Love

I do know,

that I fall for the things that 

present themselves whimsically

only to land in love

with the prosaic touches of everyday.

Like how I don’t mind the Wyoming wind,

or the roughness of cowboys

who show me their scars 

three months out of the year.

(And then when winter comes, 

and I am gone somewhere else

warmer

and upturned-collars cleaner,

I long for the wind and the scars again.)

I know this is why I do love the silence

on the weary path—

the forgotten light, subject to the slivered moon

and the job of eyes to fix uncertain edges.

This is why I do love the old horse who will match my footsteps 

along the fence,

and how the mice who have built a tunnel from the barn to the coop, 

scurry in layer-feed dust away from the remains of fall. 

It is not my wonted chore,

so I breathe the suburbs’ passive fade into unbroken sounds,

and I delight in the footsteps that find the magic of an equine’s simplicity and desire:

the crunch of alfalfa between his teeth twice a day.

Bringing the Kitten Outside (and What It’s Like to Let Go)

What do you think

of this unwalled world?

Of a horizon that’s hidden; 

the earth and sky pearled?

Do you see the fleck of dog

cutting through the snow,

carving a solid line

no care with where to go?

And what do you think

of your blush-nose in the breeze?

So hush-ed now,

and just a tease.

And do you like the way

the snowflakes fall

on your mink-like fur,

their mid-winter drawl?

Do you know like I do

that your existence is white 

the clear and the soft, 

the fabric of right?

Do you feel like I feel,

were I to set you down,

that your feet might flutter big

and you’ll fly to Never-found?

Confronting the Cold

There is a gap in the door of the chicken coop.

I will have to fix it before the first snow,

tomorrow.

Even so,

when I open the door,

pastoral red and rigid,

the warmth from four feathered forms

meets the front of my face

and touches the top of my nose as radiant heat will,

and I like this warmth.

There is a bale of hay,

twined in orange and resting atop its kin

waiting to be cut as the nickering horse extends his neck

over the stall, towards me.

His breath is a revelation in the beam of light,

and it reaches my face like an arm

with fingers extended, wanting to touch.

Another winter is upon us,

and I like this warmth, too.

And more tonight:

I break a thin layer of ice in the trough;

the water underneath holds its tepid viscosity,

and it is not so bad to penetrate the frozen

and dip my hands into water, still.

And you must know, I do like this warmth.

Even more, when the chores are done,

and when the right side of the bed is upturned and magnetic;

I’ve captured the feathered warmth,

and the horse’s thick breath,

and I’ve carried the unfrozen water with me

to fill the mirrored reflection on the left

where the covers are not folded back into a dog-eared page

worth reading again.

Grooming the Dog

At the sight of the box with the clippers,

his tail folds between his legs 

yet he reluctantly follows

until I am positioned under a tree away from the glare of sun.

There is a tender breeze, in fact, and he sits for me,

given to, as the tool buzzes across the side of his torso

then through the mat of hair at his chin 

and around his ears. 

A squirrel baits him from across the yard

and I will lose him soon

but for the fact that he is good.

Even so, before long I have taken too long, and he lies down softly in the soft grass; tufts of his dark fur lifting into the September dry;

it floats momentarily and then lands somewhere on or between us.

It is a gentle protest

when he rolls completely onto his back, paws bent, eyes deep and clear as he watches mine 

searching for a hint of my satisfaction with his improved appearance.

As if a haircut could influence the affect of a perfect dog.

Staying Late

There is the grass like velvet, 

and the net like a web

catching the dreams of almost-thirteen year old boys,

and sometimes the ball–

most of the time the ball, (he would want me to say).

A light rain sprinkles the summer-dusted windshield when he approaches and asks to stay

in the dusk, with his coach on the bench lifting his nose to the cooled air 

and towards the sudden emptiness of green as the cars move through the asphalt eyebrow.

Parents rub their eyes, thinking about dinner; they will mention homework, too. Headlights brighten.

But here I sit and there he goes.

He’s hard to spot at the far end of the field as the trees pick up wind and sway above his quickening form.

He moves faster,

and then he is fire.

His face stills and his leg springs out from behind 

the other one bent and stable

and then forward, connecting his blaze to the ball:

a moment

between father and son

as the neon-pink ball expands the flesh of nylon.

A smile forms and he turns away to skip down to the far end of the field, again. 

