Small Study

Sparrows swiveling the feeder
so the seed whorls
so the dove can come from its fix
in the waver of cedars.
Some one makes a husk note
that a pair can flare into as if
built from that scutch
of the undergrowth—
roughening birds, birds skimming into
slits they fit into in trees between
loads of the branches—
through paths
through encampment
go dozens who work the steep yews
combing the motes of the dove or
milling its ground, shifting its bandings
of gray and mole gray, taupe and slate gray
beginning to scuff
into lozenges, drab and saxe blue—
one of them nicking
the field where there’s tilt
off center
flocked in the shreds of new balsam
or come from the rendering
junctions or sorts through the deal—
afterward seamed in the fledge—
coal and flush gray, fuse and rush wove or
let go

Red-Legged Kittiwake

Native it seems to no part
of the North American continent
but some islets off
the rugged scarps of the Aleutians
in the loose entablatured cliffs
among dwarf-willow tips.
Known if at all by its silhouette
(we can know such things by their silhouettes)
the red-legged kittiwake
glimpsed in isolate parts of Oregon
California and southern Nevada
said to go silent in winter
slitting through snow
the red-legged kittiwake.

The red of the red-legged kittiwake
of a kinship with black
solders across the ice-gaps.
Native in no real part
but its obdurate course the red-
legged kittiwake goes silent.
We can know still more by rips
through the weed.
Red-legged kittiwake
gone back in the brain toward
noise of the narrowing ship-lanes.

Silver bones of the wrist
in their riggings rotate.
Pulp of the madder-root
shocked in white alum then soaked
through the wool for the waistcoat.
The frigate sprays back gray rime
cuts through the ice-skirt
pursuing such things
to the knit of the nest.

Crowberry swollen with fog
lichen resist on the lowest
spokes of the spruce
red-legged kittiwake
native to no part
alone in its parts

Kelp closes up
where the bird has just been

The legs retract in the pan
of the tail near the crotch
against the streaked ruff
bits of the barbs in breakage
out in the vanes
tipped into place
leaf of the willow tipped into
its branch the tip but tip to its whole

So where does it go when gone.
The wake of the factory ships.
Its chevrons compound the steep bluffs
it makes itself into those ranks
like pistons or books.
Its numbers are known to be in decline.
Is red for the advent
of sex or something more plain.

The sea works its surface.
Notched and convex.
It gives up its force in forms it must make.
It has a grease shine.
It is where they go when gone isn’t it
through the known parts

The Keep

Is this a kind of progress? This slip-bead
morning through which the rains keep
missing only the scarcely illuminated tread
of clover at the heels of swart pines. Sleep
counters me both ways. I fail to advance
in my own precession by the dark
calendar needles. I will not advance
but by the strange calamities that work
as on shallops on calmed water, a slow
going nowhere kind of motion toward
centermost. You are not here. Below
not borne by branches. You are not that bird,
so rigged as to catapult free
as if I’d the will you would change me.


Spruce of the dark
Ontarian orchards,
spoor of the interior,
I emerge into uncalculated
grain shattering at the crown.

As the sky answers
against the watercourse,
so I take my few
exceptions with God.
Nothing so irredeemable
as the robber cowbird,
as the slump of the fisher
unraveling its host.

The great brains of the beeches
divest themselves so sparingly.
I will outstay everything
for the seasonal observance.
Dried silicles, dried bracts
of the impeccable edge work.
Cords of the drainages in ice.
The rose’s roadside stigma.

Black tongues massed
at the interstices,
the lone pioneer oak
attends its assemblage of galls.

The Sky Is The Lost Orpheum

The shelter of it carved, caved
Across the river, the park and the little Ferris wheel
closed down
The great oaks emptying, russet, gusseted
the hovering slant light leaking from the outer edge
of cloud bed
leads and shawls pulled forth
Thy synchrony of the lost elements recovered
the shivering water surfaces, planar unmeldings, remeldings,
riverine alchemies, unlocketed selves
now the reemergence, the sun pouring global gold
uptilted, gobleted, incanted
Am I not as God made me but stranger?
Made stranger still by what I have seen
at this hour of earth untended, unministered—
light caught up in the river’s grooved tread
That sun more like a mass grope out of emptiness
and the black river weeds before it, torn and trained,
rocketed and stark and stuck-to
The tall shadow of the willow grows forth
And the spare stems of the grasses and the rods of the mullein
And these are the stations of this river
The houses and the boats and the parked cars
The growing wedge the ducks make moving forward, the shape
of the element there among the weeds that jut forward,
the mass of the willows growing deeper in green and sundering
The backfall of sun going downward
The surface of the river coming clear of its own admixture
The ducks moving over like slow planes in formation,
barely seen needles hauling white threads,
secretly heeding
The fish in my skin relinquishes
Will I know then what I have become?
The river darkens from its end of trees closing in
There is the sun and this deep depression
Exiting as viewed in this river