February 24, 1964

after a poem by Olav H. Hauge

The storm is gone now.
It is behind us
in some other place
on good days
we can barely remember.

Not once
in all this time since
have we ever asked
why was it I was there?
why there?
and why now? and not then?
Why was my leg
taken from me,
shattered to pieces
and embedded with grass, dirt
and everything else
the wind gave me?
You were just there,
in the storm,
in the churning wind.

See, it is possible
to live every day.
It is possible to get up,
to go feed birds in the cold morning
and to watch
as they choose between
bread and snow.

The whole day is there to think about the wind
and there aren’t enough hours in it
or in one’s whole lifetime to consider it all.

And when it’s done, you can sit down
and listen as a wind softer and more exotic
than the one you hear in your nightmares
comes to you, touching your face
and whispering to you in a language
as strange, yet beautiful
as Chinese
or Norwegian.

Fargo, 1957
Copyright (2) 2010

The Rooster

The rooster’s eye
is not—as Elizabeth
Bishop believed—
stupid, but clear
and hiding an electric
sliver of intelligence.

I swim there
—or my reflection
does anyway—
and in that
liquid darkness
I am almost—

He crows—his voice
the voice we fear
—not three times
but just once—
just once enough
to make you sit up
and turn—
crossing as a dark
of  betrayal
on your startled

                                                       Key West

Copyright (2) 2012

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after the poem “The Rose”
by Gabriela Mistral

                                       for Justin Schwartz

There is a treasure
deep within the bright pink heart
of the orchid.
It is a heart
slowly unfolding
the way petals unfold.
What the heart gives
lies scattered about
the way songs scatter notes
or as desire is scattered
when love—
unasked for
and unanticipated—
And when we resist the orchid
and all it holds within it
that’s when we burn.
That’s when
the fire comes rolling up
from deep within
and consumes us.  

Copyright (c) 2012
A steady sigh

A whorl of blue and rust
turns slowly. It is
so subtle we might not
even notice it.  
The fiery glory jaundices
the arch of the sky, hidden from us
by knotty birch trunks
and grasping fingers of branches.

A steady sigh is going on
someplace nearer than
we thought or imagined.

It hovers there—
the voice of what
surrounds us.
All we hear
in this one perfect moment
is its steady, unrelenting

This Grass
Copyright (c) 2009