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: story


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.

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.


The ceiling was perfectly flat. The corners exact, no paint misplaced. Nothing wrong. He rolled his head to the left. Underneath the fridge there were silhouettes of dirt, balls of dust, lost food. Maybe the floor. What had it been? When he was standing there a moment before something had been off. He had gotten to his knees and rubbed his thumb against the floor tile. That hadn’t helped. He had remembered the technique his mother had taught him for finding small things; he pressed his cheek against the cold white tile and still, nothing seemed wrong. He was glad he had laid down.

“Where are you?” Her voice came out of the bedroom. There was some kind of shuffling, she must be getting dressed. “Someone called you.”

He leaned his head back. He could see the sky even though the window shade was mostly down. It looked warm and blue but he knew it would be freezing. She walked through the door zipping up the side of her dress. “Where are you?”

“Who called?”

“Jesus Christ,” Her face seemed to burst then almost instantly close; lines formed in between her eyebrows. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Did you pick it up or did it go to voicemail?”

She shook her head, “I don’t know, I didn’t see.”

He nodded. “There’s something weird about the kitchen. Are you going out?”

“I’m going to Midtown. Are you just going to stay there? I need to get something.”

He shuffled to the side and she stepped over him. As she reached up and began rifling through the cabinet her heels lifted off the floor, the veins in her ankles visible and thick through the skin. He almost reached out and grabbed them.

“Here we go.” She stepped down and walked into the bathroom, not bothering to turn the light on. He could hear the water running. He took a deep breath and sighed loudly.

She came out of the bathroom and stood over him. “I’m going down to Midtown, is there anything you need? There’s your phone again.” It was buzzing in the bedroom. She handed it to him.

“Okay, I’m going, you don’t need anything?” He shook his head, holding the buzzing phone. “I’ll probably be back in a couple of hours, give me a call if you think of anything.”

The door closed.

He laid there for a minute. The phone was still buzzing. He had been clasping it over his chest. After awhile it stopped. He put it down on the tile next to the fridge.

He brought up his knees and groaned. Most of his backside had fallen asleep. He used the counter to pull himself up. He stood there for a second, getting his bearings. The room was worse now than it had been earlier. It was tilted, as if he had just been dizzy. He went over to the window. The streets outside looked as if they slanted strangely away. A familiar flock of pigeons flew by. They dipped by the window in the exact same way at least once every day. He always caught it out of the corner of his eye. They never changed. The same flock, the same swoop. He rapped his fingertips on the glass, bitten fingernails making an unsatisfying thumping sound. There were millions of windows in New York City. More windows than there were people. Most windows must not be seen at all. Might as well just be walls.

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.

5 Ways of Being

Cat kills Crow
Dog takes ten years
to find feathers
Boar chases wet path
down muddy hill
Cow smiles
and continues to eat
its own stomach

A Love Poem

Paint a face colorless
collect short stories about a neckline
cross a bridge of perfectly laid ribcage
find whole caverns made of softly-tissued bone

I’ve made this trip many times
I’ve built small castles atop your breasts
I’ve climbed the hanging vines of your hair
and called deep into the well above your earlobe

Years later, it seemed
when I ran my little fingers in between the ridges of your fingerprints
when your fist closed loosely around me
and brought your face to mine for the first time

Finally! A small way for you to see, to smell, to taste me
the way that I have searched every patch of your skin
how I have held you tightly and left no impression
how I have tried to find that spot on your body
that makes my heart beat rhythmic within me
yet in this small lifetime of mine
I have found nothing at all

An Afternoon With Infinity

Two dozen roses
spilled into three vases
made out of glass
and filled with kerosene
and the Teardrop said
Give gifts to your elation
and in return your odyssey
will be never-ending

and he said he wrote stories
or more accurately, handbooks
on how to do things
like Expand Your Illusions
or Enshrine Your Conceptions
and Berkeley saw something
hidden in the heavens
and he knew it was the Earth
upon which he himself sat
and he knew that the cosmos
could not array themselves
with more than mere simplicity
and he was given rainbows
to toss across the hilltops
and below them sped the raindrops
that snuck beneath our rooftops
and wet our heads
with infinite description

