The Cottonwood People

Faint. Uncombed. Awash in rain.
They share the kind of beauty shared by older women.

Rhapsody in wind. Buds,
not leaves: the small greens crowding up behind them.

Music, if one could see it, its wicker, its cursive strain.
Spruce, which has the heavier sails, flapping.

You are everything you feel beside the river.
Through the silver-paned bark, the diamond pores of

sloughed off skin. If I saw my soul, she would be this tree,
and I would love her.

Placing stops between the strings, a composer
warps the score though making noise is never the intention.

One can draw anything on paper and ask a musician to play it.
For instance, a violinist known for her sheer nerves.

It is good to be cold, to remember cold. Hushed by rain,
to be ordained in a dry place. Suppleness of the word “posture.”

By the time my friend received the diagnosis, she was no longer
prepared to accept it—

                       an afterimage shot with stores of pollen.

Reading Novalis in Montana

The dirt road is frozen. I hear the geese first in my lungs.
	Faint hieroglyphic against the gray sky.

Then, the brutal intervention of sound.
	All that we experience is a message, he wrote.

I would like to know what it means
	if first one bird swims the channel

across the classic V, the line flutters, and the formation dissolves.
	In the end, the modernists must have meant,

it is the human world we are weary of,
	our arms heavy with love, its ancient failings.

But that was before the world wars, in 1800,
	when a young German poet could pick at the truth

and collect the fragments in an encyclopedia of knowledge.
	There is a V, then an L, each letter

forming so slowly that the next appears before it is complete.
	The true philosophical act is the slaying of one's self,

Novalis wrote, and died, like Keats, before he was thirty.
	They have left me behind like one of their lost,

scratching at the gravel in the fields. Where are they
	once the sky has enveloped them?

I stand in the narrow cut of a frozen road leading into mountains,
	the morning newspaper gripped under my arm.

But to give up on things precludes everything.
	I am not-I, Novalis wrote. I am you.

If, as the gnostics say, the world was a mistake
	created by an evil demiurge, and I am trapped

in my body, abandoned by a god whom I long for as one of my own,
	why not follow the tundra geese into their storm?

Why stay while my great sails flap the ice
	as if my voice were needed to call them back

in the spring, as if I were the lost dwelling place for the flocks?

Counting the Senses

To sense the dead around us,  in places where they are attached, or to  sense past lives within the present one.  To sense the presence of birds or animals on the roadside in the dark,  or the moods of birds or animals, let alone people. There are tribes who can orient, even in the fog, naming the direction, east or west, that they are facing. There is the ability to see through lies, to feel an enemy at your back, to detect poison without taste, to dowse for water. You are up before dawn, walking the shore, picking up broken bits of plastic and shell. To sense in ever-refined levels the dissipating cloud-layers of oneself, what Ezra Pound named an "aristocracy of emotion." In the spruce copse near the confluence, you left your hair. Last night, we played Scrabble. My first word was divine. You added an s to it, doubling your score. In this very room, fourteen years ago, you turned over and found the lump.  Your hand rose to it, as if guided by a sense of love.