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: dreams

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.

First Steps

I’ve got a list and a pair of hands
I’m using to hold it into my mouth.
Am I a good enough poet yet?
I learned all the methods they got.
Sure, I know how to be honest.

There are too many ways around.
More like holes in the road.
These aren’t poems they’re
Fucking holes I filled with words
So I could climb out. Now watch:

I am bouncing from doubt to doubt.
You want confessional? I’ll give you
Priestly. You want right now?
I’ll give you two lines ahead and
Look back – already crossed out.

My word is shit. Don’t listen to me,
Even if I promised. I want to boil
Out of my skin, get light-spirited,
Make peace with the starry night.
I am alone in a cloud. I want out.

Other people seem to feel this.
In rare moments when the surface
Of my chest folds back like paper
And my feelings breathe and see
Light, not stale, dark body vacuum

I hear it in every song,
Read it in every poem.
Why are we rolling in bed
Trying to make sense
Of our discomfort?

I fall asleep, always, in the face
Of that which I don’t understand.
I think others know how to talk,
Feel free, and judge me. Sex
Isn’t satisfying but it should be.

I am trying to figure out how
To seduce. But I still feel like
people my age aren’t doing that yet.
Why doesn’t anybody talk to me?
They do – all the time – I just don’t

Talk back. No I do! It just feels
Like they’re alone in a room
Talking to me, who’s also alone
In a room, completely silent.
And I am funny and intelligent.

But I am lying. Or I am pulling
Strings which connect my brain
To things. It’s not like I memorize
Speeches, I just imagined this
Conversation before we had it.

I think the stars are clouds
With poems in their mouths.
I promise myself I’ll get out.

The Mirror Used Hands

Dan Levin looks at himself asleep
In that crack under the door.

He wants to let himself through
But only murmurs and turns over.

Dan Levin is his own name
Gone forgotten on the train ride.

He keeps his eyes closed and thinks
He is a cloud that is empty.

Dan Levin gets up and opens the door.
The crack gets big as Dan Levin and

The trees outside
come in.

The Waste Land Visited

O She holds me in the near-dark and shakes me. I see the coals reflected in her eyes, that glint; she’d like to slap me.

O I hear a song; the wind-borne whistling of a fisherman ambling the Lower Thames.

I haven’t spoken since I arrived. We are too tired on the bed and she’d like me to stay.

“My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.”
“Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.”
“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?”
“I never know what you are thinking. Think.”

Her accent is in another room. There are four doors ajar. The fifth is closed, out of reach, only visible around corners.

O I fished with him, the river lapping our feet. The tongues of rats. I see him in the water once more, fishing for his pearls.

She tries to memorialize with me. “Do you know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember nothing?”
The fire extinguishes, the pressure changes, the wind runs out through cracks in the room.
“What is that noise?”
She is too possessed to understand. I see the river-sand shifting.

O We sit in the dark and quiet on the bed and a third person sits just behind her. She wants to utter me from distraction.

“Are you alive or not? Is there nothing in your head?”

I hear chanting. A word or three. In the dark, the room shakes. A sphere, musical, open everywhere.


It looks like the same scar,
seen three times: two inch line,
raised and slightly purplish,
on three different women.
I saw it today – neck,
yesterday again – wrist.
Nothing like that, I’m sure,
they look almost like burns,
or like awful birthmarks.
Scars, skin over something
within; bubbles of pain.

They can’t all be the same. The first one told me, “Touch here,” indicating it — on the inside of her bicep. It surprised me — a needle underneath her skin. She tried to explain but pointlessly — I was drunk. She went to sleep. I had a dream — I was at home looking up at the sky. I pointed and she looked — meteors, burning slow and curved across each other. I looked away, she had said something. I looked back and the lines had faded.

No Autumn

Sometimes I think,
“These trees must be made of birds,”
phoenix-burns in crisp, bird-shapes,
crushed into ashes under boot-feet.

Come spring, I hope to God
I hear birds chirping, birds
bursting from the trees,
like shades of green.

Sketch of a Window, Norfolk

I look up from bed

and see birds falling.

At home they drew circles, endless circles–
I wish a day could be drawn without time.

They twist insanely diving like I want to,
through air, into lakes, touching mud.

