Room of Return; Poem of Night; Hardscrabble Mountain; A Bird Comes Back; Harbor Darkness
Room of Return
Room over the Hudson
Where a naked light bulb
Lights some coathangers, whiskey bottles,
Umbrellas, socks, poems, shoes,
A potted plant trimmed like the crucifixion,
From which, out the front window,
You sometimes can see
The Vulcania or the France
Or a fat Queen
Steaming through the buildings across the street,
To which every night
An alley-cat sneaks up
To slop a saucer
Of fresh milk on the fire escape
Washing down his rat,
Rooms crossed by breezes
Out of air conditioners’ back ends,
By the clicking at all hours of invisible looms,
By the shouts in the night-market, motors, horns,
By bleats of boats wandering the Hudson,
Where I switch the light on
After an absence of years,
Tiny glimmer again in the city
Pricking the sky, shelled by the dirty sea.
Poem of Night
I touch your face,
I move my hand over
Slopes, falls, lumps of sight,
Lashes barely able to be touched,
Lips that give way so easily
It’s a shock to feel underneath
The steady smile of the bones,
Muffled slightly, cloaked,
Zygoma, maxillary, turbinate.
I put my hand
On the side of your face,
You lean your head a little
Into my hand—and so,
I know you’re a dormouse
Taken up in winter sleep,
A lonely, stunned weight
Closed in natural mystery.
A curved piece of brow,
A pale eyelid
Float in the dark—
And now I make out
An eye, dark,
Wormed with far-off, unaccountable lights.
I put an arm across you,
Hardly touching, and I hold
What I can only think of as
Some deepest of memories in my arms,
Not mine, but as if the life in me
Were slowly remembering what it is.
You lie here now in your physicalness,
This beautiful degree of reality.
And now the day, raft that breaks up, comes on.
I think of a few bones
Floating on a river at night—
The starlight blowing in a place on the water,
The river leaning like a wave towards the emptiness.
I lay on the mountain
On old slashed spruce boughs
Buoying me up off the snow,
Now and then a bit of snow
Would slide quietly from a branch,
Once a deer-fly came by . . .
I could see off for about a hundred miles—
I waked with a start,
The sun had crawled off me,
I shivered in thick blue shadow,
Sap stuck me to the spruce boughs.
Far away I could hear
A high wind starting to rise.
I came down the mountain—
Passing the little graveyard in the woods
I gave a thought to the old skulls and bones lying there—
And I prayed to a black bear just shutting his eyes,
To a dozing least weasel,
To a marmot with yellow belly,
To a dog-faced hedgehog,
To a dormouse with a paunch and large ears like leaves or wings.
A Bird Comes Back
Only the head and shoulders, only
The bust of a bird really,
Cochineal and emerald appears,
Stinging the blossoms, there,
At the open window, amidst phlox,
Where there are, already,
Bees and three white butterflies,
His missing wings crackling deeply
As he needles the flowers.
The old timbers of the house
Shift sidewise, like stove-grates,
One of the too-frequent settlings,
Think of Emily Dickinson’s hummingbird—
Strange to see him now
With nothing in back of him but New Hampshire
Fifty miles away and badly faded.
A gull crazy for darkness
Skims the slapping waves
Belly always aglow
Over troughs in which float
Old bits of Upstate light—
Lamps doused in Shaghticoke,
Headlights killed in the Niskayuna bushes,
Glints off Coxsackie dental plates,
Gleam of Mechanicville tears—
And shall skim the whole sea
And arrive at dawn shining in advance.