Voices

what do I do

when the mirror light stops flickering

stops watching me during the half-removal of clothes

as I spread them about the bathroom floor 

trying to decipher what could be Morse code from beyond.

what do I do

when  the noisy neighbors in the ash tree outside my bedroom window

cease their sunrise chatter and gamboling

and stop waking me at an ungodly hour to announce the presence of a worm or a cricket

hanging from a dark, wreathed beak

ignorant of sand in the eyes and twisted, sleepless sheets

damp with dreams and mourning.

what do I do

when the sun stops rising

and the seasons stop changing

and my heart stops beating

for all of this

Horse and Coyote

Beneath the waning gibbous moon

when two weeks marked you gone,

the horse stood in the pasture bare

at first glance all alone.

Before the gap of curtains closed,

a second set of eyes

peered from nigh the horse’s fetlock

both still of fear or cries.

There’s anger when someone passes,

but even more, there’s love

and these two sitting side by side

unite the vulture and dove.

We pray for God to give,

then he does but can take it away;

yet I think it untrue that goodness leaves

when things aren’t meant to stay.

Orpheus and Eurydice

Have your childhood dreams become you?

Do you travel in the spirit world from creek to bayou,

from lake to riverbed, whooping and hollering in the dark

while the rest of us sleep?

I always pictured myself,

in these dreams somewhere with you.

Smelling the pine needles embedded

in the damp earth;

ignoring the hiking boots that rub a thin red line

into the persistence of shins.

Guilty after some imagined marital transgression,

returning.

Always finding you;

I could feel you from decades and miles away,

post-holing through the snow and trees;

sinking deeper through that commencing punch; each step more single-minded

like bread that has risen

soft and yielding at the top, dense where it meets its fictile captor.

Perhaps none of us were meant to be grounded.

Up and down the mountain passes, 

then falling on my knees

when I could hear your voice again.

I bury my frozen fingers into the crook of your arm,

and you hold them there

through the wind and the ice we are thawed

like we were twenty years ago

not enough years ago.

We discover that my fingertips haven’t turned,

and that we are children again, forgiven of our ebbs

in this place where it is white

and sometimes cold;

this place where we are new

and never old. 

And I hope that I am the one out of this darkness always climbing the stairs,

and that you are the one in the light,

forever turning around. 

Motorcycle for Sale

So to tell you this

and so to sell you this

is a pact that you will keep your color.

Leaves without orange, red, or yellow

aren’t seen in the fall;

they blend into the undercarriage of earth

with no imprint on the brain

or the body that remembers.

Just don’t be ordinary.

You should know,

that it started with this motorcycle:

the grease left in the pan on the stove,

the puddled water around the overgrown garden

the smell of earthworms and rough shoots of grass

between the tomatoes.

Burgundy on chrome

he pointed west and slow through the chill,

fast through the hot

tires on blacktops the color of mountains

and towards the mountains

as if the needle were stuck in one direction.

There, he stopped almost

there

leaning into horsehair strings of an old violin

fingers fumbling with a sound that didn’t matter

as much as the song itself,

across the depth of prairie from a knoll

now full with quadruplet houses

foursomes and fivesomes and sixsomes that mock each other

with their different colored shutters.

I know all of this

because he told us—

the children and me.

About the stars and the squeal of rabbits

in the bluestem at his knees,

about the eagle who called from somewhere—

anywhere other than a tree,

not a tree in sight.

About the empty bank account

since filled and drained ten times over by the rest of us

with the ebb and flow of need,

and forgive-me-father greed.

About the quiet coyotes who saved their calls for sunrise,

yelling with his desire

farther and faster west into altitudes

where breathing steadies and grows deep with

love.

There is nothing humdrum

about the shoes left in the driveway

by the dog who scatters them about like eggs

laid by chickens remiss and high-stepping

all over the yard;

their pecking at the shoes and the grass,

their laughter making him laugh.

Not when they are his shoes,

and it is his dog.

Not when it is his laughter.

There is nothing dull

about the motorcycle’s lean into a stretch of road

of course

when he is driving,

and I am the rider who fills the other seat

getting to touch him

and to see his face in the faces of our children,

and in the clouds.

Getting to put my arms loose about his waist at first,

then tighter

as he took on corners with speed

drifting left and right

tighter still,

as the years and memories multiplied.

So to buy this motorcycle

please,

if you buy this motorcycle

it is to know

that this seat is where it started,

and there is no ordinary

in the stops along the way

and all the places

that he will stay.