You’re like wildwood at the edge of a city.
And I’m the city: steam, sirens, a jumble
of lit and unlit windows in the night.
You’re the land as it must have been
and will be—before me, after me.
It’s your natural openness
I want to enfold me. But then
you’d become city; or you’d hide
away your wildness to save it.
So I stay within limits—city limits,
heart limits. Although, under everything,
I have felt unlimited earth. Unlimited you.
I’m a responsible man, and so
they load me up. Seems they think
I’m a truck with a big engine,
thick tires, strong shock absorbers:
a little gas, some water, battery acid—
they think it keeps me happy.
But it happens I’m also a lamp
with a chimney of glass
and a bellyful of golden spice-oil.
It happens my tongue is a wick,
and when the longing
flames out from my furnace heart,
I speak, and those who listen
burn. Or I don’t speak:
I swallow the fire,
and it sinks down writhing
in my scrotum like some demon.
It’s that demon who lights my way.
The demon they name if they mention me.
The demon who drives me around in circles,
roaring like hell, eating my own sweet dust.
CROSSING THE RIVER
The sky, after last night’s wind, is bright
as the eyes of a child who’s learned a new song,
and she comes to her father crying, “Listen!”
So he listens. He attends. But it’s hard:
to hear what she hears, he must learn to love.
I noticed a woman on the bus one day. A red
birth-shadow flared across her left cheek.
She saw me staring; we each looked down;
the aisle became an impassable river.
If we’d talked? Oh, I’d never have risked
telling her what had first crossed my mind:
“I’ll bet it tastes like strawberries.”
Strawberries offer their seeds
frankly, not folded away in the core.
My eight-year-old likes them with cream,
a dust of sugar. They taste so good
that she can’t keep from singing,
though her cheek’s plump with fruit—
which I ought to remind her isn’t polite.
But I listen instead. I attend. I am
learning how to hear the beauty she hears
as she sings with her sweet mouth full.
AS THE LATE SEPTEMBER DUSK COMES DOWN
In the grassy slush of the Fall’s
first snow, my son, age three,
is dancing. He’s dancing
this boot-heavy jig for joy—
or simply to drive out the ache
of an idle day indoors. He stamps
oblongs in the lumpy whiteness,
now and again gives a shout
made of steam. Then he halts
by the sagging apple tree
and stands a while, head back,
gazing through the ruined fruit,
into the failing light. Sure,
I should call him in. But I want
to savor that glad, forgiving look
that glows on his upturned face.