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November 29, 2020 40 min

artifacts

 

I'm burying my head deep

into a distant May

 

a stretch from this late January where an

unseasonable warmth

has reawakened

these lilacs beneath my skin

 

(they sprawl, varicose,

purple clusters

across my forearms

around the backs

of my shoulders)

 

come close

it's on my breath

the soil radiant but cool

just three handfuls down:

water from a spring melt filtering

deep to the roots

 

the china-doll's broken foot

spent shell casings

and chimney stones

marked by old fires have torn

my nails

wedged the nutrients deep into

my fingers

where growth begins

 

 

mid-winter hike

1

home is where I'm too whole and each

step in any direction

is the losing of something

 

I replace the pieces

with something new—

light on the crusted snow

leg bone of a deer

gnawed twice,

by coyote and myself

trying to get at the marrow

of things

 

I want to return satiated

full of something I hadn't missed

before, so spent I'm unable

to sleep for dreaming

 

2

pine cones grow warm

on the side of this hill

where sun has drawn back

the snow

 

the dry grass, the needles

glow with an idea of what spring is—

memory and prophecy

 

the cones open

their wooden petals

and seeds are always hidden

near the center waiting for

fire

 

only wind

and the winter birds' chatter

can speak so patiently

of the slow hand of sun opening up

everything

a bit at a time

unhurried

 

3

I'm not alone out here,

someone dogs me

at every turn

I fumble to recall

the name

as I stumble home

carrying words

so as not to jostle them

into a trite retelling

who is it? I spin

who's there?

 

out this far, it's impossible

to be alone

 

 

before you teach

1

a few hours before class

drive out Tinton road

until you leave any traffic

behind you

the trees will not distract you

they will stand

perfectly still

 

here, you must leave the

the beaten path

and join them along

an ancient road left

overgrown

 

wind your way among them

to a shaded spot

and kill your engine

from here you travel

on foot

 

speed is no longer

your goal

each step is a lesson

 

2

here, dig into

the hard dirt bank

find egg-shaped rocks

fractured by the weight

of millennia

and know that a thing

whether fertile or not

left long unhatched

turns to stone

 

think as you walk

of the mountain lion

waiting patiently

for a sign of weakness

know that hunger

is his nature

and that you have come here

with only a pocket knife

and your senses

see—he has left

for you a sign

claw marks in the mud hole

long and deep,

count them

one, two, three, four, five

straight as a treble clef left empty and waiting

for your half

of his composition

 

3

coming home

roll down all the windows

and drive fast

letting the dust

filter in

sprinkle, flavor

your books your papers

even your skin

the sweat of the journey

will make it stick

and you will taste it

in your teeth

even as you speak

to your students

 

 

 

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