Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Coast Guard Beach
The crosshatched light has suffered
all the way from Spain. Wind rattles
the flags at the coast guard station.
A few kites brave the gloom. Your footprints
impress little tide pools. Placing
my feet in them, I feel pebbles
roll like eyeballs in whorls of sand.
A framework spiked from driftwood
huddles against the bluff. Carven
“LOCALS ONLY” warns away
the casual tourist. Charcoal
and a ring of fish-heads and shells
assert that varieties of hunger
distinguish species from species.
Despite the presence of your footprints
you’ve never walked this surly beach,
never committed yourself to solving
the presumptions of breaking surf.
Seven hundred miles offshore today
a tropical storm is rending charts
to detour shipping north and south.
If I followed your footprints
far enough that storm would impale me.
Framed by the driftwood structure I note
a shadow precisely like yours
elongate against the grain of light
and wonder that you’d impose yourself
so boldly on such primal matter.
You gain nothing but worship of stone,
weed and shell, an effort spent
to impress and comfort us both
in some distant parallel plane.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Touring graveyards in Chester,
Grafton, Westminster, I consider
the spirit faces engraved
by eighteenth-century carvers
probably inspired by Indian
petroglyphs at Bellows Falls.
The hot afternoon looks insipid,
cloud-hung but pale and naïve,
the Great American Holiday
unfolding in thousands of cookouts.
Not a day to regard the dead—
their faces, round and dubious,
rising from the weathered slate
like soap bubbles blown by a child.
Their expressions embody doubts
not only about the afterlife
but about the aesthetics of death.
Even those rimmed with sun-like auras
maintain at best a tentative gaze
back into the world they’ve left
and forward into the airiest
notion of something better.
Here’s one clearly dropping a tear,
the large but simplified eyes
blank with self-pity. And here
a married couple grimace
in their separate but paired orbits.
And here angel wings levitate
a surly and unwilling old soul.
And last, in Middletown Graveyard
in Grafton, an inflated face
with pinched little features crowned
by carefully marcelled hairdo
and wearing a heart-brooch centered
under its chin attracts attention
from a pair of branch-bearing doves.
The heat dizzies. I slump on the grass
and note that the ranks of headstones
totter not like a mouthful
of unkempt teeth but like bundles
of illegible manuscript left
to fade in some further dimension
where no one has learned to read.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Photographing the Barns
The farm dogs greet and wriggle
like sausage in a pan. We’re friends.
I’ve come to photograph the barns
leaning into the view to the east,
scruff and jagged as my beard.
The barns offer fistfuls of splinters,
rusty implements, buckets, sleds,
a Volkswagen in faded red
with a “Stop the Arms Race” sticker.
Bags of fertilizer and cement
huddle out of reach of weather.
Spiders decorative as doorknobs
waddle across elaborate webs.
The silo exclaims itself
in unpainted planks worn black
by tireless seasons. I point
and shoot and expect the results
to justify ignoring the dogs,
who regret every lost petting,
the chickens wriggling in dust baths,
the honeybees knee-deep in pollen.
The barns pose as formally
as possible. The sunlight inching
across the chipped and faded paint
feels tonic enough to salvage
the saddest of my varied lives,
The dogs, Spud and Jupiter,
nuzzle up. I pack the camera
into my tote bag and drop
to my knees to look more acutely
into their brown ceramic eyes.
Dog-thoughts blossom. The barns
sway in the solar wind. Chickens
ripple like living footballs.
Apple trees flutter, dropping petals,
and the early snow peas ripen.
The entire farm is a muscle
working itself to flatter
the simple demands of the land,
and the dogs and I tremble
as something below responds.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Burned and rusted to a turn,
the Studebaker has relaxed
into the forest. Birch saplings thread
through the punched-out windows.
Wasps have woven a nest in the springs
of the roasted upholstery.
The bakelite steering wheel has cracked
in an attractive snakeskin pattern.
The hood yawns with boredom. Beneath,
only the engine block remains,
an iron tombstone. Every part,
every wire, tube, or device,
carburetor, generator, vacuum,
fuel, and water pumps, long gone.
Posing you draped on this wreck
I revel in the contrast
and hope my photographs expose
the essence of both your wintry
post-Slavic grin and the grimace
of this fifty-year-old sedan.
You’re enjoying this notion
of art as devolution—
this vehicle having exhausted
its utility now embracing
the role of public sculpture.
But you too could achieve
the stasis of art, your dental work
perfected, your scruff of hair tinted
a lovely Halloween orange.
The light whispering through leaf-fall
and sudsing of the river flatter
your sleek, uncompromised figure;
and as you lean into the photo
you eclipse the morbid old car
and warp the space-time continuum,
rendering the past moot and the point
of light puckered in the camera
inexorable as a kiss.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
End of March at the railroad yard.
Track branch off like broccoli,
the burnished rails bright enough
to critique unshielded eyes.
From the overpass I focus
on a string of diesel engines
parked near tall rusty silos.
A pair of sand towers suggests
salt and pepper shakers on stilts.
This Sunday the abandoned brick
signal tower looks like a tomb.
The ladderwork of yard tracks
hardly looks sturdy enough
to serve a viable commerce.
I’ve photographed this scene before,
but never caught such absolute
stasis, so much failed momentum.
The yard stands almost vacant,
no more than a dozen freight cars
looking useless in the glare. I kneel
and peer straight down at the tracks
passing under the bridge. Imagine
leaping to the roof of a boxcar
as the train passed. Surely I’d slip
and tumble between the cars
and many wheels would slice me
into portions modest enough
for the naked soil to digest.
But I won’t try it, not today
with no trains moving and the black
diesels gazing down their snouts
as if deep in contemplation.
I snap my photos and enjoy
the trill of sun on polished steel,
then rise from my artistic crouch
and stretch myself like a carnivore,
the rails complex as the rib cageof my best and latest kill.
Monday, March 24, 2008
At Palmer a pair of freight
locomotives parks beside
a halted Amtrak passenger train.
One’s green and yellow, one sports
black and white zebra stripes blunted
with a bold red nose to contrast
with the blue and silver wash
of the Amtrak engine. Crew change,
of course. I snap a few photos,
bracing myself against a wind
strong enough for camera shake.All of my photographs become
self-portraits featuring red
nosed locomotives, main lines
skewered toward the vanishing point,
passenger cars as graceful
as lengths of sewer pipe. I press
the shutter to assert myself
against the faded spring glare
that threatens to absorb me.
The locomotives grunt and groan
and the paired freight units creep
away around the curve to hide
in the New England Central yard.
As the Amtrak train bulls ahead
a bored passenger spots me
peering from the embankment and waves;
and I'm feeble enough to respond,
relieved that I’m still visible,
at least to a stranger’s gaze.