In late October in the park the autumn's faults begin to show: the houses suddenly go stark beyond a thinning poplar row; the edges of the leaves go brown on every chestnut tree in town. The honking birds go south again where I have gone in better times; the hardy ones, perhaps, remain to nestle in the snowy pines. I think of one bold, raucous bird whose wintry song I've often heard. I live among so many things that flash and fade, that come and go. One never knows what season brings relief and which will merely show how difficult it is to span a life, given the Fall of Man. The old ones dawdle on a bench, and young ones drool into their bibs; an idle boffer, quite a mensch, moves fast among the crowd with fibs. A painted lady hangs upon his word as if his sword was drawn. Among so many falling fast I sometimes wonder why I care; the first, as ever, shall be last; the last are always hard to bear. I never know if I should stay to see what ails the livelong day. I never quite know how to ask why some men wear bright, silver wings while others, equal to the task, must play the role of underlings. "It's what you know, not who," they swore. I should have known what to ignore. I started early, did my bit for freedom and the right to pray. I leaned a little on my wit, and learned the sort of thing to say, yet here I am, unsatisfied and certain all my elders lied. A middle man in middle way between the darkness and the dark, the seasons have tremendous sway: I change like chestnuts in the park. Come winter, I'll be branches, bones; come spring, a wetness over stones.
Days come and go:
this bird by minute, hour by leaf,
a calendar of loss.
I shift through woods, sifting
the air for August cadences
and walk beyond the boundaries I’ve kept
for months, past loose stone walls,
the fences breaking into sticks,
the poems always spilling into prose.
A low sweet meadow full of stars
beyond the margin
fills with big-boned, steaming mares.
The skies above are bruised like fruit,
their juices running,
black-veined marble of regret.
The road gusts sideways:
sassafras and rue.
A warbler warbles.
Did I wake the night through?
Walk through sleeping?
Shuffle for another way to mourn?
Dawn pinks up.
In sparking grass I find beginnings.
I was cradled here.
I gabbled and I spun.
And gradually the many men inside me
found their names,
acquired definition, points of view.
There was much to say,
not all of it untrue.
As the faithful seasons fell away,
I followed till my thoughts
inhabited a tree of thorns
that grew in muck of my own making.
Yet I was lifted and laid bare.
I hung there weakly: crossed, crossed-out.
At first I didn’t know
a voice inside me speaking low.
I stumbled in my way.
But now these hours that can’t be counted
find me fresh, this ordinary time
like kingdom come.
In clarity of dawn,
I fill my lungs, a summer-full of breaths.
The great field holds the wind, and sways.