Owl Dad Tells a Dragon
no you may not come in
there is still one left
king, he bars the doors
against the night
guards still on either side
keep watch and look
if a moon too appears
see their spears in its light
but shields to cover heart
this you need always
he says in closing
the book, turns lights
and down the dark night
dreaming she lay safe
outside pining in the wind
a claw and cold breath
in the branches caught
and choking at what throat
the night has yelling
do not let it in, do not let it in
Alfred Stieglitz Shoots the Clouds
I struck at it for years. Hands raised,
I hollowed out the form,
the photograph, took all
reference away: no tree branch,
no birds frozen
in the scraping stroke of a wing,
nothing to say here or when.
But the tools weren’t right. The empty blue,
emulsified, was too pale, too light
to hold this weight. Clouds
I set into it burst and sank.
Until I felled it, found
the solution that turned the bright day dark.
Emotion without scale or form,
an absence trapped
between paper and glass,
they hang on walls as testament:
I stood alone and looking up
put words into the mouth
of the terrible, of the speechless sky.
When I Say Romance
When I say romance, I do not mean romance, not
at least, as you intend, do not mean
the quilled yellow throats of songbirds,
their fat, banded wings and black eyes, the notes
of their song. When I say love, understand
I mean the word far or along, see
the streets of Venice, its lagoon, the flat stones
over the water making a way.
So we strike and miss: shoot darts whose steel tips
kiss at their soft target. Words
that would promise or presage but cannot hit
their mark, our wit. I listen for you but it is an arrow
dropping to earth, a pipe of bone, the crow’s voice
clicking like cold stones, that I hear.
Terremoto de Valdivia, 1960
I held my mother’s hand as we walked towards the bright
display case, stacked with croissants, tiny cookies,
its tall cakes frilled like Easter dresses, tarts tucked
with dark berries, each facet of the raspberry gleaming.
Cautioned not to touch, I waited. She went to the counter
for my father’s cake, laughed with the shop girl
who folded its cardboard carry-out box.
Red body of it startling under pale frosting, his favorite.
Mine, the light meringue, its egg whites whisked to peaks,
baked at a low heat until dry and sweet, nearly nothing.
Pastel, they sat in ordered rows. I leaned
towards them, my greedy palm printing the glass.
I can still hear the patterned floor as it split,
see the flat shelves, so cared for and so careful, unsettled now and shifting.
How the great case faltered, its four feet unsteady,
the cakes tilting forward, their sugared skins smearing
its clear window with pink roses, birthday wishes.
Thinking first, It is my fault. Then, I am falling.
How to feed them by hand
Begin slowly. Arrive in the early hours when,
in the near light, everything is yet possible.
Let them see you. Then leave.
The next day, near dawn, stand by the feeder,
hold yourself still. Show yourself part
of that scenery and fade. Later and again,
offer only your hand, the striped seeds
in your palm, hot from a wool glove.
They are hungry, will take what
you give. You have wondered, have watched,
heard through the glass, their din-to have them close
and delicate, their pronged feet round
a finger, blunt beaks at your skin:
is it like flight, their rush of blood?
Bright burgundy brushes past, just beyond you.