Sometimes they spin upwards,
never higher than the treetops.

England, nothing so big
it can be seen from the sky.



see a swan on the lake from my window. It is real, white, feathered,
brisk early morning, Norfolk. Then the past, I’m riding my bike
along the pond with always the same swan in it. The man sitting on
the bench, not moving for years, turns out to be made of wood. It is

early, but I decide to walk down to the lake. The swan is standing free
of the water. Strange to begin with. The swan I know from my pond never
came or went, never broke its seal with the surface. It was a fixture;

the pond itself. This one is so big, naked there, obscene in its
beauty, stretching out its neck with unnatural grace. Nothing could be
but this. I follow it around the lake. When it begins to fly I’m behind
bushes, so I hear it first, impossible sound, the whole body of a swan

not floating indefinitely but rising, leaving. If I had gone into that
pond just one time as a kid and tried touching it, I would have known
if my swan was made of wood. It never flew like this one, goose-like,
huge and heavy, a cloud with substance, body, and wings


see a swan on the lake from my window. It is real, white and feathered,
early morning, Norfolk. Then warm, the air, yellow; I’m not too far
from home and riding my bike by always the same pond,

the same swan always floating in it. The man sitting on the bench
nearby, who didn’t move for years, turns out to be made of wood.
It is early, but I decide to leave the building and walk down to the lake.

The swan stands out of the water. The bottom half of its body
reminds me of a vulture’s the way the thought of water
burning and choking me appears if I reflect on the opposite,

a deep breath, the smooth filling up of air. The swan, memory,
never stood up, never came or went, never broke its seal with the
surface. It was fixation; the pond itself. This one is much bigger,

naked, obscene in its beauty, stretching a neck with unnatural grace.
Nothing could be but this. I follow it around, running on the shore
when I lose it, white sun reflecting off the lake. When it begins to

fly I’m behind the trees but I hear it, impossible sound, the whole
body of a swan not floating indefinitely but rising, leaving. I want to
be thirteen and jump into that pond, watch the swan screech and squawk

and fly away, not float silently, hollow thing, wood and paint.
But it never flew, goose-like, huge and heavy, cloud with substance,
body, and wings barely big enough, carrying it away from me.

Grass …from A Portrait of a Bird

That morning they decided to take a walk in the woods. He thought they should spend a little more time outside. Downstairs, she stepped past him through the screen door. Her shoes flapped against the patio. He looked up. The sun was white through thin clouds. Nothing had changed for a few days. He wanted to take her to the field.

As they walked across the yard he turned to her. “You should’ve worn long pants.”

She looked down at her dress. “I’ll be fine.”

He pushed prickers out of their way. The path was hard to see. He walked ahead of her. She was stepping carefully through a tangle of bushes when he stopped.

“This is it.”

He didn’t expect her to be impressed. The field was small but special for a forest like this one. Low grass was mowed down in so many lawns or shaded to death in the forest around the house, but it flourished here. Each blade came up to their waists and resisted their legs. The crushed stalks unfolded in their footsteps.

They flattened a circle to sit. He watched her hesitate, her lips tightening a little bit, her fingers pinching her dress. She lowered quickly, legs folding to the side. He sat across from her. The grass rose over their heads, borders became invisible; the field, endless.

He kissed her. He didn’t know how to make the day beautiful but this was close, he thought. She smiled with tight lips, leaning back on her hands. She tilted her head toward the white sun. He stared out into the grass. She was looking at him.

“What are you thinking about?”

He coughed into his hand. A car passed down the road, far away, snaking through the woods. He was silent for a second.  “Nothing. All this. How young it is. Where you’re from trees are hundreds of years old, or you don’t know until you cut them down. Here, everything started growing fifty years ago. It was farmland, then pastures my dad mowed. What we’re sitting in is overgrowth.”

She ran her fingers along a blade of grass, looked at him. “Don’t do that.” She blinked. Her eyes stayed closed for too long. Not quite a grimace. He felt the urge to apologize.

She looked up at the sky. “I’m tired.”

“I think we stayed up too late last night. Ok.”

He stood and gave her a hand. Tiny grass-colored spiders were crawling up the fringe of her dress. He brushed them off.

“What is it?”

“Nothing. Just grass.”