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,
and I've tried, believe
me, smiling the pink smile
of 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,
smashing each light to reclaim
some small, hidden
memento 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 away
has given up its loaves to the air,
which redeems us in a way,
for redemption is nothing more
a breaded wind pulling a night from frailty.
me, Robert E. Lee, of the hundred-year sleep,
of mice skulls in owl dung, your bronze head
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
Tell me, sad horse, with doves nesting
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?
Sad-eyed Matthew Brady, come down to me
from your glass-plated heaven of iodine,
your tent-city of wagons in a muddy field
where my apartment building now stands,
years of smoke rising between us,
and watch the reflection of crows
roost far below the water in the tulip trees
did once after the war,
from a skiff in the shallows
of the James,
pale gold, the play of light
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.
And 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
forgotten man, and let the South's last summer
rise 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
which is no longer a river
but an apparition under the sand.
Had I five hummingbirds,
I would make a love charm
and string them from the clap
of a small copper bell in those branches,
necks hovered together, broken.
Had I a swan, it would sleep
under the hives
with a bucket of fresh
with the splintered white faces of goats.
reclaim or take apart the night,
like the city does, carving through
the blind river?
debris of stars, the air?
Nothing in this world is