14 Love Songs

Above a pond, I sit on a wooden bench
and throw pebbles into the willows.

A rush of sunlight and wind creates a path in a channel of water, dances
between the melting ice and brown islands of bulrush.

The resident osprey, its eyes the color of yellow grass,
follows my tossing hand.

Love is a diorama of inner life in an outer world.

I look down and find a chunk of fossilized rock
with an entire Paleozoic shell sticking out.

I am not afraid of love, but terrified of how it is my steady guide.

Once, when tired, I wandered off the trail and crawled under a tree to rest.

I woke to a young brown bear licking my boot.
Nothing had ever felt that good.

When I say I love you, what I mean is I wouldn’t leave you.

Even if love is not loved back it doesn’t go away,
although it may become a black hole.

Could this be what it’s like for trees to lose the green from their leaves?

At noon the light shifts and the pond turns
into a mosaic of opaque green ice.

Orange carp rise in these cold watery chambers to breathe at the surface.

Always I am in love. Face to face with the sun. Face to face with the moon.

Quantum Foam

The air is close by the sea and the glow from the pink moon
drapes low over a tamarind tree.

We hold hands, walk across a road rushing with traffic 
to an abandoned building site on the bay, look out across the dark marina.

Sea cows sleep by the side of a splintered dock, a cluster of them 
under the shallow water,

their wide backs covered in algae like mounds of bleached coral.

Every few minutes one floats up for air, 
then drifts back down to the bottom, 

without fully waking.  
They will do this for hours, and for a while we try to match 

our breath to theirs, and with each other’s.

In the morning, sitting in the garden beneath thatch palms, 
we drink black coffee from white ceramic cups.

Lizards killed by feral cats are scattered on the footpath.
I sweep them into a pile with the ones from the night before.   

Waves of heat rise from the asphalt, 
and we sense a transparent gray fuzz lightly covering everything 

as if there were no such thing as empty space, 
that even a jar void of substance holds emptiness as if it were full.

The Cows

Now that I have read this story about the cows  
I think of them at night when I cannot sleep, 
how they are so still in their grassy field,  
seemingly suspended like animations of themselves. 
Even though there are only 3, I count them over and over,  
envision them as if I were floating above their pasture, 
observe the different stances they choose:   
the 3 of them standing bottom to bottom, or 
head to head, 
sometimes in a row, one behind the other 
sometimes side by side. 
They stand where they want and nurse their calves. 
They lie down in their field when they feel like it. 
If the farmer wants to kill one, and it won’t get in the truck 
he gives up and lets it live. 
If the farmer wants to sell one, and it won’t get in the truck 
he gives up and lets it stay. 
I am glad I read this story by Lydia Davis. 
I like to think of how she stood in her window and watched these cows. 
I imagine how she may have moved from inside her house to outside her house, 
depending on the weather, to stand and watch these cows, 
month after month,  
and although the details of their days are rather plain 
she wrote a very essential story. 
Right before I fall asleep I think about how there are no cows where I live 
but there are mountains,  
and I watch them move in this same way. 
They open and close, depending on the weather 
and like these 3 cows, these mountains are a few of the things left 
that get to live exactly as they must. 

“All the time I pray to Buddha I keep on killing mosquitoes."


Issa, I killed 8 gophers this fall, held 
each cold body in my open palm,  

stroking the river colored fur between their silent black eyes 
before dropping them into a plastic bag. 

Their little hands were cupped  
as if in death they cradled one last thing 

because nothing does not continually hold 
all of what remains, or all of what  

has been carried somewhere else.  
The tunnels these creatures dug in my yard,  

destroying even the hardiest plants, 
will soon be used by voles and rats,  

and other gophers,  
from other yards, that will be trapped and killed, by me. 

I met a man who hunts elk.   
He shot a large buck, and when he was beginning to dress it,  

just as he made the first cut with his blade through the buck’s neck,  
this man opened his mouth to yawn.   

The neck of the elk exploded, and the cervical fluid  
burst from its spine,  

infecting the man  
with a parasite that nearly killed him.   

Issa, I cannot absolve myself, 
cannot clear impurities from my body. 

You said, A bath when you’re born,  
a bath when you die, 

how stupid
How extraordinary.