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: Water

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.

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.

Untitled

I went out after the rain,
and the sun had closed
behind mountain lips.

Slaughter was in the woods;
tree spines lay criss-cross,
slick fungus, no poppies yet.

The moon! The moon!
Rung, concentric, out
upon the melted forest.

Relative

I walked back from the lake,
it wasn’t sunset but after.

There was a perfect mist in the grass.

I saw people standing in it,
other people picturing them,
everyone standing in the mist.

I wished the mist were at my feet,
perfect layer of cloud, cold and heat,
water and air, meeting in the grass.

I realized they probably couldn’t see it,

the people standing in the mist.
Then I knew it surrounded me too,
all of us standing in the mist.

I thought about birdsong.
I heard it earlier in the trees,
too high up to see them.

Nothing, just music and leaves.

I opened my ears for it,
and there it was–

Rocks …from A Portrait of a Bird

He slowed down a little bit. Another storm last night; 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. The sunlight was grey but the sky was bright blue and the river, dark green and brown. It was higher than he had ever seen it. He stepped through the gate with the perpetual ROAD CLOSED sign. He tied and retied his scarf as he walked; it was much too cold out. Eventually, the gravel road turned into a path of large, shattered rocks. It looked like the river had exploded. The trees along the bank, already in the midst of their winter nudity, had been exposed completely, the dirt entirely stripped from their roots. He remembered taking a walk here with his parents right after that storm a few weeks earlier. He had been looking down at his feet, stepping carefully, and when he had looked up his dad had been helping his mom walk 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 here hoping to find something he remembered from that walk a few weeks before. There had been a small island in the middle of the river, just a copse of trees, a mound of dirt, and a mat of leaves. It split the river and forced it to rush through a small channel. The rapids there had risen to almost six feet, churning and dropping and folding back onto themselves. At the time he had stood there staring at those waves crashing in place until his parents had said they were going to keep walking.

When he reached the spot he recognized the island but the water had risen too high. It was a deluge, coming endlessly, the water rushing straight over the rocks. He stood there and stared at it for a minute. He took a deep breath of cold air and let his shoulders relax. Once, he had jumped across these rocks and finally stood on that island. It had been warmer then and the water was lower so he had taken the risk and gone into the river. It had started to rain lightly on him as he stood in the middle.

As he neared the car a certain part of the river caught his attention. The water slowed into a wide curve and a dead tree jutted out from the bank . He remembered his dad saying something odd about it.

“Right there is where I want you to scatter my ashes.” He pointed over towards the tree trunk.

“Okay, Dad. Not for awhile now.” He had breathed out a laugh. All he could think of was when he was younger and used to pick up sticks from the path and throw them into the river. He would chase them downstream as they dipped and bucked through the rapids, eventually either getting caught in the rocks or racing ahead until they blended with the water and he lost sight of them.

Accident, Prone

In a more childish time,
I didn’t try too hard
to understand myself.
I’d slip on words I wrote down
in the kitchen, cloudy days
when I’d pray not to be left
alone in that house.

In between my skull and brain
there must have been a network of springs
because I never felt the shock
of finding out that my mother was in
a hospital bed with a hole in her brain
and she couldn’t remember the truck
but who the fuck would?

She spilled hot water on herself
the skin on her hands boiling up
like the 6th plague.
My kitchen is such a dangerous place,
Goddamnit Mom stop falling down!
Amazing how you can be embarrassed
in an empty house.

If there was a God, the 11th plague
would have been insanity for everyone but myself.
I would be halfway through the Atlantic Sea
when I would risk a look back, hear a whisper–
my Mom saying she loves me.
Even a place of craziness
can be called home.

I would drop my rod,
the sea would close over me,
and I would join my mom
in that promised land.

Silence the Silence

It was supposed to rain here every day.
Instead I wake up and occasionally,
it’s just this static through the windows.
It appears and disappears, the air
opens and closes briefly, giving way.

Static turns into steam, a colder season.
The lake runs from itself into vapor,
and wisps, drifting, visible only against
the dark cracks of hands, concrete walls,
a seagull in the fog, defending itself.

The white wall outside my window
wakes me up to it. Rain solidified.
I blink blink my eyes, black, white,
black, white. I open it up.
Just a crack– just enough–

Trees …from A Portrait of a Bird

Everywhere he looked, something had changed. The angles of the trees fallen over the stream looked unfamiliar. He could barely recognize this part of the woods. When he had gotten home a few days earlier, his parents had already gone five days without power.

The stream was low, barely running over the rocks. The water would be freezing if he touched it. He flexed his toes in his boots and stood up, brushing the dirt off of his pants. He looked again at the oddness of the trees, paused, then did not walk down the stream as he had planned.

He stepped out of the woods onto the newly paved driveway. He avoided walking on the asphalt, instead stepping as much as he could in the gravel along its edges. When he reached the end of the driveway he looked to the left. The road curved away, down the hill and out of sight.

He put his hand on the tree next to the driveway which split into two trunks. One had been chopped through completely, leaving a smooth stump at about chest height. He looked up the length of tree that remained, up through to the white sky. It was like a used wishbone. He ran his palm along the stump where the bark lipped over. The scar was almost the same grey-brown as the bark. There had been a car crash, then eventually an electrical fire. 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 that had jumped 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 tongue with 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 had thought, but did not really know. One time he found a whole deer skull, broken in places. He had stood over the skull in silence, debating whether or not he wanted to touch it, whether 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.

As the house and yard came into view he thought about the tree again. For years after they had taken it down he found stacks of logs all around the woods. He would arrange them in the fireplace. They ignited instantly. Now they would all be rotting or fused together with ice, and he would walk past them without noticing. Eventually, they would disappear on their own.

Blue Hole

When I come home I hear it—
quiet. Crows gone for the winter,
a hole in the screen porch.

Driving home from the train Dad tells me,
“That hawk dive-bombed the window.
It flapped around and died on the dinner table.

I thought about doing something with it
but decided to get rid of it.” I think of garbage,
the door where we throw away our bones.

I walk down to the edge of the woods;
we have no power so I can’t use the toilet.
I think about the hollow feeling of our ground.

Generations of: Dads seeding grass,
grubs eating roots, Dads poisoning grubs.
Nothing dies, just hollows out.

I look at the broken glass of a window
we would have put into our tree house,
grown into the ground, bits of sky

reflected as in lakes seen from falling planes
I imagined while reading survival novels.
The boy crashes into the water, catches fish

and makes fire with an ax his mother gave him.
He gets lost in the mountains
and trains a falcon to hunt for him.

At my friend’s house, living there, doing laundry,
I tell him how I sat outside and played ukulele
and the hawk flew from tree to tree, cawing at me.

I had imagined its eggs.
Did it find a mate in between
my powerless house and the road?

I come back a year later
and a hawk cries against the sky.
I wonder how old it was.

If the hawk could change, it might
go away. If it could speak,
I think it would never speak again.

A White Season

A white flower blooms
from below or a cloud, air,
water, blossoming.