Landscape with scarred trees
A brickyard thrived here once, a factory and farms, families.
Relics from abandoned lives, a disused well, an empty cattle trough,
tacky plastic toys made in 1950s Japan with neither memory nor voice
carry the marks of experience. An image, like an object or a person,
may be made to work. A machine may recognize love.
Once a year, the City comes with trucks to plow down brush,
keep the man-holes clear, put in a new layer of cover on the trails,
tearing at trees, so many marked already by storm, ill-planned trials
at logging, poison ground water. There are survivors, burnt beautiful,
black and gray.
We walk among these mute stories at the pace and pitch of intimates,
our feet dislodging shards of broken tile. This terrain speaks:
leavings of animals, water dredging up for recycle submerged shoes,
lost tires. We speak: what grows here that may be eaten safely, epigrams,
tales of Baltimore.
One time, you discovered a rowboat. Crane-like, silver, the sky behind you,
you find with your camera a world hidden from me. I see you, as you
cannot see yourself. “Ah, Bukowski,” I remind you, a horned tree,
naked now, in autumn, the flesh of its root blushing red as a blood orange.
You laugh, but neither of us knows what to say after that.
The Human Office
Lift your chin in sunlight,
turn south, leave it behind.
At night, they say, he beats the newborn for crying.
Bound to everyone – contracted to chance –
a dark parking lot, keen blade, rough bomb
knotted beneath a bumper –
to those who know you by proximity
asleep, apartment building in flames,
or intimately, sidewalk daughters,
braids swinging under a winter sun,
car behind, swerving, bottoming over a curb,
the fine grain of their skin,
a steel wink.
You carry other people like sharks in a handbag,
risking with every choice the hard slap of betrayal.
Strapped to your hip, they crumble
like that lawn spreader, beat to bits with a mallet,
duty, or love, become
the pistol he held to your head.
Jacob and Esau
Brothers meet as enemies on the field,
joined by yearning, not prayer,
neither by will; they cast their weapons
to the sands, howl dry-eyed in each other’s arms
with voices of infants, sham lachryma for parity.
Soldiers and traders, tacticians
ever respecting the sword that takes from behind,
they compete for blessings, tarry with strangers;
let love lie fallow, perhaps in twin-talk, subliminal.
Content to barter birthright for a bowl
of lentils, tomorrow’s fulfillment today,
even in the womb their mother’s torment,
what really happens between them
we cannot tell. Is it with justice they remember?
With forgiveness? Shame?
Do messengers pass among shifting piles of earth?
Maybe they square off, square it, not with one another
but with the duality in their own hearts.
Clan tenderness binds them, embracing,
hung together by the feet.