Friday, December 22, 2017

This Black and White Scene

Although the brook’s ankle-deep,
the hole in the ice looks bottomless.

Black as cast iron, it tempts me
to lean so far over I’ll fall

into the center of the earth.
You agree that an abstraction

has formed, maybe by Arthur Dove
or Clyfford Still. You note

that it’s “eerie but beautiful,”
and represents nothing in nature.

So we’re in nature but this brook,
flowing from the Peterborough Hills

to the Contoocook River, warps
from one world to another.

No wonder the painters I loved
in my youth went insane and ate

paint-squiggles straight from the tube.
No wonder museums prevent

visitors from touching the canvas.
Touching this black and white scene

would plunge me into constructions
of Anthropocene horror ripe

as the moment before a scream.
You note that I’ve carelessly rhymed,

that my seams are showing again,
but I need that stark crude emphasis

to cut through temptation and stop
me from dropping into that hole                                        

and in one world breaking my neck
on the shallow rocky bottom

and in another world emerging
on the dark side of the moon.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Photographing the Hops Field

Stranded ankle-deep in snow,
the tall poles of the hops field
sketch runes on the winter sky.

Wind across the river bottom
aches with lonely ghosts exhumed
from brown and dog-eared histories.

Trying to snap a photo, I’m caught
in the breath of invisible worlds.
You hide your smile in the car

while I brace myself on absence,
my tough Norwegian sweater
armoring my vitals but leaving

my intellect exposed. The river,
sulking just beyond the field,
clings to its identity despite

the chill blown down from Canada.
The hills beyond look tired
of being hills, but lack volition.

In summer the hops grow
twenty-five feet up these poles.
They love the aerated valley soil,

rich and iron-red. Their bines
get plenty of support from rope
or wires, their ripe cones filling

with powdery gold lupulin.
You don’t care about the fine points
of growing hops and brewing beer

but prefer to face the low orange sun
and embrace its tender lessons.
The wind flicks little gouts of snow

dancing across the rutted slick.
As I take my photo I glimpse,
in the whorl of my bad eye,

a bit of ghost-green lingering—
an overlap of dimensions
that defines us despite ourselves.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Wapack Down

After I’ve walked up the auto road
the descent from Pack Monadnock
on the blue-blazed Wapack Trail
almost defeats me. Boulders
and scree, ledge and a trail marked

so poorly I almost tumble
down a hundred-foot gap in the sky.
Ice patches foster bone breaks,
while harsh November sunlight
casts shadows deeper than the eye

in its naked glory can plumb.
My skeleton revolts in its bag
of flesh. Muscles knot and suffer
a lack of elasticity.
The slope feels impractical,

as though the entire mountain
might sluice down to the highway
in a heap of gray apologies.
I don’t remember this trail
feeling so difficult underfoot,

but I haven’t plied it for years.
The last grave stretch of cliff-walking
confuses me so badly I lose
the string of blue blazes and doubt
I can bushwhack so grim a stretch

of bare and almost vertical ledge.
I retrace my steps and recover
the marked trail and stumble down
the last quarter-mile to the road
just as the sun retracts its favors

and allows a sheet of whispers
to slip over the leafless woods.
Tomorrow I’ll try ascending
this slab of primal geometry
by the same steep blue-blazed route.      

Then maybe I’ll recover myself
somewhere along the trail
where I left my youthful ego
cursing the icy rock and claiming
dominion it doesn’t deserve.