[Landscape with Crows and Ravens]
A murder’s what it’s called, the night-black flock
that Scarlet barks at mornings. Smartest birds:
so ominous but wise. I’m bagging turds,
the dogwalk maven of my neighbors’ block,
though not as sage as Odin, god who gave
an eye for wisdom, got two ravens for
his throne. I trot with Percy, black as ore
and kin to Cerberus, nine times more slave
than I to intuition, midnight laws.
If only I could be so wise. I want
to grow night-black with knowing, keen to meet
my long-dead parents on some howling street,
some honking crag, to ask them why they haunt.
I trust they will interpret croaks and caws.
These woods behind the house are home to a
coyote that I haven’t seen but heard.
It wakens sleepers in the brain, that yip
that’s not a dog’s. The dusk is sifting down,
blue powder like a medicine, or bane,
that, either way, we take. And I am out
with Scarlet on reconnaissance. This turf
is hers, she thinks, but something feral’s in
the shadows, large and ratchet-limbed. This world
is mine, I think, but something wild and dark’s
inside, it’s pulsing, burning, deeper than
my heart, a thing that I will leave for now—
I pull the leash to get us safely home—
but know that I must circle back, alone.
Orion poised above the roof; the moon
a scythe, a pendulum; my breath a wife
engendering pale wraiths that die too soon
for me to ask about that other life. . . .
The night is strange, and so am I: I read
too much, or not enough. Dear Percy’s here
with me, as black as I am white. He’s peed
and had a treat, still innocent of where
we end: like me. His snuffling in the brush,
his belly-consciousness: mere metaphors
for my more abstract quests. His headlong rush
at rabbit, squirrel, mouse: how he adores
the kill. Or is it merely sustenance?
Like finding God unarmed, asleep, by chance.
[Shadows of the Spruce]
The wine last night has morphed this morning’s bed
to stylized crime scene, much like Fox TV.
No violence occurred, unless we count
too much shop-talk, or that new rap CD,
wolf-wild at first, and then a hare that fled
the speakers, scared. The dogs lie back asleep.
Still dark. And still our work is paramount.
Let’s leave it all, switch off the lights, and creep
back up to bed. I’ve thought ahead: reset
the coffee timer. Days can’t be so long
that lovemaking won’t make them lighter. Bet
that bird outside rehearsing—getting loose
within the bluest shadows of the spruce—
undaunted, and with time, perfects its song.
[With Paper and Brush]
“It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train
to Cry” is on the stereo, my wife
is gone, a stout’s half-drunk in front of me,
the dogs are faking sleep (just waiting for
a treat), and I am channeling the dead.
That is, the images won’t come. I’m not
in love with television. Internet’s
a bore. A jazzman said to play until
you’re safe. My father flickers just beyond
the lamplight, whispers faint and hoarse: To put
a penny on the track? Forget the flag
and flowers on his grave? To lend out books
and records, not expect them back? They’re gifts.
And louder now: to paint. Not wait too long.