When you were a child,
How did you play?

Before reading any further,
Pause. Recall.

Remember the smell of play.
Its delicious tastes.

Remember your heart
In your ears, the steady

Pulse of white noise.
How exciting! The feeling

Of surrendering all senses—
Two disembodied eyes.

For that is what you were,
Floating, timeless,

Now. Observing who
You were. You were lost

At play. You weren’t in your
Body! At play, you

Projected dream.
I saw you. I was there

Too. Three, four, five
I dug in the cool West

Virginia soil, finding myself
On the other side

Of walnut roots and
Mouse nests. I didn’t claim

This made any sense!
Medicinal, becoming lost.

They say the soul sits
Just below the belly button,

In front of the spine. This
Core compelled me into the

Warping woods, summer salted
Skies, fluffed rabbits flouncing

Through the clouds, the living
Fingers of trolls excavated

Beneath tree stumps.
Liberated, lost, throwing off

Clothes, stomping naked up
The emerald-cress creek,

Rainbow dace flashing,
Worm toes in the chocolate

Pudding mud, wading
Upstream as the current

Dissolved my footprints,
My penis a witching wand

Dowsing me towards
Source, towards the silver

Spring, towards the gray
Broken limestone trickling

Cold water, dark water
From hundreds of miles

Distant, drank drunk in
Pennsylvania to flow into

The light across my pink
Feet. Oh, water! What

Did you see in the darkness?
I flew there, the crystalled

Grottoes, the braille of
Sinkholes mapping the

Valley floor, and I visited
Every one unchaperoned,

Squeezed through the
Hairline cracks, witnessed

The blind newts, the blue,
Glowing mosses, the colorless

Water in the caverns’ darknesses,
Unseen for five hundred

Million years. Not bad for a
Kid! And do you want to

Know what happened
Next? When I returned—

To my body, I mean—sun-
Burned and smelling of

Catnip and lily pads,
I retraced to discover

That my clothes had been
Stolen! I’m being literal here,

This really happened, and I
Walked back barefoot across

The thistled pastures to
My grandparent’s farmhouse

No longer playful but
Naked as Eve, aware of

My shame, the soul of my
Belly spasmed with sobs.

Oh, little one! This world.
My clothes had been taken

By Jim, a farmhand with five
Young children. He didn’t know.

How could he? My clothes
Were returned. The cruel

Day dispelled, carried down-
Stream to the Shenandoah,

The olivine Potomac, the
Chesapeake Bay and the

Atlantic, until, rising, rising,
It fell once more against

Pennsylvania. It’s hard
Not to take this all

Seriously, isn’t it, to allow
Our clothes to be stolen—

Naked at play without shame.
I’ve never forgotten

How to play. I’ve only
Forgotten, sometimes,

For a little while, where
I go when I’m not here.

Eating Spicebush Berries

It’s strange to know the title
Before the title appears. Receiving—

Researchers at the University of
Virginia report that most reincarnations
Occur within five hundred kilometers
Of the avatar’s death. Prior memories
Typically dissolve by age six:
Cobwebs. Distractions. Sunlight.

Potomac, I have known your silty
Banks for how long? From before—

Gabardine green. I carried a girl frog-
Like on my back across the river, her
Garland arms choking me as I swam.
Cautious of unseen rocks, I felt the wet
Nylon of her swimsuit billowy against
My skin, warm as blood-rich placenta.

