after Mary Powell
The matron’s eyes are dark, and hollow.
Her skirt is an indistinct pleated gray,
while a darted white blouse billows
below the boat-necked breast
and above an elasticized waist.
The flowers in her hands—are they
tulips, and shafts of red-pink gladiolus?
A tea-time pinky juts from a delicate fist.
But the most precise detail of this portrait
is the Navy-scalloped border of the lapel…
or perhaps the sharply-brushed fold
just below her subject’s left collarbone:
a simple dab of yellow, and one bold stroke.
Ask why. Arrange the pinky, the lapels,
and that precious fold in your virtual vase.
You have plucked them from an artist’s soul.
after the lady Skagit
Sunlight floods half the road on which I travel;
a shadow cast by the guardrail obscures my lane—
the westbound side, which rushes past bitterbrush,
bluebunch wheat grass, ponderosa, and sandstone.
This Methow thirst can consume entire rivers.
(after Francis Thompson)
Imagine a night sky in the Barrens
without the North Star.
Imagine that Zeus had never thrown
Callisto into the sky,
Orchards hang in the evening air,
splayed along alluvial bottomland
like sagging, vast, corporeal mists,
ordered rows of sentient sentinels.
Boxing Day, 2002. You lie
on the gatehouse chaise
adoze by a compact fire
that I stoke in your silence.
To sleep, perchance to dream…
I come not to you with words of wisdom
but with words that unseal doors
On a dark star-filled night
I step outside long after
the town retires and gaze
upward, dogged stillness
the analogesic to my soul.
up staring to
the right where
Take these incendiaries with you on the trail:
let the words themselves be fat and resinous;
impregnate the charcoaled ink with paraffin;
and may the whole be written upon the scroll
I pause and breathless gasp at stars
which loose ten thousand brilliant shafts
through narrowed iris, fluoresce cones.