Monastic firs, marginal, 
    conical, in brooding snoods
a finical sun unpacks, clerical

in scarlet fringe of Interstate scrub.
   Raw nerves.  The fields beyond?
Dun bedsheets long abandoned.

Where is the body in such transit?
   Unclear.  But grief
is ever resurrected.  Sick days

in autumn, child on cot-raft,
   chaste bedroom chary
with red smell of measles, self,

lone bed her book transforms
   to Conestoga wagon:
cold rod of folded, frozen quilt,

two greasy iron pans, menses,
   waste of family crowded
in a space winter’s advance eclipses.

Cathedral silence.  Then door opens
   to a tray, tawny tea, weak as straw.
As whiskey grass, flashing now.  Fleeing past.

After John Donne's "To his Mistress Going to Bed"

What might she send — a wet sleeve, 
or platter of brine-latticed bluefish

dusky with capers, lemons, wine;
a briar for your thumb, a mouth, 

lunatic,  to suck the blood:
a signal that one too often

inside & now beside herself with thoughts
of you wonders how she might woo

and through dew-whetted keyhole 
pursue & sing & win? She is marvelous 

with waiting. Come. Hunt here.
Relieve with hands and tongue her heavy hour.

The Wishbone: A Romance

Never to belong again to wings
     that lifted, to heart,
to blood’s forsaking bodice:

this lyric forceps,
     felled flèche d’amour,
furcular picked and dried

with earthy feints of sage
     & fused with remnant gristle—
clavicles tongued, now thumbed,

memento mori
     of a hard year. Why not,
then, after giving thanks,

break it, too—
     talismanically? What good
is loss starved forever after?

To keep from freezing,
     even a priest might commit
the Virgin’s statue to the flames.

Temple Tomb

      John 20: 11–18

In this marrow season,
trunks tarnished, paused,

I am garden. Am before.
Asleep. Then the changes:

placental, myrrhed. Wet hem
when you appeared.

What did your body ever have
to do with me? In my astonished mouth,

enskulled jawbone guessed,
though as yet I didn’t know you.

You sprung. You now intransitive,
tense with heaven.

Gardener, which of us said do not touch.
Which one of us was undressed?

Related Poems

Merry Autumn

It’s all a farce,—these tales they tell
     About the breezes sighing,
And moans astir o’er field and dell,
     Because the year is dying.
 
Such principles are most absurd,—
     I care not who first taught ’em;
There’s nothing known to beast or bird
     To make a solemn autumn.
 
In solemn times, when grief holds sway
     With countenance distressing,
You’ll note the more of black and gray
     Will then be used in dressing.
 
Now purple tints are all around;
     The sky is blue and mellow;
And e’en the grasses turn the ground
     From modest green to yellow.
 
The seed burrs all with laughter crack
     On featherweed and jimson;
And leaves that should be dressed in black
     Are all decked out in crimson.
 
A butterfly goes winging by;
     A singing bird comes after;
And Nature, all from earth to sky,
     Is bubbling o’er with laughter.
 
The ripples wimple on the rills,
     Like sparkling little lasses;
The sunlight runs along the hills,
     And laughs among the grasses.
 
The earth is just so full of fun
     It really can’t contain it;
And streams of mirth so freely run
     The heavens seem to rain it.
 
Don’t talk to me of solemn days
     In autumn’s time of splendor,
Because the sun shows fewer rays,
     And these grow slant and slender.
 
Why, it’s the climax of the year,—
     The highest time of living!—
Till naturally its bursting cheer
     Just melts into thanksgiving.
 

OBIT [Friendships]

Friendships—died June 24, 2009, once
beloved but not consistently beloved. 
The mirror won the battle.  I am now
imprisoned in the mirror.  All my selves
spread out like a deck of cards. It’s true,
the grieving speak a different language. 
I am separated from my friends by
gauze.  I will drive myself to my own
house for the party. I will make small
talk with myself, spill a drink on myself. 
When it’s over, I will drive myself back
to my own house.  My conversations
with other parents about children pass
me on the staircase on the way up and
repeat on the way down.  Before my
mother’s death, I sat anywhere. Now I
look for the image of the empty chair
near the image of the empty table.  An
image is a kind of distance.  An image
of me sits down.  Depression is a glove
over the heart.  Depression is an image
of a glove over the image of a heart.

Everglades

river with a valley so shallow it is measured
in inches” says McKibben
 
and no longer           Ever           but shrinking,
this marsh-wealth in a buzz
 
of conversing, wing flaps and wind, ringed
by housing, drained by canals,
 
an expanse thick with mangroves, orchids,
birds erupting out of grasses—
 
“so flat that a broad sheet of water flows slowly
across it on the way to the sea”—
 
algae, floating lilies, water purified
and sent into
 
the dreamscape—            	Heaven’s
 
beneath us, what I look down into,
bubbling mud, permeable skin—
           	
Driving here, miles
 
across paved-over space
 
till what’s missing gathers—
jaw open in the sun,
 
wings explaining—
 
What can’t be seen is more
than all of this         Strokes
 
of green blades          swells of nothing—
we’re            	Ever
 
latched to each other, burning