I was nearly killed here, one night in February.
My car shivered, and slewed sideways on the ice,
right across into the other lane. The slur of traffic
came at me with their lights.
My name, my girls, my job, all
slipped free and were left behind, smaller and smaller,
further and further away. I was nobody:
a boy in a playground, suddenly surrounded.
The headlights of the oncoming cars
bore down on me as I wrestled the wheel through a slick
of terror, clear and slippery as egg-white.
The seconds grew and grew—making more room for me—
stretching huge as hospitals.
I almost felt that I could rest
and take a breath
before the crash.
Then something caught: some helpful sand
or a well-timed gust of wind. The car
snapped out of it, swinging back across the road.
A signpost shot up and cracked, with a sharp clang,
spinning away in the darkness.
And it was still. I sat back in my seat-belt
and watched someone tramp through the whirling snow
to see what was left of me.
Return to Solitude
It is a moonlit, windy night.
The moon has pushed out the Milky Way.
Clouds are hardly alive, and the grass leaping.
It is the hour of return.
We want to go back, to return to the sea,
The sea of solitary corridors,
And halls of wild nights,
Explosions of grief,
Diving into the sea of death,
Like the stars of the wheeling Bear.
What shall we find when we return?
Friends changed, houses moved,
Trees perhaps, with new leaves.
Keeping Things Whole
In a field
I am the absence
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.
When I walk
I part the air
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.
We all have reasons
to keep things whole.
The Poems of Our Climate
Clear water in a brilliant bowl,
Pink and white carnations. The light
In the room more like a snowy air,
Reflecting snow. A newly-fallen snow
At the end of winter when afternoons return.
Pink and white carnations—one desires
So much more than that. The day itself
Is simplified: a bowl of white,
Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round,
With nothing more than the carnations here.
Say even that this complete simplicity
Stripped one of all one’s torments, concealed
The evilly compounded, vital I
And made it fresh in a world of white,
A world of clear water, brilliant-edged,
Still one would want more, one would need more,
More than a world of white and snowy scents.
There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.
She wanted a little room for thinking:
but she saw diapers streaming on the line,
a doll slumped behind the door.
So she lugged a chair behind the garage
to sit out the children’s naps.
Sometimes there were things to watch—
the pinched armor of a vanished cricket,
a floating maple leaf. Other days
she stared until she was assured
when she closed her eyes
she’d see only her own vivid blood.
She had an hour, at best, before Liza appeared
pouting from the top of the stairs.
And just what was mother doing
out back with the field mice? Why,
building a palace. Later
that night when Thomas rolled over and
lurched into her, she would open her eyes
and think of the place that was hers
for an hour—where
she was nothing,
pure nothing, in the middle of the day.