Sunday, October 9, 2011

Noel's Dock

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

Out of Scale

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

A Foam Hat

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

Monson Two Weeks After the Tornado

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.

Saturday, June 18, 2011