The Changeling

after an Icelandic folktale in which an elf child
is exchanged for a human one

Loftur. His name means air,
and my cries
wend up to him, 
floating
on the currents 
of afterbirth, the veil

of second sight
still wrapped around his head. 
You mean wind. 
Husband, I know what I named him. 
He witnessed his own birth; 
it caught his breath

like a raven swooping to catch a berry 
as it drops from the bush. 
When a cold front moved off sea, 
to the ring of mountains-- 
everything gave way to stillness 
I could not escape.

His first impulse was flight 
out from under this lid 
toward another vision, 
but was he blind to the one we have?
You mean storm, brewing around us, 
had he waited to ride it out?

I mean this child left to me, without cowl, 
breath gone from him, 
no cry issued, 
nothing for me to nurture. 
By now he's back there, 
knew where to go--

his hand extended to grasp 
the forerunner's, and when they touch, 
all the dark feathered beings will rivet 
the air with their calls and I'll 
shudder through root and stone. 
You mean rain

will come soon. 
This time, I will follow. 
They are brothers now 
someone else must raise.

in the meadow magenta

(reading Robert Duncan in Haldon Forest)

bloom looks
like lupine from afar
but up close the small bell-
like flowers of wild hollyhock

        the holy that forth
        came that must

come mystery
of frond fern
gorse a magic
to which I

        relate to
        land of hillock and

bolder the grayer
sky and wood
the straight flat One
between them barred

        by the bushy Scots pine
        medicinal veridian of ever-

green which though
gossip rumor spell
or chance change us
is not changed

The Unwritten Volume

Elle’s writing her book of wisdom.
She writes until she cannot hold her pen.
The labyrinth miraculously is uncovered.

An American woman’s progressing on her knees.
She read something but not Elle’s book.
No one will read Elle’s book.

I walk the circular path, first the left side,
then the right, casting petals to the north,
east, south, and west (this intuitively).

A diminutive prelate shoos me away.
When he leaves, I return to the center.
The organist, practicing, strikes up Phantom.

Elle says she cannot hear him.
Elle! I cry, I cannot see you.
I had prayed Death spare you.

Remember our meal among the termites
of Arcadia Street, that cottage of spirits
with its riddled beams and long veranda

bordered by plantain trees, and the spiral
you traced for me on scrap-paper?
I kept it for such a long time.

The organist, of course, is playing Bach.
A boy has scattered the petals I threw.
Elle’s voice surrounds me.

                                         To quiet hills I lift mine eyes.

instead, it is dark

             (1944/2018)

I woke to the dead
and was among them.

how this happened,
who did this to us

unaccountably
hatred glosses

and evidence belies.
ourselves but ourselves.

I’d gone to the corner
when the bakery opened,

mouthing regards
to a rare sun, then suddenly–

though not–I remember
nothing else.

I feel around me now
and everyone’s near

who waited for bread
or God one morning.

it’s true I thought at the last
I heard something but didn’t think

to turn, nor catch sight of,
nor glean time to.