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: freedom

Favorite Poem of the Day – “The Play of Light and Shadow” by D. Nurkse

This poem is by my first teacher and adviser during my undergrad studies at Sarah Lawrence College. Technically he’s my ‘Don’; I’ll leave it to all of you to discern what that means. I’ve always felt incredibly lucky to have a personal relationship with this guy because besides being a brilliant, universally wonderful (or to use a word I’ve only ever heard him use, numinous) person, he’s also become one of my favorite poets in the world.

The Play of Light and Shadow

We want to give ourselves away utterly
but afterwards we resent it, it is the same
with the sparrows, their eyes burn so coldly
under the dusty pines, their small chests swell
as they dispute a crumb, or the empty place
where a seed was once: this is our law too,
to peck and peck at the Self, to take turns
being I, to die in a fierce sidelong glance,
then to hold the entire forest in one tilt
of a tufted head, to take flight suddenly
and fuck in midair, tumbling upward.

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.

Virginia Woolf

1

My joints are weak; I almost lose
balance on the cobblestones.
Even this poem-writing I do
to keep my mind from eclipsing
or being eclipsed. You see—
by what, by whom?

2

I am walking towards the girl and she is walking towards me. I am trying to make her real when she smiles at me like her mouth has been stretched across her face and I thought only I smile that way. She is walking towards me and the tree gets in the way and I think I will never see her again.

3

I am losing it.
Not my mind, no,
don’t think that.

It’s just, people do
go insane sometimes.
They probably seem

pretty normal.

4

Oh my friends.
Oh my words,
dead in the mist.
The waves! The waves
of the River Ouse.
Oh my friends
in the mist.
Oh my god, my god
my god.

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.

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.

Liar Birds

After May ended, I built steps
back down to home.
At the bottom we met in a bed —
a bird’s nest.

You spread blood, spit, and sticks
across my open room.
I spent weeks pushing out the knots,
you left like metal from under skin.

Now that you’re gone,
I try taking the steps backwards
my calves cry out again,
I want to turn back but can’t.

And I have to watch the crows
creep through our windows,
kiss and croak, cry and fight over
old eggs inside our bed.

We built out of stone.
It’s so much easier to hold something
when you never move it at all.

Snow Ghosts

Winter and I stand on the pool,
eyes staring at deer tracks,
spots where the ice gives.

Cross, pool to lawn, woods to field, snow falls,
lines up with the grass, ground–
burst, dried out.

Lie down, eyes are spiderwebs, snow catchers.
Sit up, eyes are film projectors, time–
blinks of light.

Sign on a telephone pole says Lost Peacock.

Imagine, someone finds that sapphire half-buried in snow,
eye-spots, blue, green, and red, unmistakable turkey tracks
stealing off into the trees.

Peas in a Bag

Whispers like solid stone
and my mouth fills with cement powder.
She picks up a shovel, saying
“I just need to flatten out your teeth.”

Broke a few keys in the process
of typing out her autobiography.
It sounded better than mine–
Hers had kids, mine didn’t.

She said a poem is like a quilt–
you can cut it up and start over with the old pieces.
But I laid out words in lines
and that’s the way she treats everything anyway.

Swallowing the City Again

The train rides past cement arms,
arches under bridges under cars
like empty door-frames.
Floating landscapes roll
through stone hands
as if time is tearing
canvas from paint.

Then empty boxes–
trucks jut from one-eyed warehouses,
windows broken or shaded in dirt
making stained glass
the way rubble makes a mosaic.

The meadowlands are still
grass and winding rivers shrunken.
Boots sink, knees, toes–
the familiar fear of mud.

Imagine, quicksand or something like it
so close to New York–
a city of always wet cement,
names and fingerprints
lined-up stones
leaving slow ripples, solid bubbles,
the choke-in-throat of words forgotten
as they melt into cement.

Matterknot

These fluttering chapbook pages
shriek, “Look at me, look at

Trees thrust up through

this hole that was broken into
womanhood like a board

stiff ground and grass seams

snapped in half. Nothing gushes out
not even blood or the grabbing hands

birthing limbs.

of a brother, baby
son, just wood crackling,

Not shocking. Wordless

wind.

breath of becoming and un.”