In the early morning an inside thing
moves of its own accord: a cereal box
rattles in the cupboard, a slack
floorboard gives back my steps two steps later.
Things move unexhausted yet
in early April in the Midwest.
One hopes. History may not exactly
snicker at the latest catastrophe
but it has a place for it. Things
have always been getting worse, I think,
and just now the paperboy peddles by
and the dogs bark in half surprise.
The meanest word on the block
belongs to the jay, head cocked
in the willow eyeing night crawlers
glued the winter in sex. Drizzle
brings them up through clods
and sodden leaves full of promise.
If the jay should come out
in any event and strike our hearts
with light and a blue almost luminous
and a black like the night
behind neon, would we be lifted
with his furious diligence?
He never has a casual glance
his blood burning too fast
for distraction. There's a slug's trail
a painterly blur as crooked and silver
as Christmas tinsel strung below the privet
we planted last fall. We see this
will be the year for the hedge
to square those frenzied raspberries
on the north slope. It's all begun
to stir, the urge, the swollen
shoots. As usual the jay's eager
and beady with detail.
All winter all white the snow drifted
south, stitched with the topsoil
of farmers who thought they'd plow early
and get a jump on the green future.
But a late wind put it all in the bank!
There's a price to pay in the fall.
All winter I doodled in the long dark.
The frost on the pane inclined to foothills.
Marginalia fell off. Novels I read accomplished fact
but rarely character and never cause
and effect. Meanwhile my friends mailed me
volumes, dense opacities perfectly bound.
By now the light's balancing
inside and out on the sill's edge
and on the edge of the butcher block
too courteous for words. Unfold the news:
A plane crash in southern France
has killed 103. Every other name
(in dizzy agate on page nine) seems familiar.
Elsewhere someone's reached accord
in a foreign affair as though it were a high fruit.
Finally from Florida the warmth of box scores
the elegance of plot by number.
Outside the jay's refrain:
give and take and take again.
I'd fill the air with that cry—
not the profligate starling's squawk
and not the flicker's wing shying away
in the maple's shade. No, the jay.
The jay raises his head like a hatchet
and chases the flicker higher.
No, it should be quieter than that.
Day breaks and half awake my son
begins to hum against my chest.
It is my own voice. This fits
his latest notion: that I will grow younger
as he becomes a man. Parallel, opposite.
Played false by dawn the jay's
most luminous on bluest days
a matter of refraction
blue because the sky is.Yesterday
we found a tail feather
layered in yellow and gray
and striped black as the ace of spades.
If pure color suffers no influence
as Newton said and depends not on the length
of study, but of wave, then
the heart of the wild carrot cannot
be bruised. We cannot assume
this bird holds a candle to the art
of human and intimate abuse.
The flicker comes and goes cadging
light, a candid wing. The first thing
yesterday we took a walk: a night crawler
in the privet, a purplish vein
and the slug, the fool's amethyst,
surely feed the jay. Whatever he owns,
he eats. It's a simple lesson.
Sometime before dawn I listen
to my son breathing, holding my own breath
And then we breathe together.
Things change, he's noticed, but nothing's
gone in the process, he thinks. First thing
this morning we take a walk
looking for examples of his logos
opposed as we are to loss.
RAILING AGAINST PEOPLE RAILING AGAINST KANSAS
First of all the fields
are not endless and there's no point
saying that just for emphasis.
This is a soccer field.
That is a field of alfalfa.
You can see the difference.
That's keffer corn
and those are beans
and that's the other and so on.
The Rockies will rise by and by.
Second, there's an order
you can't imagine.
You have to imagine the old days
when not much
was measured (mirage
or monotony) until you got
to the next mission.
Third, no one mushes
from Nome to Fairbanks in February
but you drove from Joplin
to Junction City in August...
Stay home or fly across
or make a phone call
but stay out of the fields
of canola brighter than neon
the burnt umber of milo.
APPREHENDING THE WEATHER IN KANSAS
I'd forgotten that
the front edge of a front
seems its opposite
a long in-drawing
a sough up high in the elms
in the maples a sigh.
Just before the first drops
icy and big as dimes change
things for the better
the wind comes up.
You never mistake the storm
for what came before.
I grew up agape
and breathless in this weather
and the pulse it kept.
EXERCISE IN FISHING
Everything moves at once
around him balancing
at last in the flat water
behind the rock
roughly dividing the water.
The wind clatters
in the asparagus grass
and the late sunlight
skitters upstream on rocks.
Exactly six mallards break
from the grass banking north
in a vee their odd bodies
in flight like bowling pins
knocked sideways sliding
over the braided water
where the cutthroat
hold on the bias
waiting for leftovers.
He sidesteps that way
braced against the current
false casting first for line
then drifting a spent caddis
to water under the willow.
Everything still moves.
ON THE SHADOWY
Everything at once
around him balancing
in the flat water
dividing the water.
the asparagus grass
the late sunlight
six mallards break
from the bank north
in a vee odd bodies
like bowling pins
over braided water
on the bias
wait for leftovers
sidestep that way
brace against the current
drifting a caddis
to the willow
six mallards break
like bowling pins
against the current
a spent caddis
under the willow