Stories Moving Through
Lice in the wing feathers
of a white-headed woodpecker, loosened by dust,
are flung in a scattershot pattern over the forest floor.
They die among the shed needles of ponderosa pines.
I gravitate towards cities in times of scarcity, if only
for the abundance of trash: cast-off clothing, food scraps.
Shipping materials make decent beds.
She’s moving over two thousand miles, to a city
she’s never visited. She likes labeling the cardboard
boxes, the way the corrugations throttle her script.
All is nervous, but edging towards bliss.
Zoos and museums—earth
sequestered, on display. He spends his Sundays immersed.
For him, a rhythmic seeing: blocks of ecstasy, corridors
of pain. Pavilions of time, decadal or geologic. And always
a docent, a volunteer—brimming, generous, informed.
O humans how tender they can be. Think of the everyday
heroism, the patient suffering, the graciously edited speech,
those among us who serve without trumpeting hoarding
smearing. . . And on Sunday some rest, some repast. Rolling
dough, beating the loaf, sifting flour, become to her
as a meditation. A pleasurable blankness.
Seasonal changes, too, mark lives.
They blur, sedate, enclose. Birds migrate through tunnels of sky,
while plants transform themselves—flowering, withering.
We, too, follow. Facts like these are more than mere givens:
they are gifts. Still, he refuses the seasons as best he can,
jetting south or lounging in air-conditioned rooms. For him,
the north is no place to be born and to die,
yet he was born there, and so is imprinted unto death.
Massive winters, chimerical summers. Autumns that blind us
to all but these few vivid moments. Even as we sidle
into the future, the sun, it angles in.
I camp near the footbridge,
I watch. Each morning you ride your old blue bicycle over
the mud-laden creek. All sorts of folks will eventually follow—
an anonymous neighborhood. Saints, for all I know,
or killers. But always you precede them, the first human
stirring in the predawn light. To live this far outside you,
I need only live outside. Among you, loathed, unseen.
Edenic scenes are not far off. Ferns are lace against dark
firs. Shadows of branches grace her thighs. Inhaling deeply,
she embeds her body in the forest. She bows to inspect
a rhizome. Her hair brushes the ground.
Each word I receive is anticipated,
prepared for by some previous word. Akin to suffering, language
assembles and multiplies—a mob of feeling, a conceptual flock.
Words rattle inside one another with each enunciation: hollow
and intriguing, suddenly meaningless except for their sound.
Lie on your right side, facing a window or someone you love.
When the tear emits from your left eye, it will travel slowly,
circuitously, following the contour of your cheekbone,
across the cleft region above your sweet mouth, and onto
your striated lip. Enjoy that presence a moment. Then lick—
a little taste of this saline earth.
The wedge of light is a bird.
He is keen on identification. The wedge of light is a cobweb.
She does not sweep it away. The wedge of light triangulates
time. It locates the moment we assiduously seek. It pivots,
it throbs in the breeze. Normally he wouldn’t sleep so late,
as he cherishes early morning. But today some hand pins him
to his bed, as if he were a specimen. The hand is earthly,
the palm of the hand a landscape. Eyes shut, he surveys
rivers and hillocks plainly, as if from a summit. And yet
he’s prone. She stretches beside him, luxurious, nude. Half-
awake, eyelids fluttering. In flight.
Now when that species of cumulus
moves in from the sea—smeared edges, gray undercarriage—
I index the cloud in the context of centuries. It augments memory,
it summons the dead. Not the lost ancestral dead, nor
those I’ve grieved, but every dead weather awash in memory,
each granule of dust on which vapor condenses, the accruals
that germinate rain. Inside the chambers that harbor droplets
there is cool and hot potential. It’s all I ask. As when strangers
drift over the water, towards a future drenched in expectation.
As when desire forms pools, as when kings and queens, absolute
monarchs, submit to their smallest whims.
Not to let the insensitive bastards,
passive or hostile, keep him seething: that’s the sleight of hand
he performs for the paying audience. His world has collapsed
to a handful of dust. With a flourish, he flings it into the light.
I awoke. Everywhere I looked there were people in the water.
There were fish and sharks and undulating rays. The humans
and the sea-life mingled, as if we had traveled back, far back,
through black pages and encrusted tomes of evolutionary time.
We mix where difference collapses to dust. Where, with
a flourish, it’s flung into the sea. Even now I can see it sifting,
adrift. It dissolves. Then reappears.
Meanwhile she sends me photos,
close-ups of ordinary objects—
not portraits, nor landscapes,
although clothing, bedspreads,
grasses, upholstery, do become
terrains of sorts, for my eye
to travel through. Resting at
the most innocuous place, I
notice the subtle, sinuous lines:
the threads embedded in cloth—
the threads that are the cloth—
for what else is cloth but threads.
In this scenario, city streets
weave cities, and highways
become the earth they traverse.
Blood vessels delve into the body,
convey the body home. Waves
surging through sea-water
are of course the sea itself.
Trains pull through town all night,
announcing, with thick archaic whistles, their slow and
measured passage. What a feat: hauling the centuries
takes massive torque. Freight strains the rails.
Where I lie the ground tremors as the trains power by.
A bass vibration infuses the soil, where tiny beetles,
where roots and mycelia, physically sense our schemes.
Meaning?—that’s not found at any center. The earth
is mostly inert, except in its breathing crust. Meaning
does not coagulate, gather. Rather, it disperses. If
you’re looking, I’d try the peripheries.
The way wood-grain floats
on placid surfaces. The way light imbues metal. The way
feet ache at the end of the day, a sort of blessing. The way
geese, scattered, feed in a field. I saw armies ravage
the countryside. I saw cities strafed. The world’s disrupted,
savaged constantly. I saw tears in the fabric, the rawness
beneath. Don’t try to reassure me. She arrives, finds the city
only loosely affiliated, often crude or cruel. Hears sentences,
ascending, stammering. Sees the dark pupil at the center
of things. How clouds progress, how clothing drapes.
She collects these traces, leans in.
October peonies: leaves saturated
in lowering light. Shades of gold, olive, champagne. And brown
blotches, the false eyes of autumn. How will I ever reach you? Who
will know our innermost silence? Useless to speak of such things.
Allow instead, for ubiquitous links: webs, scent trails, bristles.
Synapses, tethers, barbs. The seed-hooks and the good striations.
Arrayed in plain view, they lean into mystery. Straightforward,
they slant. Stories moving through infuse him. They become
the world itself. They form and flex—in animal autonomy,
in vegetable resurrection. They’re pulsating cells. They spiral
out, they burrow in. Exist to be received.