Aesthetically Invasive (#50)

I see you, western New York,
Finger lakes wolf-clawed
Across the map, sleeting sheets
Of snow peppering the salted

Highway. Two hundred and fifty six
Miles of abandoned tractors,
Silos filled with hollow sky,
Green verge of fencerow

And shaggy headed reeds,
Aesthetically invasive, nodding
“Yes, yes” where Wegman’s
Parking lot meets the marsh.

This is precisely the same
Everywhere, what we all know
Without seeing, a single emerald
Cover crop at the clover leaf

Just outside Rochester. We rise,
Merging, above the stone-
Picked fields, where black-hatted
Mennonites have returned, swept

Here on the same wind that
Stirred the lake schooners,
The bankers and businessmen,
The moldering barons of Buffalo.

Punk Onions (#49)

The snow lies in cockscomb
Shadows on the tin roof,
Hiding from the sun.

Little can for long,
Perhaps the bottoms of stones,
The undercut stream bank,

American living rooms.
In my dim kitchen, the onions
Sprout green spiked hairdos,

Veggie punks, like the ones
They showed on tv when
I was a kid, desperate to scare.

It worked at first, didn’t it?
Those bright, flashing squares.
Our parents warned us,

“Don’t sit too close,
You’ll ruin your eyes.”
Saccharined, stupefied,

Children mistaking sitcoms for
Sunshine. But they found light
Where no one else could—

The onions, I mean, and
The punks. Green feathered
Canaries in coal mines,

Sweetly singing “kill, kill, kill!”
Rhapsodic and dire, but our
Parents only heard gibberish,

Only saw darkness as the world
Around them ignited, burning,
Ablaze with the brightest light.

Auld Lang Syne (#48)

I’m still in love,
It turns out,
After all this time.
Where else was there to be?

The woman walks her dog
Along the sidewalk, conspicuously
Avoiding eye contact, and
I can’t know her pain.

The boy stares into his screen,
Watching himself play himself,
And I look over his shoulder,
My own blue eyes reflected.

Those nested acres of earth
Tucked between the highway and
The exit ramp, a laboratory of
Saplings and garbage, invisible—

When do we smell the soil,
And what do we notice?
I cup it to my nose
Like damp potter’s clay,

Determined to become whole,
Breathing the dark,
Crumbling chunks that
Smell of old books.

Remaining in love,
There is no apart—
I am at the world’s service,
Tracking mud through the rain.

Listen. Once a year we sing
Auld Lang Syne,
Intuitive hymn,
Praising kindness!

We stare into strangers’ eyes,
Swept into whatever’s next.
As if it could ever be otherwise,
We resolve for nothing less.

The Chainsaw (#47)

Gentle, where the chainsaw
Gouges the bark,
Throwing thick chips,
Ripping life asunder.

I work in the cool
December light
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.

December Brushstrokes (#46)

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.