In winter traffic, fog of midday
shoves toward our machines—snow eclipses
the mountainscapes

I drive toward, keeping time against
the urge to quit moving. I refuse to not
know how not to, wrestling

out loud to music, as hovering me—automatic
engine, watching miles of sky on the fall—loves such
undoing, secretly, adding fuel to

what undoes the ozone, the endless nothing
manifested as sinkholes under permafrost.
Refusal, indecision—an arctic

undoing of us, interrupting cascades—
icy existences. I cannot drive through.

Balance, onslaught

after Clare Rojas
(I have a diamond house
with men. I have pierced
men and diamond shoes.
I have shoed horses and
a tilted head. I have a tilted
cart and a flowered scarf.
I have a gray dress and a
hell of a guitar. I play the
guitar and the jukebox jack-
in-the-box gutted brown 
bear and canoe landscape. I
play the grayest song and a
cat's yarn game.) I sit in the
forest with a cat and a knife.
(I see the quilted mountains
and long knitted birds. I see
the man limping across the
path of chevrons between
the trees. I sit between trees,
hanging hair and red mouth.
I mouth and sit. The buck
stands by the river. I am in
my paper mask, my wood.)

Prague

Yes as thievery, except if saved for
a fantasy in which I in a backless
dress encounter

you on a typical balcony
overlooking Vltava, gripping the latticework,
metal, a barrier to leaping

into an esoteric night, fixed and ornate
enough, like my penchant for the infinite
within the singular, encounter you

as tributary, serpentine, the heat of your fingers
on my spine, my head turning
as you bend to catch the yes

I'd held latent, a mine you trigger with
your tongue, neither of us
mean to stop exploding.

The Rule of Opulence

Bamboo shoots on my grandmother's side path
grow denser every year they’re harvested for nuisance.
Breezes peel blush and white petals from her magnolia,
lacing unruly roots in the spring grass. For nine decades
she has seen every season stretch out of shape, this past
Connecticut winter slow to relinquish cold. As a girl
she herded slow turkeys on her Aunt Nettie’s farm, fifty acres
in a Maryland county that didn’t plumb until midcentury,
plucking chickens and pheasants from pre-dawn
into the late night, scratching dough
for neighbors, relatives stopping by for biscuits, and the view
from my window changes. It's Mother's Day
and I’d always disbelieved permanence—newness a habit,
change an addiction—but the difficulty of staying put
lies not in the discipline of upkeep, as when my uncle
    chainsaws
hurricane-felled birches blocking the down-sloped driveway,
not in the inconvenience of well water
slowing showers and night flushes, not in yellowjackets
colonizing the basement, nuzzling into a hole
so small only a faint buzz announces their invasion
when violin solos on vinyl end, but in the opulence of acres
surrounding a tough house, twice repaired from fires, a kitchen
drawer that hasn’t opened properly in thirty years marked
    Danger,
nothing more permanent than the cracked flagstone
path to the door, the uneven earth shifting invisibly beneath it.

Related Poems

Here, now, gone

We’re standing in the road
looking at a dead fawn. His truck facing town,
mine headed toward home. It appears to be sleeping
on the double yellow, curled as if in tall grass
or on a down comforter in a video someone has posted
on YouTube about her pet deer. No sign of collision
or gunshot, garroting, heart attack: nothing but spots,
cuteness. The name on his door means he works
on the natural gas pipeline that’ll run
from West Virginia to North Carolina.
The company that pays him has a reputation for ruin
worse than syphilis. Employees have been told
to stay away from locals. They stick to a hotel
near the freeway with a decor I’d call modern roach,
drink there, hone boredom, look at stars.
We both crouch to make sure the fawn is dead.
“What the fuck,” he says, staring at the desert
of my face, where there’s no rain or hope,
only cactus, as I search the dry lake-bed of his.
He looks back at the fawn, brings his hands together
as if waiting for a Communion host,
makes a scooping motion with his hands,
then slides his eyes to the side of the road:
I’m being asked to help save a dead fawn
from the bonus carnage of traffic, the shredding
that suggests life isn’t just delicate
but deserves to be erased.
We are the briefest couple
joined by common cause, move the fawn
and stand briefly as men who have respected loss
for sentimental reasons. Then nod, become ghosts
of a moment we are the custodians of, holders
of the unholdable, wind telling the story of itself
to itself.

To: All Poets From: Northeastern North Carolina

It’s just getting hot,
    dogwoods showering our shoulders with flowers.

I saw dead baby birds on a trail
   so I know new life has arrived

lost in the survival of pine and ash. I’ll say it plainly—
we need you down here.

Yesterday, my uncle put a nail through his thumb
working for the same white man he’s worked for since sixth grade.

Last night his blood fell on the bathroom floor and made a star
he couldn’t follow.

He needs to hear your poems.

Ice Would Suffice

How swift, how far
the sea
carries a body from shore.

Empires fail, species are lost,
spotted frogs
and tufted puffins forsaken.

After eons of fauna and flora, hominids have stood
for mere years
baffled brains atop battered shoulders.

In a murky blanket of heavens
an icy planet
made of diamond spins.

Our sun winks like the star
it was
billions of years ago, without ambition.

We bury bodies in shallow dirt, heedless of lacking space
or how long
our makeshift planet will host us.