Clouds and Trees

"Nothing ever goes away enough or arrives enough,/ and I want to cry when I think of my heart,/ muscle pounding in muscle, greedy always for joy." – 'A Warning', Eric Anderson

Category: Decay

Ars Poetica

The vines by the creek must have been there years
before I noticed them at 12 or 13. Invasive species,
would climb a tree arm upon arm, like tefillin,
until the tree’s back couldn’t bear it, snapped in half
and hung, suspended in the veins of its parasite.
While I was away, the whole woods disappeared —
but left behind such beautiful houses.

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Favorite Poem of the Day – “Scary, No Scary” by Zachary Schomburg

Time for my favorite poem of the day to be a little more modern. Here’s a great example of something that a lot of modern poetry does well — using ‘conceptual distance’ to invoke deep emotion.

This poem isn’t quite telling a story, but it is. Notice it’s in the second person. The poem creates a fictional reality in which the main character is you, and the emotion is the decay of the idea of ‘home’. It is very real and yet, not real at all.

Also, what do you think of Schomburg’s use of linebreaks? It helps create that sense of decay I think.

SCARY, NO SCARY

One night, when
you return to your childhood
home after

a lifetime away,
you’ll find it
abandoned. Its

paint will be
completely weathered.

It will have
a significant westward lean.

There will be
a hole in its roof
that bats fly
out of.

The old man
hunched over
at the front door
will be prepared
to give you a tour,
but first he’ll ask
Scary, or no scary?

You should say
No scary.

(*Other news* You may have noticed that the domain of this blog has changed! I’ve always wanted to update the lengthy and hard to remember URL which came from my mishearing of the lyrics of The Beatles’ “Two of Us”. Enjoy this new, easier to type and remember URL, cloudsandtreespoetry.com. It has been the title of the blog for quite awhile and some of you will recognize it from a recently posted Czeslaw Milosz poem. It is also a real domain name without the ‘.wordpress.com’ which is exciting! Don’t worry, if you’re really attached to the old URL, it’ll still forward you here.)

On the Steps Ahead

1.

Tchaikovsky, like this other side
of lostness, is incomplete again.
I lean into violin on the train

To hear it absolutely. I want
to make purpose of, complete,
ugliness. My era. I see beauty

if I crane my neck enough
somewhere back there in the rain.
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35, I know

is behind the mis-colored sky.
I hear it pushing subway cars.
Spilling out as umbrellas open.

2.

I have been living under skyline.
In the negative space. The only place
For pieces of you, Tchaikovsky,

a leaf caught on the raincoated
concrete step. The life we have yet
To live. In windows, wall-less

if I could paint them, if I had paint-
buckets of rain and you
over and over again, every step

ever upwards. When I carry you
I am together with my discomfort.
I am walking so close beneath beauty.

Hole in Blue

Dad is driving me home from the train.
“That hawk dive-bombed the window
and died on the table. I got rid of it.”

I think of garbage, our bones. I walk down
To the edge of the woods. No power;
I can’t use the toilet. Our ground is hollow:

Years of Dad seeding grass, grubs
Eating roots, Dad poisoning them.
Nothing dies, just hollows out.

We never begin that tree-house, broken
Glass grown into the ground, bits of sky
Reflected as in lakes seen from your plane

Crashing over Minnesota.
I am at my friend’s house, doing laundry,
I tell him how I sat in the yard playing

And how that hawk cawed with me.
I wanted to see its eggs then, to know
it found a mate around my house.

I come back a year later. A few days
Feeling hopeless until I see a hawk
Against white, winter sky. A baby,

Alive. How old could it have been?
I want to speak to it, to tell it I’m sorry
for living here and leaving it empty.

Scavengers

Two vultures in the morning
Arrive together with the crows;
This – insanity I wake up from.

Dull…Dull…Dull…

Vultures are noiseless except for wings
Thumping the air. From far away:
Heavy things falling to the ground.

Dull…Dull…Dull…

Vultures who love each other
sit together on the pool-house roof
opposite my parents on the porch.

Dull…Dull…Dull…

I visit home again, watch them
shade each other from the sun,
black bones thick, outstretched.

Dull…Dull…Dull…

Flying over my brother, he looks up:
grotesque feet, grey genitals, fingers,
Shadows on us, through the porch.

Dull…Dull…Dull…

Heavy things fallen to the ground.
Mom never looks up, I hear:
I have no idea what that was.

Trees

Everywhere he looked, something had changed. In part it was the trees that had fallen over the stream at unfamiliar angles. The water was running low over the rocks now. It would be freezing if he touched it. His parents had already gone five days without power. He flexed his toes in his boots and stood up, brushing the dirt off of his pants.

He walked out of the woods onto the newly paved driveway, stepping as much as he could in the old gravel on its edges. When he reached the end he looked to the left. The road curved away and out of sight.

He put his hand on the wishbone tree next to the driveway. He looked up one trunk, up through to the white sky. The other had been chopped at about chest height. He ran his palm along the stump where the bark lipped over. There had been a car crash. He pulled himself up onto the slanted surface and crouched awkwardly. He thought he must look like a wood gargoyle.

He tried to remember standing in the insurance office, his mother high above him. She described the deer jumping out in front of the car, her defensive swerve. She was sweating, he was sweating. The insurance man nodded, looking down at something. “We get a lot of these this time of year. They get very aggressive during mating season.” She agreed. No big deal.

He slid off the tree and started walking back along the gravel. Of course it hadn’t been a deer. He didn’t remember the rest. She had probably explained it to him.

He smiled strangely as he cut back into the woods, feeling his teeth. He thought about bones he had found out here. Sometimes turtle shells with the tiny spine still inside. Sometimes small bird bones, or just empty circles of feathers. Sometimes fur, once so much it covered a whole clearing. Coyotes, he thought, but did not really know. One time he found a whole deer skull, broken in places. He had stood over it in silence, debating whether or not he wanted to bring it home. His parents told him there were germs on bones. It was always best to leave them where you found them.

Vertical Migration

I have been following robins
North. They used to migrate
Towards memories, travel
Tree by tree, long distances.

I am tracking one up a hill
To a field covered by Robins,
I recognize my house and them:
Two figures exiting the porch

Like my parents but painted
Of robins. They reach out
Dripping birds: droplets,
floating as if everything

Is falling together until they burst
Into feathers. Near now, incredibly
close. I am reaching into them
with my younger hands, searching

For my parents within myself,
And these fragile, terrifying birds
Which in an instant will all float up
Then disappear, as if sheared away.

The Tree at Monk’s House

Could the water see me? When I kneel
And breathe hard enough, it pounds.

As I reach into my own face
It’s so cold. Do I almost fall asleep?

I see smoke twisting downriver like oil.
I have no question; it’s an old breath of yours.

A problem philosophical:
We cannot touch each other.

I climb, my hands numb,
The tree bark, penetrating.

You are waiting, already there.
I cannot describe your face

But I try to.
I try to make a reflection stand still.

I try to put my hands, one day,
Upon a shadow.

Curtain with Rods

Fear bounded by house.
Eye circling round storm
shaped bed. Restlessness.

I Wake Up from a Dream at a Table

You are in my head. It is autumn.
The front door opens and I know it
because the light outside is gray
and my book turns a page.

You rush into the house.
The leaves are little fires
which burn very slowly.