Snow splits under the metal shovel
and out of a flank of earth
he digs up an apothecary bottle,
where ground stiffens 
air grows brittle
sun pales earlier each day.

This patent remedy
sparkles from frozen clods
flat, short-necked
molded letters still legible:
take five drops four times a day.

He studies the bottle,
imagines sickroom hush
hurried footsteps
windows shuttered against night air.

Sees women with cool lips
climbing stairs
carrying fresh linen
clear broth
in nights of granite weather.

Imagines faces in shadows
speaking in whispers
calm hands on white sheets
and death, a rustle behind skirts.

A hum of recognition
in his finger tips, he grips
the cold glass, feels
the wind's sting, thinks back
on those lives deep in winter.

then, brushing the bottle clean,
he holds it to the light
and for a frozen interval
stands snowcapped
in the lone hurry of time.



The birds are at it again.
Someone's wound them up
and their calls spiral around us.
Light swings open its door
and the wind says nothing new.

The morning moon's still hanging
in the saffron sky and
as the newest season melts
leaves release the light
they stored all winter.

Blades of grass make
delicate intrusions and water
sucks at its own edge. Since
we're the first to wake 
it all belongs to us.

In rooms filling with daylight
best to keep still, lie close
to the quick and wait for spring
slipping in sure-footed just before dawn
with fur and feathers in its mouth.



Music hides in the spaces between tracks
until the wooden stylus strokes the spiral
threading sound through the air.

We sway in gat-toothed wonder at
Cab Calloway's hi-di-his and ho-di-hos, 
swoon to Galli Curci's velvet and velour
"The Last Rose of Summer",
marvel at Caruso's muscular "Celeste Aida".

When a scratch holds the needle
in the groove, it churns and churns
the same broken sound
trying to get it right
until a hand releases it 
in a sharp geometry of motion.

Moments on the verge,
shellac records gleam,
crank handles poise midair
and needles rest in cups for the ready.

Music seductive as silk
spills a little island around us.
Its scent sticks to fingers, lips,
and eye lids: tunes
old in the known ways
like basil and lemon unguent on the mouth.

Juicy underbellies of love songs
melt on the tongue like Paradise plums,
our mouths and faces open to
what's lost and what's left.

We float on notes above the staff
to a whirl of Straus waltzes,
Souza marches brassy and insistent,
lullabies rocking in the night's arms.

Crooners in vaseline-slicked pompadours
tongue us, the air's dense with red hot mamas
grinding out the blues, Dixieland struts past.

Tunes tapdance on the ceiling
Gershwin sings with love inside the octave
as we dance together cheek to cheek
until the rhythmic scraps on the label
like a bass note
drifts free.



After the rioting of stars and the slow affection
between dark and light,
comes the simple face of heaven
and the anthills of morning.

When the dark unravels, lovers
rise to face the day. The bed holds
patterns of their bodies, sheets
echo sounds of steady breathing,
and the light continues all the way to Jerusalem.

He wakes early, runs
non-stop toward a green patch where love grows
ripe, turnip-hearted,
bunched leaves folding into the light.
The wind carries his shadow.
The rain falls like applause as he races
warm in the cloud of his breath.

Alone, she listens for the night to roost,
for the dawn to rustle,
for harmonics from the past. Then,
reaching for red spectacles she works her day,
sensing the life, the sweep, the luster,
agreeing to imperfections and seeing the whole.

Their children wrapped in soft bones
wait for long arms of daylight,
the itch and scratch of spring.
They sit at breakfast tables 
tonguing bread crusts free of butter.

The sun's a piece of bait
to get them up in the morning.
Nothing stirs.
Only a grass hopper clinging to a blade
weighs it toward its roots.
Warm in their skins, they
study dirt under their nails
and lifelines buried in their fists.

Dawn greets them with hellos and home
cooking and the world arrives
fresh with heat, light, the logic of an apple
and life within the core.



This house distilled from
time invites me in.
My dents are everywhere.
The chair I sit in,
the desk I work at
occupy the area
I once imagined.

slide into place,
the width, the breadth,
a perfect accommodation.

