A cortege of clouds’
shifting planes 

reflected on a river,
the current’s weave deepens,

yet motionless
the dramatization of

a fern unfolding,
light illuminating the air

for a moment’s threshold,
when time, where we stand,

corresponds to the day
held firm,

derived from the elegance of
the equation

for what was once never here.   
 

More by James Brasfield

Early Afternoon, Having Just Left the Chapel of San Francesco

Radiant the delayed calmness,
—Do you feel it, I said. —Yes, you said,

of what only each can know,
kernel of radiance, the globo terrestre

of a water drop, not the passing adaptations
of canonical light, but seconds stilled—

our hearts beating through the moments—centuries
of the next tick of a watch relieved,

a world enough in time to imagine
Piero walk to work across cobblestones

toward a completion, his close attention
to sunlight passing through shadows

owned by the sharp angles of buildings,
sunrays warming what they touch. 
  
Piero, first a painter, is not a monk. 
He will make what welcomes light

a source of light: slow the day
he will add lucent black wings

to white feathers of the magpie
ever alight on a roof-edge.

I found a feather on a stone, feather I thought
from the angel’s wing, that arc of light

held aloft in descent, shared with us
and Constantine in his dream. 

I think of a white egret returning home near
the high creek, through unwavering

evening light, to sleep, sleep at Sansepolcro,
where we were headed in a rental car.
 

Expleasure

         How time slowed when any thought     
     or apprehension of the next instant
             vanished (no obligation, then or later),

         how in that long moment, all at once,
     yet without surprise, how what was close
             was present in a sudden suspense,   

         as such things rarely exist
     as they did then, each apart from all,
             seen as it might be truly,

         and gave way to a pleasure
     that had long been missing,
             to expleasure, as if I were akin

          to the smallest things—ribs
      of a leaf, penny on a dresser—
              of a saving stillness, doubtless

          always here, just beyond
      the scrim of what calls us
             from that silent astonishment,

           the more so since the feeling
       dissolves with its presence of detail
                merging with a distant seeing,

           as when I walk through a room
       and nothing is equal there to the calm
                 from the simply seen.   
 

Late Summer

Now cosmos in bloom and snow-in-summer
opening along the garden’s stone borders,

a moment toward a little good fortune,
water from the watering can,

to blossom, so natural, it seems, and still
the oldest blooms outside my door are flourishing

according to their seedtime. 
They have lived as in trust

of tended ground, not of many seasons
as the lingering bud in late summer,

when leaves have reached their greenest,
when a chill enters the nights,

when a star I’ve turned to, night after night,
vanished in the shift of constellations. 

But when on a bare branch,
even in August, a sprig starts,

sprig to stem—as if to say, See,
there’s kinship with the perennials

you think so hardy—voice
the moment among the oaks, toast

the spring in summer, as once each May
a shot of vodka is poured on bare dirt

among gravestones to quench the dead,
among the first stars of this new evening.

 

Related Poems

Little America

My friend says she is like an empty drawer 

being pulled out of the earth. 
I am the long neck of the giraffe coming down 

to see what she doesn't have. 

What holds us chained to the same cold river, 
where we are surprised by the circles 

we make in the ice? When we talk about the past

it is like pushing stones back into the earth. 
Sometimes she digs her nails into her leather bag 

to find out where my heart is. The white sleeves

of her shirt are bright with waves when I visit. 
When we lie, we live a little longer—

which is unbelievable. If you love 

someone, the water moves up from the well.