Stained Glass Apartment

Heart made of plastic
in a case of stained glass
We’re two dogs in the hallway
pretending carpet is grass

We don’t play well together
We’re all tangled in chains
I scratch up the apartment
and you howl when it rains

We sleep side-by-side
in our four-poster bed
You hide your secrets in me
I keep mine in my head

I found a key in your pocket
to a door that’s not mine
There’s some lock where it fits
I guess I’ll find out in time

Now I run ’round the room
I’ve got the whole place alone
It feels quiet and empty
I know you’re not coming home

The things we never had
the things we never want back
They remind me of you
a stranger starting to pack

Lines drawn on the carpet
Doors closing at last
I guess we’ve both gotten older
we can’t just live in the past

I scuff my shoes on the doorway
as I’m stepping outside
the carpet muffles our footsteps
as we both say goodbye

I guess there’s some kind of bright side
to starting out all alone
two dogs in the hallway
one still trying to find home

Twilight of the Gods

Many thousands of years ago
there grew a man named Jericho
he shook the walls of this cage
melted them into lava flows
and then inside he sighed
I can’t keep riding on these tides

Because yes, I’m growing up
but no, I’ve never been alive
If your idea of life is
something happening inside

Then one day, someday, something changed
he felt like he’d burst into flames
but what he did not, couldn’t know
was that he was born again that night
tossed once more out into flight

This explosion wasn’t much to see
but for him it felt like all was as
it was meant to be
that he had found his destiny
just by looking in her eyes
who knew love could make him feel alive

her face hid a mystery
one that would go down in history
a biblical disaster waiting
for someone’s worldly demise
devil’s messiah wrapped in lies

When they met in the town square
her spies were hiding everywhere
what could our young hero do
but be cut down in his prime
while she whispered soft words right into his mind
it’s not me, that’s just the nature of life
you can’t go shaking walls
and then expect to be alright

then left his messenger of strife

and Jericho in the town square cried
I have always known that I was meant to die
but I can only kiss the ground
and sing my thankful prayers out loud
I thank god that before I died
I felt what it means to be alive
that’s all I’ve asked for every night

and with that admission he expired

around him the town walls collapsed
crumbling to the ground at last
and in the center of it all
his faced turned a quiet smile
this place will feel my echoes for awhile

The Bagatelle That Played On In His Head

So paint yourself a lovely picture
but don’t forget about the tits, sir
You’re still a twisted little prick, sir
at least that’s what they say
in the town square where the bagatelles proclaim

that hidden far beneath your whiskers
you’re still softly smiling with her
but don’t forget you’ll never miss her
although you stand so far away
your eyes upon her moonlit bodice play

Just try to taste her on your lips, sir
there’s nothing better than a kiss, sir
Now your eyes lie upon her sister
Well second best isn’t always second rate
if you haven’t got any shame
while she screams softly out your name

your mind is toying with a gift, sir
This new concoction takes the piss, sir
I’ll ask you once so softly mister
Oh please don’t take her away
I know you’ve got this silver silk brocade
and you’re planning to show her
of just what you are made

And what if she says no, sir?
Says another boy won’t let her go, sir?
Will you kill her where she lays?
just because she can’t stand to say
that her love is the one
who’s been following you ’round all day

What a surprise and still, what’s this, sir?
A knife that plays upon your lips, sir
And in your chest it comes to lay
It’s not my fault
that you took more than you may
Though she hides in the courtyard
she still must whisper my name
And I won’t lie
for that’s the least of my crimes
I can’t guarantee that she’ll one day love me
but she sure as hell won’t love you today

In the town square the bagatelles proclaim
that my wanton heart was enough to drive me insane
but when they find these damned lovers lying in their early grave
they’ll know I only got what I gave