to J. Michael Yates

What was all that
organized chaos but an intelligent
storm, words, marching down the page
like a biological imperative, and the bright
mischief, the challenge when you pushed
buttons, edges, grammar, thought,
your mind a keen wind, brisk
but not blustery, from the north, all day. 

We talked away the small hours,
our voices raiding and sacking
their own registers on the frontiers
of exhaustion, but as the sun came up
we walked out into the city, refreshed
as though we had dreamt and slept.

I watch a cloud-smothered ghost
of the sun inch down toward the edge of the lake
through a snowfall that will disappear
like the blizzard of syllables we thought
might change the world, that momentary
silver we take with us
into the mountains, into the starry night. 


News of the World

There are stories
that come to us wrapped
in the mist of rivers, rumours
of lost cities, valleys
teeming with gold
birds, or deep in the rain
forest a tribe that can read
the minds of animals. 

Is there really a creature
known only because we have seen
its long shadow, who swims
without stopping, for hundreds of years,
all the way to the sea, through the sea
and back, its movement remote
controlled by the pull of invisible
stars?  Someone
who ought to know tells me
this river I can watch
from my back-yard meanders
North, away from the cities,
for hundreds of miles and empties
into an Ocean that is mostly
ice, where the Earth’s magnetic
field guides the spirits
of water as they rise, weaving
sails of light in the midnight sky. 


After Sappho (Fragment 21)                                             

the one with violets in her lap
waits quietly for the Rites
of Summer to begin, for that moment
when she’ll braid all her flowers
into the brushed manes of the horses
and ride with her acolytes
across the river, through tall pines
and down to the clearing
where there will be flutes and cymbals,
dances and fires all through the night,
where she will raise her arms,
slip off her tunic and adorn the white
bull with a green wreathe
before the silver blade spills
the mystery of his leaping heart
into an alabaster cup she will raise
and empty before she sings, calling
wide wings down from the sky,
but now, in the westering sun, she waits,
by the water, with violets in her lap.

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