Sunday, October 9, 2011
West wind scuffs the length of the lake
and forces U-shaped ripples
onto shore. Noel’s dock, a gray
tablet, thrusts headlong at the view.
We could launch a little sailboat
into the wind and tack and stagger
uphill to the far west shore, then glide
seamless and uninhibited back
to the dock as the autumn sun drops
into its slot in the hills. The dogs
would rush to welcome us back.
The slop of breezy water
racing us to the sand beach
would mock drinks slurred in glasses
as neighbors gather for a party.
They’d ask how we liked sailing
after Labor Day in wind too cold
for them to brave. We’d grin and shake
hands all around, unabashed
by our out-of-season pleasure
or by trespassing on Noel’s dock.
We’ve no dock of our own to tie up
our boat, don’t even own a boat.
Our property borders a marsh
too sullen to support the flattest
bottomed canoe, so we envy
this long view, this breezy dock
pointed so confidently downlake.
The hills bulked against the south shore
have begun to undress for autumn,
but the larger effect remains warm
enough to invite us to sail
or fish or paddle or swim
or practice that easy drowning
indulged with little regret.
Friday, July 22, 2011
By a small-town green, a warehouse,
four stories huge, bulks like nightmare.
A railroad siding curves to meet it.
Boxcars crouch at big sliding doors.
Half this structure looks abandoned.
Blank windows, crumbled brick
at the cornice. I park to watch
a pair of skateboarders challenge
traffic on the town’s main street.
They leap the grade crossing and clack
past me without a glance. The rails
look dull, flecked with rust. Weeds
strut between the ties. The boxcars
prove this railroad’s still alive, though.
How can children thrive in towns
so cramped and sullen? What happens
if one of them casually browses
through the poetry of Rimbaud?
Luckily the clatter of skateboards
stifles dissent. Luckily
the curve of the railroad siding
limits perspective. The warehouse,
being so out of scale, suggests
how little aesthetic pleasure
one need take in the larger world.
The trees on the green look shy
and apprehensive. Houses shaded
by the warehouse look small enough
to absorb the residue of dreams.
With the skateboarders safely past,
I drive across the railroad and up
the hill, out of town, avoiding
the cop who has stopped a speeder—
blue lights flashing as a woman
with bold red hair declares herself
innocent of time and space.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Twirling like a Mexican Hat Dance,
hat-shaped, big as a sombrero,
a ring of vegetable foam,
decayed and fermented from years
of leaf-fall, whirls in a pool
below a tiny waterfall.
I’d like to shovel it up
in a coherent mass and ship it
to a museum of entropy
where tourists could admire it
and scientists could measure it
to confirm their favorite theories.
But it would collapse like angel
food cake, leaving a yellow scum.
The brook has been heady with rain.
The many little waterfalls
have yellowed with debris skimmed
from the forest floor. This foam hat
formed when no one was looking,
when leaf-matter clumped and clung
to a notion of symmetry
that survives its DNA.
Insects skim the busy current.
Striders brave the whirlpool and cling
to the rotating structure, their flat
paddle-feet pawing for a grip.
They’ll probe the foam for creatures
small enough to eat. A fish
hardly larger than the striders
noses from under the hat, flashes
its rubbery tail and disappears
downstream in a hurry. I skid
across the slippery rocks back
to land. Safely on the trail,
I note how firm the foam-hat looks
from a distance, how reverently
the circling water dandles it
as if a coronation
were about to claim this space.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Mounted police scout for looters.
The big Sunday light explores
the ruins, exposing wires, plumbing,
and pictures face-down in plaster dust.
The ridge where the tornado came down
looks like a badly shaven chin.
Walking the length of Main Street,
I note blue Condemned tags stuck
to almost every standing structure.
The pizza and coffee shops thrive,
however: the motorcycle crowd
and the state troopers expressing
burly appetites by the slice.
I’m ashamed to photograph a scene
so anticlimactic with angst but
a tattooed young woman struts
along in tiny skirt and halter,
so I follow because behind her
I can travel unnoticed. The high school
lost its roof. Opposite, a house
smashed flat, while next door a big
gray Victorian went untouched.
On a rise, the modern gym built
by the academy a few years
before it moved one town away
retains only a steel skeleton.
The school’s oldest brick building
has lost two of its three stories.
The church at the head of Main
cropped its steeple onto its lawn.
I’ve seen too much. The shudder
that passed through this village
still distempers the atmosphere.
The collapsed supermarket groans
like a vampire’s coffin. I turn
back toward my parked car and let
that decorative young woman proceed
without escort, the rubble
of plaster and downed trees coughing up
centuries of history in her wake.