What alms for the living may I offer—
moth-eaten cloth, parcel of salted tongue, or bovine-heart?
A glass eye wrenched from the ashes?
I wander the field for neglected eggs and shed silver
feathers. The birds trill and trill and trill.
And there was the watchman’s lantern that ogled form
within the formlessness; and I peddled
my flesh piecemeal to gods
who resided as starlight that filmed the earth’s hollows
with a bluish caul; and the moon was a milky eye
to prayer; in dream or under pines.
Nearly every dawn I recall hundreds of settling wings.
I do not know what I held closest to my body:
the breath in my lungs, the breath
held for a moment in my hands.
The November night is drinking rough wine with the mansion-
scribes. Ghosts of great birds lacerate the sky
over a small body of water, a hand reaches for a cello
bow and the furnace grates its fires, lumbering
against the cold.
Amid the wine-stains and fennel there lies a severed finger.
It has been on the chopping block since dawn. The husband
is locked in his study. A servant mills about the woodpile,
fumbling with the logs.
Someone weeps from the reeds.
How the fallen leaves seem to wince in response
to the breath of the coming night, their last exhalation
before the change in the blood, this change of season;
before the salient flush and crispness, and our ruminations
on fire. Now is the moment when the night
may be called piebald;
sporadic puddles and outcrops of leaves mirror the wind
in their frames; we see the sky in negative.
Fine sand between the teeth is a sign of the mountains’
erosion. Sorrel gatherers covet this silt, this
departure to the mundane.
The sky spreads its salt, abrading the grooves of teeth in sleep,
turning dreams toward the enveloping darkness, the
mounting cumulus where voices recede, and the voices of
those we love and have loved recede,
and we rise to draw a bath, thirsting.
Heat lightning circulates within the dead. It is their dreams guiding
them through the fields of their youth. Their clothes
are arranged in piles at their feet. A row of steel-toed boots
tightens under the sun, licked clean by deer at dawn. Worms
digest salt in their labyrinths of crumb. The trees
move like hair underwater.
The storm has passed. Leave it to the trees to bear
the silvered frost, to bear the varicose canopy,
this night of a thousand fingerprints.
The sky’s damp linen is caught on November’s half-sunken nails
and a brief still (lack of sound) is reminiscent of the near
silence that is a sinking stone.
A wringing of clouds, of like hands: collected rainwater,
its rolling boil, four potatoes dropped slowly in, the gathering
of steady eyes, hunger abundant, the steady eyes and the fire
spitting fire; the inevitability of ash. A wringing of clouds,
of like hands.
Something shared: hunger’s bond. I wake to dawn, the mercurial-
sky that has already drawn copious blood.
The footrace led to a grove of sycamores. Concupiscence singed
the day. An afternoon storm waylaid the rising dust, the 13-
year cicadas trembled in their buried-skin. Vespertine
branches swallowed the nightingale thrushes, the cold red
sun, the swallow’s hunt on the wing.
In the frigid shade, the wind uncovers remnants of an ancient
footrace scattered beneath the brumal-dust. Scattered
vacancies: the eyes of statues that seem to follow one through
an empty house. All eyes of men are colorless in dreams.
Essentially devoid. The breeze rustles the fallen leaves,
cicada skeletons, to and fro.
Always the river at midnight. Silver-eyed fish circle the moon,
cradled in its sunken johnboat; its dim likeness films
the water’s surface.
Song-less. Birds watch as you wade beyond your knees. You’ve shed
your body; it grows frost on the bank,
quilted slowly by copper leaves.