a gold opulence you’d lather
all over yourself till you shine.