Gentle, where the chainsaw
Gouges the bark,
Throwing thick chips,
Ripping life asunder.
I work in the cool
To clear the year.
Saplings sprung from pasture,
So much life! There’s
Nothing somnolent about
The saw, no effete snoring,
This hungry, smoking bastard.
I grip it tenderly,
Felling a black cherry,
A box elder maple,
A fork-branched mulberry.
How much to do
On a winter afternoon?
The saw gutters, grumbling,
Its silver chain sweetly oiled.
These trees will all be back—
Here, there, in that distant field.
New Years, it seems,
Is rarely ever so far.
Planets aren’t supposed to twinkle,
But Venus, low on the horizon,
Has wrapped itself in glittering glass,
Sparkling a thumb’s width below Saturn.
When the photo arrives in the mail
From a distant cousin’s distant cousin,
The old house looks little as it does now,
Festooned with a milliner’s ivy hat.
The old dog goes lame, and the X-rays
Show cancer. Twelve years is a lifetime
For a large breed. There’s no comfort.
When she dies, part of us is gone.
The smell of smoke in December air.
Is it true, that a tree can catch flame?
It seems so unlikely, dripping green with
May rain, each leaf slick and silver-wet.
The road disappears into the gray sky.
We know it’s not so, telling ourselves
It’s only an illusion, recalling fairytales
Where boys climbed above the clouds.
The great rush of ivy
Up the side of a sycamore—
How far does it know to go?
Red leaves, puddled before
A stoppered storm drain,
Barely moving in crystal water.
The most fertile soil lies
Between the highway and the field,
Where the farmer can’t till.
Have I spent a thousand lifetimes
Learning to see the grass?
I suspect more, and more to come.
The teacher recalled the apparition,
Describing death as taking off
A shoe that’s too tight.
Will I get to see the ivy again?
I hope so. It’s lovely, to know
That it knows what we don’t.
What a distraction, all these leaves—
I can’t see a thing!
Willow oaks shiver, aflame,
Showering axial sparks.
In Washington, Colorado Avenue
Waits until Thanksgiving to blush
Ruby, russet, bending the
Algorithm of Instagram.
Where does the sky go?
Blue, blue! This is why
Farm girls leave the gray
Dairies of upstate New York,
Suffering lobbyists, stuffed
Olives, withered trails of plastic—
Ignited autumn, in search of
To the wren I disturbed,
Asleep in the porch eaves,
Bundled snug beneath
A November pumpkin moon,
I’m sorry, little bird,
To send you scrambling
Against a white, wooden sky
With frantic, futile resolve.
You ignored the open squares
Of night all around,
As though you were blind
To the darkness itself—
Freedom too spacious,
Too expansive, convinced that
What you could not see
Surely must not be.