The room inside my private room
holds a window's width of sky
and a sweet apple of light.

Writing letters 
with indelible ink, I
trace an A for you,
S for sons,
H for home.

Smear them with my fingertips
taste their salty sweetness
feel their scratch and stroke.

I watch words vanish 
off the page making room
for more and hear the silence
between sentences.

Framed by narrow margins
they know their limits,
and I, within the 
boundaries of this room
and these four walls,
know mine.



And before our world wanes,
before the spiked sun,
the rough tongue of wind
and light so whole it sucks us in,
we'll knuckle wood, fling salt, cross fingers, spit
and turn three times around. We'll
wish on candles, bones, beginning stars
and wear our amulets and rings.

With all our zeros here and sweet,
clocks whispering in the present tense
we'll breathe pure riverrush of life,
a spell for sleeping
a spell for waking
as morning hovers like surprise.

While day shifts in the marrow
and light goes rainbow in the ditch,
we'll tug our shadows in,
change our names,
walk a crooked mile
and tiptoe past the long, long finger  tapping.

Listen Darling Death,
lost in the wonder of your own myth,
don't wait up for us
we'll be a little while longer.



In a continuum of clean sheets
and white nights
I sleep with my watch
secure on my wrist
and balance on
the year's narrow edge.

I know some small things:
the first frost sweetens,
the second kills.

In my secret world, light
shines like dandelions
gone to seed in a moonscape
and a single tree
draws me to the ferny
underbelly of woods.

As birds wing
in old departures,
I'm ambushed by petals,
leaf mold, earth crust
and a shock of sky.

In a future that resembles now
I learn to pat death
like a dog, it's growing
so familiar.  When I pick flowers,
they root in my palm, tendrils
lace through fingers.

Long after they fade
I'm wrapped in their silk
as I rest in the tall grass
absolutely still
like a stone warmed by the sun
denting the earth.



Skip through the past,
and dream of the future
as though it were gone.

Sunlight touches lightly
a room almost remembered,
the dark lies heavy on our lips and

all the small breathers
renew themselves until they're
back where they began.

Fish climb out of rivers. Children 
crayon heavens and daffodills
open in slow and perfect unison.

Set new traps for ancient
dreams, preserve the present
although it's a lie--like Monet

pinching off green for a winter-
veined landscape where everything
floats in the lake of his eye.

Take time by the hand. It has 
no one to lead it, no father,
no mother to call it back home.

Pour sand into clocks
until day turns inward and tomorrow
stretches large as night.

With the long sleep still
light years away, awaken
to air wrapped in silk,

abundance of sky, and perch
like a cock on a dung hill
crowing the morning.



Ankled in dust, she runs with colt looseness
in the lift of leg
knees'liquid action
choreography of bone and breath
outstretched world beneath her.

In the blood's first ABC
she runs on sinews of paths
no maps to where she's going
or where she's been.
Only the wind blowing ashes of tomorrow.

Through prologues of sun and shade
she's looking for the wild-seed child
all bark and twigs
chirping through morning
blatant as birdsong

On her daily run
her heart beats 
in its narrow cave
sweat coats her body
drenched in salt and secrets

In the corridors of afternoon
she runs a relay race
with her own shadow
catching up with it
shrugging it off to join

the one just ahead
racing toward another shade
not knowing where
until swift seizures of night
and the moon's citrus voice.



Bench sitters on upper Broadway
count passing cars and
pavement cracks spilling over
into empty lots 
gone wild.

Store fronts tilt,
like old customers
leaning on carts in Safeway aisles
waiting for the round-up
back to one-room lives.

Light dies out.
The street steps into darkness.
They stand on sidewalks
as the past leaks in.

Then, like a slow
coming-out of sleep, they
shuffle back,
cook the same soup bone
down to stock and vapor,
empty the pot 
and wait for a surpise.

They didn't plan it this way.
Nothing for the ears.
Nothing for the eyes.
And night tapering off
to a shirt hanging on a nail
and a saucer filled with
all the cold morning ahead.