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.

For John Prine (#51)

There’s a green river never far.

At the waking cusp of sleep,
Where around each bend
I find myself looking back
As often as forward—
The paddle dripping silver—
To catch a glimpse of precisely
What I’ll never see again.

The pink moon moves,
Pushed by black clouds.
There are no contrails tonight,
No geometry of sky,
Only the winking light of
Stars whose names would
Probably sound familiar.

Sopping black earth,
Drenched with certainty, and rain.
Cherry petals cling to my
Work boots, ghostly, floating
With the praise of spring.
I carry good luck as I go,
Or as I don’t—the same.

When, at sixteen, I first learned
The Shenandoah had another
Name—daughter of the stars
I fell in love straightaway
With the world. Sweet apocrypha,
Leading to the waterfall’s edge.
Does it matter that part of me wants

To plunge, too, to perhaps see
What can never be seen?
Morning, with dew sparkling
Bright! Tender trembling of April
Leaves! The world is quieter—
Not quite quiet. Five miles away,
The river glints, green now gold,

Changed with a wave of the hand.

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.