Fishing in Winter

A man staring at a small lake sees
His father cast light line out over
The willows.  He's forgotten his 
Father has been dead for two years
And the lake is where a blue fog
Rolls, and the sky could be, if it
Were black or blue or white,
The backdrop of all attention.

He wades out to join the father,
Following where the good strikes
Seem to lead.  It's cold.  The shape
Breath takes on a cold day is like
Anything else — a rise on a small lake,
The Oklahoma hills, blue scrub — 
A shape already inside a shape,
Two songs, two breaths on the water.

More by Ralph Burns

A Boat Is a Lever

--after Simone Weil
After my student went to the doctor to
Check out the rash speckling his
Right hand and found out he had
Leukemia, that the cancer had spread
Into his lungs, then where did he go?
I've called his number several times.
Flat-bottom boats light in water.
Brown brack and mud smell,
Stumps like chewed-off candles,
Cypress knees, knock and small
Talk floating over water, a motor
Chuffing off, a small blue cloud of excess
Gasoline spreads an ugly
Rainbow on tan water.  Every
Thing rests on its proposition
Including smooth isobars along the bay.
Since collective thought cannot exist
As thought it passes into things.
Chemo takes a few gray hairs.  Mustard
Cruises the bloodstream under a blizzard
Of white cells.  Subdued by the arbitrary,
Suspended, the one in the boat still needs
To row it -- to direct the muscles, to
Maintain equilibrium with air
And water.  If water is waveless
Then the boat reads by leading marks.
There is nothing more beautiful
Than a boat.

In the Bathroom Mirror

He continues to ponder
	And his wife moves next to him.
She looks.  They look at themselves 
	Looking through the fog.
She has a meeting she says in about
	Thirty minutes, he has
Something too.  But still she has
	Just stepped out of the bath
And a single drop of water
	Has curved along her breast
Down her abdomen and vialed in
	Her navel then disappeared
In crimson.  Unless they love
	Then wake in love
Who can they ever be?  Their faces bloom,
	A rain mists down, the bare
Bulb softens above the glass,
	So little light that
The hands mumble deliciously,
	That the mouth opens
Mothlike, like petals finding
	Themselves awake again
At four o'clock mid shade and sun.

Stella

1

Flap, flap went the mind of the bird
Who flew out of my grandmother's attic
Like heat in the creases
Where air used to be.  One week
Of summer was all that house
Could take of my brother and me.

			Years later,
After she died, someone, my aunt I
Think, arranged for her to be driven
Back to Kingfisher, Oklahoma for the
Funeral.  It was raining, the mortician
Hadn't arrived yet, so the driver
Left her there --

My grandmother, unembalmed, in darkness,

In the month of the Green Corn Ceremony.
But she wasn't Cherokee, she hated Indians.
Her story was only deep, irregular
Wing-beats of the heart.

Down dropped a huge bright-colored
Night-bird with large crested head,
Which, when raised, gave
The appearance of being startled.

It skimmed a few puddles gorging
On insects and a lizard or two.
Then banked south for my
Grandmother's house, bright star.

 
2

Out out,
The bumblebee caught in the Pepsi
Bottle, one of twelve
In the wood crate cooking
In the shed

And Arthur Van Horn drawing
Bow and resin across
Catgut, sour linen under the fiddle, rosewood
Cradled

Under the chin -- his new baby
Cries her first cry 
Of a thousand,
For she is Stella,
After the guitar,  

Because rain and tears
Are separate.

 
3

Those cuff links, that blowfish,
That stuff in the Hefty bag
Are trash of my people -- whose
Bonds are movable like my

Mobile grandmother idling
In the parking lot of La Quinta.
Whosoever speaks her name
Fast in the window brings forth

Light.

 
4

The ballpark all lit up
Did not exist until we turned
Her transistor on and some kid
Whacked a rock back, back . . .

It knocked three feathers
Off the mercury vapor, landed on corrugated
Tin so that the interdigitated
Interrupted their sleep but will

Not be entering this poem.
They can just go back to pressing
On the chest like sorrow and letting
The game sink in its yellow

Case with seventy-two holes
For the speaker and a carrying
Strap.  When the radio broke
I could not sling it like David

Because the strap broke too.
But that was long after sound
Commingling with a high brief whistle
Amid chatter and crack of the bat.

You wouldn't have known her,
I can hear my cousin say.
Her hair was all gray.
It used to be red

But gray is something I heard
Like the water-sucking clay.
But red is what she was
Who like a star revolved

Between three holes of light
Or hung like an eye-droop
In water-cooled air and a dark
Wind takes the summer.

 
5

There is the sound
	Brando makes under
		The wrought iron balcony

In New Orleans in summer
	And Stella sweats
		In her nightgown

And Desire runs
	Along its length
		But all you hear

Is Stanley -- everybody
	Knows -- one word, two
		Syllables, and even the space

Between the stars is awestruck
	That a man can feel such
		Stubborn, stupid language

Crawl out of his brain,
	Into his mouth, and scrape
		The ceiling of heaven --

Stella -- you are beyond,
	Stella -- knock, knock.
		I tap the limousine glass

Like an ape, like Stanley
	Kowalski interdicting silence.
		Stella -- the lights come on

In rooms 3 and 12, a hot
	Humid air turns to pink smoke
		Against the cool adobe wall.