Fallen Fence (v.2.4)

The fence in the woods
Has finally fallen,
Propped all this time by
The sinewed remains of
Honeysuckled deer bones,
Single mistimed leaps
Where, twisting, twisting,
The leg at last is liberated
And the carcass molders to
Apatite and phosphate,
Bowled into the lap of soil.

Have you followed these fences
Too? Rusted intent, its barbed
Wire poised to puncture actual
Air. Run your palm along its
Flaking length, gentle spasms
Of corrosion. Our eyelids twitch
Sometimes with the same tender
Entropy. Potassium. Nitrogen,
Fixed from the pregnant breath
Of exhaled leaves, fecund,
Each footstep breathing sighs.

Hungry jellied mouths
Orangely supping, conical
Fungi where the farmer mis-
Skinned the bark from the post,
And lichen pulps the locust.
Push, and it yields—the crescent
Earth gasping plain surprise.
Hydrogen. Sulphur. Nothing
Much pondered during
The building of fences,
Where the digging iron

Strikes stones, quartz-
Veined limestone, fissile shale
Slick with micas, throwing
Bright sparks extinguished
The instant they ignite. Friable,
Such afternoons squandered—
The trunks subsuming wire,
Dutifully swallowing it whole,
Straightening dappled light
Into inconsolable lines
Divided, willful calumny.

Ain’t Nothing Straight (v.2.3)

Ain’t nothing straight:
This farm house
Bain to masons;
The jigsawed barn
Anathema— in 2007
A one-footed carpenter
Threw his hammer over
The hill, and I found
It years later
Ensconced with rust;
In 1999, the Venetian
Complimented the fence rows—
So straight, so precise—
Ignoring the rolling hills.
The wind? Not straight neither,
Combing the fields into
Parts: left, right, backwards,
Cowlicked. What kind of place,
Where the walnuts wend
Wayward, and the spring
Trickles at turns silver,
Opaque, translucent, its
Fish free to fly to the
Shenandoah, Potomac,
Just as rivers run straight!

I’ve seen nothing straight—
My sister, the one who
Reads Emily Post, shows me
Her her crooked fingers,
Bent now at the
Knuckle below the nail.
It’s a syndrome, she says.
I remember in 1984
When she bought a
Purple Rain poster,
Hanging it on her West
Virginian wall.
Holy, this disobedience!
Even the pious,
Bent at the knee,
Flip to the page
The priest instructs.
So much flipping—
So much rise and sit,
Fall, and arise! But
Across the open pasture,
Spiraled sunshine streams
Forth—touching nothing as
It passes near,
And almost straight through.

Two Hawks (v.2.2)

A pair of sharp-shinned hawks
Found our farm. Never
Far from one another,
Perched in the outstretched arms

Of hackberries—trees, in their way,
Probably not much
Older than the birds. I made
Rounds on the tractor, mowing winter

Blackberries, burgundy
Canes guarding thick blankets
Of dead grass—mouse’s houses—
Summer pasture passed over,

Too prickly for the delicate lips of
Cattle. They watched me, these
Two, leaning with suspicion,
Approximating my proximity,

And I recalled when, as a boy,
I raised a sheet of sun-warmed
Tin—a collapsed shed roof—
To discover two black snakes

Tranquilly coiled and watchful,
Dark shadows in the dust,
Flickering forked tongues
To taste my intent. Delighted,

I sprinted to inform the farm
Hands, only to return the next day
To find the metal thrown aside,
And both snakes decapitated.

No hydras here, their
Bodies stiff with rigor mortise,
The tracks of boot heels
Puncturing the dust, black

Blood everywhere. Bitter
Betrayal! A boy, I buried
Them in the stony, splashing
Sepulcher of my heart, left

Decades for the hawks
To find, falling earthward
To soar, winging skyward
In an effortless, unwavering arc.

The Edge of Wild (v.2.1)

The edge of wild, where
Hickory and goldenrod nod
Cobwebbed September awake—
Afternoon heat from the asphalt,
And the sweetly stinking carcass
Picked over by the black-headed
Buzzards until, sated and flown,
Timid turkey vultures approach,
Sadly hopping forth with hope.

You’ve seen this broken
Scene, the forty six year
Old man, castaway in the wreck
Of self-loathing bones—
Oh, wild! No pity, too broken
To even wash his own socks,
Hunting asparagus along the fence
Rows sprung forth from bird droppings.
Succor! Wild child! Still,

We dream of mothers
From 1950s sitcoms, smelling
Chocolate chip cookies
As we forage for fiddleheads,
Chanterelles, ramps along the wooded
Creek bottom. Unrequited comfort.
The apron strings so starkly
Black and white, and
The kitchen set straight every night.

Out on the river, the water
Gin-clear, the man looks
Over the side and sees
Not only the stony bottom but, just
Above, catfish, blue-gray shadows,
Scores upon scores, uncatchable as
Sleeping dreamers, unconscious
And floating one inch above the bed—
Or three feet below, it doesn’t

Matter. It’s a very deep sleep.
Oh, heartbroken wild,
Wracked with nodding shame!
Grief! Suffering! The man fixed
Frozen where the water is so clear,
He could reach a hand and
Pluck a fish brightly as a guitar string—
One lonely, tentative note, filling the
Autumn air with plaintive song.

Love Poem From Quarantine (#52)

I can’t hold April from
Six feet away, can’t
Smell her, kiss her,
Taste her from behind
This cotton mask.

A spring of many mouths—
Chickweed opening its lips
To the anxious wasp,
The first drowsy honey
Bees, pollen-thick thighs,

Tongues licking purple red
Buds, lavender-perfumed
Lilacs. Dogwood spied
Spectral through the
Greening forest—

All at a distance,
All a lost season where
The world is suspended
Upside-down in a sky-
Bound drop of dew,

Plashing love—don’t think
I can’t hear you,
The sound of your passing
Fingertips, caressing
The empty air,

Holy as the sun, still
Seen behind closed eyes.