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: memory

Rocks

Last night there was another storm and he could see patches of black ice on the road where the river must have flooded. The radio crackled quietly. He looked out the window and shifted down a gear. The water had been very high and further down the river there would be rapids.

He parked in the gravel lot. As he stepped out of the car he could smell the cold. The sunlight was grey but the sky bright blue and the river, dark green and brown. It was higher than he had ever seen it and thunderous, a static cupping his ears and a resounding deep bass far away, like a drum struck by god.

He stepped through the gate with the ROAD CLOSED sign. The gravel path had disappeared into the river; it looked as if the river had exploded. The trees along the bank had already been exposed completely, the dirt entirely stripped from their roots. The forest seemed naked, shivering. He had taken a walk here with his parents right after the big storm a few years earlier. He had been looking down at his feet, stepping carefully. He looked up; his dad was helping his mom over the rocks.

 

Two huge fisherman were walking towards him. They nodded as they passed. One was missing his arm above the elbow, the sleeve of his waders held closed against the water with a rubber-band.

He had come hoping to find a small island in the middle of the river. He remembered the rapids in that spot had risen to almost six feet. He had stared at those waves crashing in on themselves, his face wet, but never rushing forward until his parents had said they had to move on.

When he reached the spot where it used to be there was only water, flat and fast, water rushing straight through trees. He stared at it for a minute. He took a deep breath of cold air. Once, it had been warm and the water was lower; he had jumped across the rocks and stood on the island. As it started to rain lightly he had stripped and gone into the river.

 

Closer to the car, the water slowed into a wide curve and a dead tree jutted out from the bank. He remembered his Dad crouching on the edge and pointing.

“Right there is where I want you to scatter my ashes.”

“Okay, Dad,” He had tried to laugh, to clasp his shoulder naturally, “Not for awhile.” Just two men by the river. When he was younger they used to walk together here and he would find sticks to throw in. He ran along the edge racing them downstream as they dipped and bucked through the rapids until they blended with the water and he lost sight of them.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Guide to Natural Life

When you live in a rural area of England for enough time you eventually find the best places from which to watch sunsets. You wonder about them as you walk home to your apartment, peering through the new darkness. It is like there is something on your mind; the corners of your eyes are sensitive to places from which you can sit and look to the West.

It is easy to see the horizon; England can only hide very little things. Watch the sun be enveloped by a lake. Stand on the eastern edge of a field sloping to the West.

English birds don’t notice when days’ end has come. You hear songs which until now you did not realize you thought of as holy prayers for the sun. You walk home in the dark and notice wings shuffling in the tree-branches.

If some islands are the loci of certain seasons, (you can think of a few — Antarctica: Winter, Hawaii: Summer) then England is the Spring. It is made up of small animals and lovemaking done underground or behind grass and trees.

You know the patches of daffodils that bloom earliest and where the sun sits the longest. You wonder if it is as easy to see it set back in America where glacial valleys are so deep you forget a real horizon exists.

You floated from time. You have to come back in and it will lurch painfully. You saw an endpoint and just beyond it — a land burned deep, red and blue where the day ends. When you are there, the sun is everywhere.

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.

A Blind Spectacle

I think I can see you more clearly
If you would move the windows
Please? Paint on the shadows
And if you can, the light.

What I mean is, the dog
Came splashing towards me,
His head all in white shells
And also scattering them.

I underline the dog, there.
Then, he is lost.
I dive into bushes, looking
Behind them.

I am smoking a cigarette
In your robe, turning my radio
To the lake. I listen closely
to our old, sealed letters.

I see a face through the woods.
It is like the open spaces between
Trees: like our so many windows.
One grand sheet: a painting

You can see from only one angle.
I cannot walk into that flatness:
My own right eye taking over
The left. The lake is inside it.

There are rocks and the water
Is freezing. My father is in it
Somewhere. It is flat like this
But only if you can remember it.

Reaching Off

“I got it,” the girl says, laughing
at how incompetent I am
because I fumble at the door
as we leave the coffee place.
It is early in the morning.

And I remember this
as I am walking to school.
I regret that I didn’t ask her
to walk with me. Imagining
that could carry me all day.

We would have split here.
That song, “Can’t you see?
Oh, can’t you see…” in my head.
“It’s not that I miss my ex-girlfriend,
it’s that I miss having a girlfriend.”

My marine friend said to me,
“I just want to be back overseas.”
My professor calls it a cycle
of fullness and emptiness and he rolls
life in the air with his hands.

I cannot remember on what end
we write poetry. Does it drain
or fill us? I wonder how a marine
feels when he shoots his gun,
how it feels to truly fuck.

I went to class two stanzas back,
talked to someone, took a shit,
thought about masturbating.
Am I fuller or emptier now?
Maybe I just ruined the poem.

My mom called me.
The only other way it could be:
either you are entirely full
or empty. Like honesty, pregnancy,
you can’t be sort of complete.

I want to call my mom back,
hold her voice in my head.
It pours in and strengthens me.
Poetry is like that—
fullness shooing emptiness away.

State of Mind

     My state of mind strikes me in the head as I wake up from another unintended nap in my seat on the airplane. I had been sure, without realizing it, that in this transitional space, this quarter-orbit of Earth from a place I will never be again to a place I haven’t been for a year, the place where I grew up, where my parents are waiting for me, that my memories, or rather, my outer-layer, somehow reliant upon context, which I thought I must need in order truly to have ‘been there’, would drift away and disappear like flakes of skin into the plane engines. I must have thought that I would arrive and, with my first step onto American land, be an entirely new person, or just that layers of experience, my accumulated self, would be washed away by time and distance. Once at home, in my natural environment, I would be renewed, like a deck which, when power-washed, reveals clean wood beneath or even like a book whose new and temporary owner holds in his hand the same binding, the same words, the same unbuttoning of story, but it is a matter of debate whether something in the pages remembers hands which have held them before, the person who, in releasing their secrets, could not help also being released and becoming something entirely new.

    It seems to me that this is what is crucial to understand: either I always am the same self, or no such thing exists, and either way, it makes no difference. Just as the eye dilates when I look back into the plane cabin after having gazed out the window at the sun-bright absolutely blazing white clouds and at that instant the cabin appears in an entirely different range of the visual spectrum before being adjusted back to a more appropriate level, so that either there is a standard of light and thus change has significance, or everything is just a perceptual mish-mash; it makes no difference. What is lost? I am, it is.

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.