The Priests in the Trees

The priests in the trees
have changed their robes,
their yellow
substantiating earth,

to the brutal temple
of the woods have
brought back gold,
lit the branches’ tips.

In wind the sticks
have conclave
debating the
splintered month,

at last issue
a crown jeweled
with cardinals
whose gold melts

through the rusting dark.
The priests of
render God’s voice

in blood colors,
shear down the veil
that parses hung lofty
from earth-bound,

to the undone temples
of a copse have brought
back music,
frozen the cardinal’s heart.


At Castle Neck

A wave’s white flag unfurls against the headland.
We’re pleased with summer’s long foreseen surrender;
hot noons betrayed by maples fringing umber,
horny insects dying in the wetlands.
You told me victory can read as loss—
The pale moths of our days mating in long
grass until their sailcloth bodies fall
apart. That will be the way we gloss
a season. The way I’d name your legs
laid down together dawn horizon,
or you my beard a tangle of black weeds.
For both of us, the ocean’s tannin dregs
will mean September. But you? I won’t rely on
Proserpine’s name to frame you. Of frames you have no need.

The Loaming

Behind the grumpy
Powder-blue rototiller,
Interned in dust and

Shriven by the bloody
Stations of Essex county biting flies
Across my shins,

Hangdog to its blistering
Handles, I level bone-jigging,
Snarling progress against

The fastness of buried roots,
Wheedled stones and
Disobedient hedgerows,

Working the lines at Bothways Farms,
A wind-whipped acreage running away
With the declining light.

Here turned up loam ensconces
Me, black with fertility, a touch,
A labor bordering on

The verbal, in a rot-
Pungent atmosphere both
Suggestive and inarticulate,

Where I can sweatily
Follow through the mental
Seed-death in these trenches

That will raise me up another season,
Baskets heavy with a harvest of words
Equal to the speechless.

September, Inverness

Tomales Bay is flat blue in the Indian summer heat.
This is the time when hikers on Inverness Ridge
Stand on tiptoe to pick ripe huckleberries
That the deer can’t reach. This is the season of lulls—
Egrets hunting in the tidal shallows, a ribbon
Of sandpipers fluttering over mudflats, white,
Then not. A drift of mist wisping off the bay.
This is the moment when bliss is what you glimpse
From the corner of your eye, as you drive past
Running errands, and the wind comes up.
And the surface of the water glitters hard against it.

-Robert, Hass from Time and Materials

Station Clock Bomber

The sun’s round fist takes one mountain maple by the throat.
Breakfast steams hard in an iron pan, spitting pigfat.
Redstarts and thrushes tune warbly orchestras
among the fiddleheads.  Chill of dawn. The cool junipers
suffer their arthritis, turning knucklier in low-bound fog.
My neighbor’s taken him a lantern out to check his chicken fence
for fox holes, walking that gangly shadow down the stubble
of a well-grazed lawn.  Then in the distance, a tinwhistle,
the train. It was strange to us at first, who’s kin settled this blessed
muck as a tribe of Irish rejects, records to their names
they’d cross the Atlantic–a salt-slabbed grave without a bottom
–to erase. Then we settled here, and our days were permitted
to wax primordial. So a dawn-to-dusk routine
sprang up in our rudimentary furrows. Then came the city
planner with his tobacco wad, his cash wad and his deed.

Not long after, we got made aware of time, hooking trains
like the sun’s declension hooks the cows
by their shoe-tongue napes, marching them out to feed,
and lulling them again to the companionable shade
beyond a scudded clearing. Time rose from a turd
beside the railway where our kine waited to be packed
for slaughter out in Charlotte, one fly hatching,
cleaning legs and wings, then rising, then another,
and as the swarm filled our ears with predatory ticking,
we lost status–falling from the regency of cultural imperatives
to an amicable enslavement: Some town-wide
doctrine of promptness as alien to us as a separate
hemisphere. Time was an antarctic star rising through Orion.
Now so much is sour–the days packaged like bacon
in cellophane–but not all. I told my neighbor:
Not all. There’s still the statement of dynamite
to be made; proof even this hick excels at punctuation.

So now, the train yard’s absurd dins and silences,
the heft and thunder of iron meeting itself in the dark,
then nothing but the soft snore of cicadas. I’ve planted
enough year by year, only to reap nothing but a long
line of mayoral ink, so now the whirlwind’s seed is going to ground
in the heart of this industry. The station being empty,
I kill no one, or just the shell of me,
rough old corn cob that I am. But it’s a damn sight
I’ll take this clock with me, that’s pounded down our plans
to make a bolt or two in a caboose, or to cast
girders for a mineshaft. I choose this dark depth,
cold as it is, instead: Lighting the short fuse that
makes my name a curse to bless the land.


In the dream someone is yelling:
tell us a whorer story
take us to the maul
bundle ‘em in summer
give ‘em grottoes
a fringe goddess, a tower nanny,
corner spinners in palaver,
recalcitrants in wedding shops.

A wake. black silk. clouds. Then, half a wake,
half corpse, half dead, a half a loaf of pumpernickel,
Finnish newspapers, blue appointment books,
mahogany desk, marble tableau, ruin
wears burnt sienna, rests a hand on iron lampstands.
World without end, rain without end
church among blankets, window ajar
smoke from hedgerows, a whistle,
low laugh, people up in the mist
you’re in, you’re in someone whispers
and whispers do a foxtrot, a globetrot,
ripple the gunnels of your mind’s playdate
like bacon seizing up and sparking grease
in the morning of platonic excellence
when light opens and the wake is over
that is, waking up at home to the tiny glories
spilling out, overflowing the rooms, gilt air.

Speaking of a Mammal

So in the ruins of Cracow man turned wolf.
Collecting amber on the Baltic coasts was forgotten,
brief stripe of the lighthouse on wobbling skiff hulls,
glow of a breast when his wife’s nightshirt slipped
like a line of contested territory in her sleep,
the cold faucet water in the morning that was the sign
of society as much as anything else. And here was Crusoe,
Fridayless, wheedling away his weekend under acrid cloud
in the cannoned-out cellars and spent brickwork, hoping to beat
rats to the last stashes of hardened bread. Every tree
in the wind sounded to him like a panzer’s tread
busting a skull. Heroism was gone, unless
there was patriotism in squatting out survival, as was music,
unless the rush of crumbling hotels and theaters
reverting in an avalanche to their charred ordinates
struck some chord in heaven. Afraid to light a fire,
like Peter he rolled scrap grain between his palms
and watched the darting sparrows of the spring
migration begin to find new roosts among gray beams
and the torn ribs of the rafters. Birdsong. Blending days,
last light. The mantle of Adam began to feel heavy.
And if he should see another darting the alleys, another
uprising veteran he might’ve sworn to die for months ago
in the gaslamped offices of the underground, he knew his duty.
The new salute: walk away.  The password they each
memorized by one consent: homo homini lupis.