What I Know of Melancholy

with a nod to Elizabeth Bishop

How water draws it, magnet and salve.
Still water. Moving. Held. How the tide
sweeps it away, leaves the ground wet
and vulnerable to life. How the well
reflects the tunnel-sight of loss. The heart
of the river that beats over rocks that hush
and break. How a woman I did not know,
even her name, went there one winter day
with coffee and pastry and the rifle
that took away the cloying sweetness
and killing pain. I know that river.
I have sat with its shades and reedy stones
to drown my bitterness in its sounds.
It calls forth words for all that I know
I do not know. How it flows, fresh and free
to the ocean it meets, like knowing,
flowing, and flown.

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Fragile Mystery

Saturday, the dog dislocated her hip.
Today, the vet met two emergencies
waiting at the door. A Chihuahua hit
by a car whimpers in the distance,
then, silent in its crate going home.
My dog shivers beneath the waiting room
bench. I kiss her head, pat her chest.
It’s a simple surgery, carpentry really,
sawing and stitching. Still, she’s eleven,
old in dog years, and her aging hurts.
On the road home, sirens. First one car,
then another, then the ambulance flashing
down the roadway. Each requires me to slow
and pull over. Each delivers a soft blow
to my gut. Someone somewhere is injured.
Friends report their overwhelm with the weight
of the world. The way the body feels
living life, like a sob in the fine lines
of nerve and blood, a crying in the heart.
Everything that lives, dies. (Feel that).
Up the bumpy drive to home, the sun
strikes glass like the hammer of God,
shatters me into a thousand tender pieces.

With Time

Wind is erasing the hills this morning,

blurring their lines with a white mist

of lifted snow, the northern sky

an imperturbable blue. The turmoil

of air is not its business. I kneel

before Quan Yin, her four arms

hold a lotus, the braided loop of infinity,

and two hands touch in the sign of prayer.

I contemplate the suffering in this world

and ask for relief. It blows like the wind

lifting snow. It sweeps around the earth

like a silk veil, this exhale. In and out,

breath and wind, darkness and light,

living and dying. It goes on with us

and without. These bones settle on the cushion,

in the body, compressing like the rings of trees,

rooted in the neutral, ever changing earth.

Compelled

Outside, the snow collapses

on itself, water finding water

that way it has of shifting shape

and staying the same. The river

roars its full-throated runoff,

wicking away what falls.

The arc of light slants higher

across our hills, days longer

by seconds. Still, it’s winter.

In this quiet expanse of white

lit life, we fall into our own

slant of time. Bones resting

on bones that spark in bright

arcs of pain. You paint. I write.

Fire pops in the grate its long held

breath of rain. Water moving

everywhere, compelled

to start again.

Walking the Familiar

for Sage

When the horses hear us coming,

they nicker and whinny

across the white field stubbled

with grass. I stroll with you

along the frozen road, the sky

low and gray as smoke.

 

As long as we move, you sleep.

The stroller wheels spin you

into their spell. Your lashes

are stars on your cheeks,

small constellation.

What dreams, what lives

remembered, in your slumber?

 

The river moves whitely in the air.

Mist settles over the hills,

their snow-flocked trees

patterns of light and dark.

 

It’s the month of your birth,

December, month of ending.

The archer shoots his arrows

of fire into the coming night.

Too soon you’ll walk on your own

path, no need for me to follow,

then, behind me, wheels

turning over the familiar road.

Coyotes Sing when They Kill

From the hot tub

I see the deer

atop the northern hill

a small herd

big racked buck

in silhouette.

When I look next

they’re gone

but the song goes on.

I soak under the gray

shadowed dawn

the world awakening

to its hungers and griefs

their calls companion

to my solitude.

Later, in my room

kneeling in prayer

for this life of love

and loss I hear them

still in the rapture

of communion.

What they take

Oh Lord of light

and dark, sustains them.

Would that it were so

for us.

 

Morning Quail

Feathers pose a question
bobbing blackly on his head,
and all day, he calls who? Who?
At dawn from the Ponderosa
he lobs his query at me,
roused from sleep, dreams
a shadow of wondering
who I am today. In the dim
cocoon, my body curls
into the fetal answer: head,
heart, tail. A fern unfurling.
I am this and that. Between
waking and sleep a tenderness
opens for his seeking.