The forest service team came to my house to give me a thin-leafed tree, and to say you can have something, if you wish. You can have this native tree, a skinny branch, a skinny leaf with bareness between the leaves. A shrub like me? Here is my bark-being underneath. The freight service team came to my office to give me a vermilion boxcar, and to say you can have something if you wish. Why is there no train service? No Amtrak? No russet cargo of folk, no poets to embrace because our hands all unclasped in response to the peptic ulcer of too much fanfare, woods with austere engravings—plumed-pen-etched-words, severe sentences with accusations—then interjections— poets all alone floating skyward. I have found the writing on the wall to be formidable—no patois, no interesting resilience—I don’t care for leaf rot nor figures who do their own dance. They find frozen ground menacing—they found me menacing— even when they say in unison you can have something, if you wish. It was not I who shoveled the shore and fixed it to another place. I didn’t find the pallor remarkable nor did I steal it. I did however try to emulate it—pale-face looked feasible. I thought I could have something but this was untrue. I didn’t take your sun. I didn’t take your eyes. I’ve been trying to salvage the bitter roots that came my way, the tincture inside watery and unctuous— maybe the residue is sweet. Or look to the river with its over-determined gurgles in the vicinity, small cascades immersed in scenery. All will sound false to you but I can hear my real voice attempting speech— but you happened to me—you ghosted your way through me, you shrubbed me, not the other way around. I know these things. I have been down here, not up there— I don’t believe in powers that be, but can see how the world looks up there. How it knights itself with the grandiose—the majestic snow of simulated faces, the whiteness that surrounds me, and the quiet that follows.
for Mike, July 2016
After Dale’s sudden cancer,
his body wasting swiftly to death,
I didn’t believe in love or beauty, or my ability
to write poems.
And my grieving turned into a sequence of writing
little hostile elegies
in solitary sittings. Elegies ceased being an elegant poetic form.
I guess I was trying to understand
the shape of a new sorrow in its deep
how easily it’s foraged for my marginalized hungers that
With it, figurative language estranged itself
from crafting mutable metaphors,
of the natural world standing
in its place within adjectival phrases.
Landscape, though permissible, seemed to only swell around
retaining rivers beneath my feet with a grave distance.
Bodies ensued to ashes now,
and I didn’t utter dust to dust.
Only after losing many months and time
I did (slowly) begin to notice a greener (faint) tint to the
This felt like a small divinity.
Finding you was this too,
after such importunate feelings of
I said this is a remarkable lightness I feel, I couldn’t imagine it
before I felt it.
You told me to look at the moon. I did.
That’s what you did after Marie died.
You believed all moons in the sky to be
elegiac in a nonfigurative sense,
real to the eye,
therefore, you represented its steadfast truth.
I proposed then a drive to Glacier National
thinking of a fine faultless finery—the firs, pines, and
We drove up—higher than I expected—
skyward up the steepest corners and edges
and I looked out at spring’s sustenance,
of forest trees scored in majestic columns, bedded
coated with needles, fully medicinal,
their similes shedding: of giving over the live
to its eminence. Of the mountain’s height,
its splendor-drop because of its scare
I felt hesitant to look out.
But for descriptors: the rounded grass tufts
near the car grates then a hell-drop,
a belt of green.
Stones and gravel and gray peeking
This driving with you is a climb of faith,
and I feel it along with a helpless irritation of lust
in my throat
and gut, and a pair of callous and ashen calves and feet I seem
to have earned.
You helped me through a dry summer, fall, winter
and now summer.
Ten months after he died. He and I, all these years,
had never gone to Glacier,
only near it to Flathead or Whitefish, to fireplace lodges
I brought you to the Weeping
where we turned around, because you drove still further
until I threatened fear of heights.
I don’t know how to celebrate 100 years
this high up but you do.
This winding high-up national park with me:
your glasses cocked on your head,
a strange visor of blackish hair,
erect lens outward but modest
two circles looking above my direction
at the field of Beargrass, with its white stalks
and awkward loomed light.
I was unable to get out of the car at Heaven’s Peak,
because the sublime was frightening
but I crawled around the side and peered over, and I knew
I would never use the word Heaven
to describe anything I saw of death, but I saw beauty
in a scrap of its light
I was not afraid
of it taking me with it, the way I had seen him disappear
its extinguishing erasure.
I hold you in Glacier
where I see you clearly.
I will plow the hard-won truth of pitching death
and flinging its burden into spaces.
No treason I feel now (because)
the eros of the natural world lingers in sentience,
flooding with its central question of what (life and death)
I held onto the silver bumper of your car gripping your
because it was your hand and you, too, were
behind frank light and squinting
to see into a camera’s moon,
a lasting present tense
we just gave ourselves over to, lifted to
its blue course: a formal sky of imperturbable
of unambiguous secularity.
We take a simple walk around the car