Wistful Waking

I watch nostalgia surface, see it bite
at the sunrise that relieves the harvest moon.
This perfect weather – bright light day and night –
should be enough, but is not, to festoon
my autumn with the joys of the season:
canoeing, hiking, catching leaves that fall
like puzzle pieces teasing at my reason.
Why having much can I not have it all?
The past calls loudly but not using words.
I revisit places I have never been.
More of me than my eye pursues the birds
that gyre around the great church spire and then
flit out of sight, return once, and are gone
into the shade nostalgic thoughts bring on.

Reveille

I lie in a tent on a sandbank in the river
and wonder would I hear the water rise.
The otter’s snoring serves as metronome
for the heartbeat pace of words the moonlight limns.

I wake and all realities retreat,
except the one that’s standing watch today.

In the south of France Lucindas lean on trees,
or dance. For me. For joy. Up here the rain
leaches colour from the just-turned falling leaves.
I shall never see MacArthur Park again.

I see a shimmering line, a lifeline or a serpent,
undulating in the inshore moonlit current,
so close by I could touch it if I woke …

Downstream, or up, a church bell counts the hours.
Four chimes. Clouds mass. It is so sudden dark.

A priest of gentle parentage gets shriven,
or knotted, now for naught his pack of genes
that travelled aeons to arrive in him,
cold on his perch, before the furnace door.

Cold breezes stir the tent. Up high: the jet stream.
Clouds thin. They go. The smuttily full moon
invades the damp sand, wakes the snoring otter.

It caught a fish for each of us last evening.
I called mine sushi. The otter ate both heads.
We spoke the way that mammals do cross-species,
before it slept, of whether there’d be weather.

I need deep sleep, a day of dry, a boat,
the fun of congregations without creeds.
The otter wakes. It watches where that snake,
or pliant water plant, hangs in the current.
We fantasise together it’s a god,
our refuge for describing what’s unknown.

We wish for more fish. I wish for a fire,
and the otter for a thing I do not know.
I shall never see MacArthur Park again
or the reality that has the watch tomorrow.

Sylvan

The hill-hung house wakes to another day.
Behind it, up the mountainside I’ve climbed,
I stand inside an early-morning cloud
that waits for the rising sun to wipe it out.
The chiggers waiting in the Queen Anne’s Lace,
the ticks in the path, the web across my face,
and the thorns in every locust tree I touch
persuade me I have not changed much coming home.
But I who have returned am other than
the molecules I was when I ran down
the mountain to the college and the sea.

The flaking house paint shows me chalky grey
foundation boards the garden snails have slimed.
Beneath the porch where once a possum cowered
and played it died each time I’d jump or shout,
I see the wagon that we used to race
and I do my very best but still can’t trace
my old acquaintances. They used to matter much,
I tell myself, and scratch names in the loam
that covers where, back then, a small brook ran
from just above the house down through the town
in search of deeper waters, just like me.

Nine Days to Silence – Day One

I retreat a final time back to The Farm.
I cross the creek down where the real road ends.
I walk from there, into the ever woods.
I ford the creek twice more and see the sun.
It cooks the dew from what had been the orchard.
The path is steeper than I had remembered.
A blacksnake on an overhanging rock
conceals her rapt astonishment if any.

Back into the dark forest. Does it end?
I work to think of nothing but I remember:
projects well begun but then abandoned,
salt traces on the cheek of one I loved.
The sun again. I step into the clearing
remembering it was here I learned to ride
with hope and halter, quirt and bit forbidden.
I used a blanket for a saddle on hot days.

Emotions I thought atrophied propel me
uphill to where the cabin’s rough-plank porch
was the perch I launched myself from in the dawn
before walking through the weeds that wet bare feet
to wade the creek and watch for rainbow trout
that faced upstream below the larger rocks.
On nearing, I see saplings, dirt, and weeds.
The cabin I planned to move into is gone.

Doctor No Much More

He feels the weight loss that he still calls hunger.
He wishes to hear English native spoke,
or was that spoken? Harder to remember
alone inside his nearing-empty mind
with him Humpty-Dumpty bumping down the wall
at the bottom of the garden. Night time falls.

He goes inside and lights the guttered candle.
He pours his cup, last of this morning’s tea.
He disinters a banger. It revolts him.
With eyes tight shut it’s nourishing, he assumes,
so he throws bits at the cat he found that’s blind
and they both eat tea in silence. Midnight falls.

It is early somewhere warmer, he is thinking.
Not stinking darkness. Never rising damp.
He takes his diary down and tears out pages
that he holds above the candle, watching smoke
glow into flame then falter and char dark.
The cat meows, which seems to say it all.

He watches ash fall on the antimacassar.
Downtown the church bells ding-toll 4 a.m.
The neighbour, the one working, starts her car
for commuting to the hospice where she reigns
when she isn’t drudging, which is usually always.
The candle gives the ghost up. All is dark.

A silver lining on an ancient bookmark
succumbs to tarnish and his nervous thumb.
He rubs. The cat meows. All is less clear
than they told him back when he was graduating
and when he bought this practice and became
the general practitioner for this town.