For the Doves
On the side of a desert road
a headless dove,
its body a
basket of ants,
basket of creosote stems.
live at all is to grieve
and from what life
did we gain this trust,
awake each dawn
to find the bright air
rustle and coo
the widening palms?
Nocturne: For the River
I can't bear to be forgotten by any more people,
and walking home under these anonymous street lamps
it would be easy to slip under the cobblestones
away the nights, comfortable and alone.
street lamps have forgotten me,
forgotten how to give their light,
the sickly powder orange of a child's mouth
full of aspirin is all they can
muster now. It's sad,
yes, but it's also a little
There's no avoiding them, no resemblance
to the living, to the morning light they mimic.
There's a Buddhist proverb:
Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world,
I've tried, believe me, smiling the pink smile
a lamb, a quarter in a blind girl's cup,
but does it mean to breathe in this airy version
of asbestos or to keep walking these streets,
each light to reclaim some small, hidden
from a time when there was hope?
Tonight, a south wind brings me the scent
of the tobacco plant across the river,
and the bread factory a few blocks
has given up its loaves to the air,
redeems us in a way, I think,
for redemption is nothing
than a breaded wind pulling a night from frailty.
Tell me, Robert E. Lee, of the hundred-year sleep,
of mice skulls in owl dung, your bronze
bearing the weight of catacombs hidden
in the itch of amputees, gas-lit, forlorn.
Tell me, J.E.B. Stuart, that everything will be o.k.,
that your horse is facing north because
she misses the snowy fields.
Tell me, sad horse, with doves nesting
under your raised hoof, in this century of longing,
how can I go on loving this ruined
excuse for a city,
sleepy-sweet night, sweet cicada,
sweet oak, sweet old nothing?
Brady, come down to me
from your glass-plated heaven of iodine,
from your tent-city of wagons in a muddy field
where my apartment building now stands,
years of smoke rising between us,
watch the reflection of crows
roost far below the
water in the tulip trees
as Whitman did once after the war,
from a skiff in the shallows of the James,
pale gold, the play of light
coming and going, bats and thrushes
alive with stars, woven over
the musical trees
and over the past, over
the milky blossoms
of wild carrot, or, oblivion.
so, like the river in the distance
humming the trestle-song of night trains,
its skin seeming to hold twilight, delay it,
I stand among these street lamps
a forgotten man, and let the South's last summer
up and consume me.
Nocturne: For the Aviaries
Then the rain came,
full of a sadness I've never seen before,
through the cottonwoods
and along the river,
which is no longer a river
but an apparition under
Had I five hummingbirds,
I would make
a love charm
and string them from the clap
of a small copper bell in those branches,
Had I a swan, it would sleep
under the hives
with a bucket of fresh milk,
with the splintered white faces of goats.
To reclaim or take apart the night,
like the city does,
the blind river?
The brilliant debris of stars, the air?
Nothing in this world is ours.