Crossing the bridge I think of Hart Crane,
Of droughted riverbeds stretching fishless—

Of the crayfish husks discarded by raccoons,
The glimmering kiss of skipping stones
And the odor left on the fingertips, widening
Ripples where an Appalachian sky washes
The gritty scent amongst the leaves, the love-
Soaked branches, the submerged roots of

Sighing grasses with names I have known
Yet forgotten again, and again once more—

Only to step onto the C&O canal trail
On an October morning into another
Silence, the sacred birth of experience.
This is not uncommon! Do you see me
In the cathedraled alley? We approach
Beneath the hickories, sumptuous with

Shadows. How strange, remaining strangers
All this while, recognizing this intention—

But no more. She says, “I was always
Told all red berries are poisonous.”
I was too, encircled by five fluttering
Grandmothers, insistent that children never
Die, that the blue hard candy in the white
China dish was for display purposes only, and

Once, slippery as a trout, a piece lodged in my
Throat. Screaming, shaking me by my ankles—

I lived, didn’t I? Swimming across the river and
Back, carrying the frog-girl, buoyed by the
Belief I’d outlast the wandering thalweg,
Eating red berries that taste of men’s cologne
And grapefruit rind. Alive, alive, alive! Repeat
A word so many times and it surrenders all

Definition, shapelessly transmuted into the dark,
Round seed wombed within the crimson berry—

Mantras that sound like home, home, home
Perhaps some day recalling where we’re from.

All Of Autumn

These scattered prairie clouds—
Such blush! Oh, the pink
Brightening of autumn, drought-
Dusted leaves muddy with September

Rain. Do you remember the rain?
It pours sometimes, doesn’t it—
Always in the past. Always in
Some brighter moment which is

Not now—I’ve heard you grumble!
Look. The greening pastures
Engorged with sweetness. Look.
The final blue moon—that is, until

The next blue moon. Or the super moon.
Distractions to occupy an evening.
Look! The leaping brook was a trickle
But now it leaps once more, decorated

With opalescent minnows and goldenrod
Pollen. Where does it go, oxbowed
Narration, those long-winding stories
We all adore. And when, reflecting,

We see our own faces in the pink-
Clouded water, we recite: “Yes! I
Remember that day. I do! Five years
Ago like yesterday—but I can’t precisely

Recall what we said, or what she was
Wearing. If I could go back I’d breathe so
Deeply, inhaling all of autumn, never
Displacing a cinnamon fleck of her hazel eyes.”

Hugging Tree

Hold this tree for me, I’ll be right
Back—Hampstead Heath Sunday
Oaked, fruited with notes of kite
And dock, body of hand-smoothed

Bark and a crisp, mossy finish. So
Many hands have worn this living
Wood, so many lingering fingers
Grasping the limbs and swinging

Swaying, leaving the limbs love-
Slick. The girl doesn’t want to
Climb the tree until she does, then
She never wants to come down.

Oh, hold her by the hips English
Oak, ancient girth, mineralizing
Millenia. Hold her, breathing your
Breadth, her cheek pressed flush

Against you. Held by a tree. You’ve
Heard of tree huggers, but never
Hugging trees? Well wake, up
In the branches where blue-feathered

Birds perch; where, in the distance
Men are disassembling the Ferris
Wheel into cumbersome parts, only
To be rebuilt, restored, rejuvenated,

Where the carnival never ends
But is ever-blown through the treetops
Of finger-tipped oaks—that is if
You’re inclined to climb, or look up,

The rattling, black choke of London
Dissolving as it does in New York,
Peoria, within your own central park,
The swaying skies filled with climbers.

Trail Of Feathers

I’ve been walking a trail of feathers
For days along the black, nettled canal

Rich with blue fishes, flashing damsel
Flies, umbelliferous elder surrendering

Rhubarb stalks to the flat feet of swans.
How long have I been walking? Not far,

Just as long as I can recall. Everyone knows
Our memory is the most unreliable

Witness of all—Blue fishes in rise forms,
Waking, breaking the surface to reveal mottled

Green backs. How long have I breathed
The lacy air, creamed with thick perfumes?

Feathers fall from a gray cloudless sky,
Adorning the path until a girl collects them,

Peacocking a plain post. She knows how to walk
Too, how to breathe, allowing herself to be filled

With space, noting the green fishes of the canal,
The blood red swans, hopping yellow toads flung

Joyfully across the path, and her blue-haired dog
Bounding, framed against an iridescent lemon sky.