Archive for the ‘sestinas’ Category

Dead Catfish

August 16, 2008

Persistent crone. Your medieval grin,
(evoking Brueghel) settled in the stone
and switch grass sometime in the summer light
and stayed. The wind refused to throw you back.
The storm last week could not produce the waves
to reach you where you rotted in the shade

and petrified. I recognize this shade
of gray as semi-permanent, your grin,
the rictus in a fevered dream that waves
and floats, as something of a childhood touchstone:
Once a bird, your image filters back
a catfish. Sick hallucinations light

those dreams in much the way that sunlight
draws your shadow where I step. A nightshade
in the day, you cultivate a switchback
atmosphere, a counter-Lohengrin
where hero is enchanter. Where the stone-
cracked stage shall have no magic swan or waves

of celebrants or swords, but tidal waves
of stagnant air; a concrete satellite
in static orbit fixed upon a stone;
a brittle plinth and monument to schaden-
freud. A luckless path. But here’s that grin
and mockery of Cheshire Cat! A back-

and-forth along the frissoned razorback
of clowning time, you have the nerve to wave
me down and hold me here, to press your grin
into the mirror of the lakeblue light.
My eyes and yours, behind their carbon shade
of hardened death, are locked like mason’s stone

as viral memory corrodes to breakstone
beach. The progress of your broken back
is mimicked in the cloudline where the shade
of crawling afternoon traverses waves
now audible and focuses the light
remaining on your curtain call. You grin

your bottom-feeder grin of stone, inert
and elegant, enlightened, coming back
to life in waves of shade across the dirt.

Motorboat Blondes

August 11, 2008

My kayak rocks in the motoring wake of blondes
that ski the mountain weather in cross-bluff
streaks on the disappearing eastern branch
of Crooked Lake. Their pilots, aging boys
with mustaches (and flagrant with their beers)
lean fast against the wheel as speedboats bank

and break the heaving water on a bank
of mirrored pines. I hear their engines, blondes,
and bows ramp into open straights, the beers
held high and tight as mist obscures the bluff
and wipes this lakeland chromosome of boys
to shapeless cloudy streams. They pour the branch

from Penn Yan into Hammondsport, the branch
from mystic Branchport’s hidden clapboard bank
into the very hump-backed waves the drunken boys
have cast across my hull. Behind these, blondes
are falling down and playing blind man’s bluff
amidst a caving churn in frothy beers

of surface water, lolling in the biers
of sinking afternoon and shades of branch
and blade. The common Main Street shuck and bluff
of Skaneateles, the “Board” and “Bank,”
mean nothing in this greening bed of blondes,
this screaming with the gulls on soaking buoys.

The sirens in the wake of rescuing boys,
reacting with the gasoline and beers,
are overweight. The rouges and the blondes
of local vineyards course their lake-wet branch
of breasts and glide like tongues the bank
of thighs. They’ve cigarettes on their breath. The bluff

will bed them, hold them in its underbluff
of sediment as motors cut and boys
pull back, as rain sets in and night clouds bank.
I paddle past The Switzerland, where beers
are tapped at wooden bars and cloud cuts branch
at kayak’s prow. I hear the call of blondes

and lose the shore, the laughing blondes a bluff
and echo where the steely Branchport boys
down beers and drag their towlines to the bank.

On Keuka Lake, August 5, 2008

Psalm of Robins

February 24, 2008

A hearty winter psalm, the redbreast robins work
The holly tree from base camps in the bramblewood
Across the street. They disappear into the green
To pop out one by one and cut through icy air
En route to comrades waiting in the naked sticks.
And aren’t redbreasts thought to be a sign of spring?

Disturbing all the new-dropped snow, the branches spring
And wings unfold to flap above the dirty work
Of shovels through the hardpack and the slush that sticks
To everything, including cords of firewood
Left stacked beneath the vagaries of the open air.
Neglect and reckoning. And still, the evergreen

Resplendent in its alb convenes its wintergreen
Communion. Slings the laity. A constant spring
Of russet softballs, the preliminary air
Support for April’s landing party sets to work
Across the wires. It flips to diving patterns that would
Throw the errant angels earthward as it sticks

To February gorging. Crimson berries, sticks
And brambles, snow and sunlight complement the green
Cathedral and the mistletoe. The ice and wood
Will be here in the morning. Set the spring
Of winter’s clock to wind as slowly and to work
As unpredictably as cloudlines in the air.

They’re everywhere, endowing the suburban air
With Hitchcock premonition. Here’s a scene that sticks
With you and draws you in. Inspired by the work
Of Bruegel and Hieronymus—the devil’s green,
A pastorale of grey and white—these songs that spring
Across the lawn have sketchy harmonies, a wood

Ensemble hitting strings and tympani with wood
And wind that lift the redbreast to its hectic air—
Survival. To a resurrection at the dawn of spring.
But in its transit from the holly to the sticks,
It comes to light upon a crucifix. The green-
sward is a mirror of the heavens now, the work

Of a capricious God, a work of frozen wood.
The swelling in the green will flutter in the air
As, tentative, the sticks hold out a prayer for spring.