Photo from the Seattle Star
Along the river,
at the time of pale-blue,
the crows flow like black curtains,
thousands of them,
tens of thousands,
enumerable and warm and beating.
Just by looking at their wings
I can feel the soft mist,
the growing west wind,
and I can hear the traffic growing dimmer beneath me.
We course through, and over,
we, the relics of ancient days,
we roost together in furled winter branches,
and watch the humans walk by
with their eyes turned down.
How long has it been
since you sat with your back against a tree,
and looked up at the dark, straying rivers
in the sky?
How long has it been
since you knelt at a streamside,
and listened to the soft water
sing of mountain snow,
of old times and canyons walls,
and the kind, red belly of the Earth?
How long has it been
since you felt the wind between stars,
and traced your own pictures there,
faint but warm in the light,
and held each star
one by one,
solid in your animal gaze?
There are times when the forest seems to exhale clouds, when fog rests so heavily on the tree-tops that the space between them vanishes, and the whole of the forest becomes a white-frothed ocean. There are times, as well, when sunlight finds its way to the ferns and fawn lilies, to the dense, secret streams at the feet of the maple trees, and for a moment the colors lose their dampness, and the soil smells of drying rain, and all the world seems stirred by the sun.
Above the concrete sky, and
the rest of the whimsy,
we could’ve been real.
But you looked down
and wasn’t I cute?
So I pointed for you,
to the flat place in the sky
where it all caves in, and I
guided your hand like a bug on water
all legs and skittish muscles,
and I opened your palm, like a flower blooms,
and I helped string down the moonlight,
so it could fall on your skin.
You laughed again,
and asked where we would go next,
your eyes flat and matte and dead as paved ground,
and you looked away from me,
and the moonlight’s gaze in my reflection.
Sometimes I ask the moon for guidance.
I stand at the window, my breath fogging up the glass,
and I reach my hands up.
The moon is alive in the way of mountains and rivers,
through the long-lived presence of time,
and the humming of old things.
The clean blue moonlight pours through the city air, in a steady stream, as soft as water.
I feel it spill over my skin, through the too-pale crevasses on my palm, through the rivulets of my fingerprints, over the paper-cut on my index finger.
The moon and I are kindred,
nocturnal and unknowable.
I ask the moon what I should do,
what should I do, moon,
and she speaks to me the way a creek rolls across pebbles.
I cannot understand, but I feel something settle within me.
I feel that I am long-lived for a moment.
Wind, or a boulder,
or the bend in the river where the willows hang low.
I wash clean in the moonlight,
ancient, nocturnal, and unknowable,
After everyone has gone to bed, I sit on the sand. The lake pulls quietly inward, lapping against the velvet rocks. Above me, and above the purple lake, Ursa Major appears, star upon star, from the blue-lit ether. It pulls on me — the lake, and the deep-time silence that writhes in the wind, and in the mountains, and in the low, dark roots of the pine-mat manzanita. I feel the unfolding of blue, of sunsets sacrificed into the same tree-fringed hills for millennia. How this was once a glacier, high in the pristine paleolithic air, and now, kayaks and howling children linger on the bows of the lake. Behind me, the moon lines the trees with a white like salt. Mineral white. Desert white. I feel that I should draw in the sand. I should dance a slow, secret ritual, or kneel at the point where the moonlight hits the earth. Instead I turn back to Ursa Major, and I listen for the silence. It buzzes in my ears. The silence is its own music. It is the earth itself. It is the dance and the waters of time. I feel it pull up, and out, and around my chest, the thud of the night air, the unchanged lake, the windless millennia, the bright and ancient drumming of the earth. I have found something lost to me. I am whole again.
You stare through a telescope.
There, the craters,
and the old seas, like bruises.
You stare a bit longer.
You see the moon revolve,
inch by inch–
the slow moon tilting,
an avalanche off an edge
that is neither light
A chill rises on your arms.
It’s not just the moon that’s moving.
It’s you, too,
face to face
and dancing the sunward spiral,
out, and out,
with purple dust in your wake.
Image courtesy of The Epoch Times
The aspen trees shimmered above us, silver as starlight, and the cottonwoods streamed, feral, across the grass sea. Something brown and close to the earth darted toward the stage. A rabbit. White cottontail. Soft brown fur, close-cut and smooth like moss. We crept closer. Two more rabbits surfaced from their bush kingdom. I tip-toed closer. I crouched. They took this as a threat and jumped silently into the brambles, to the dark, sunless underbelly of things. We continued on. I stopped to admire a carpet of wood sorrel, when another rabbit surfaced. Then two, then four. Around the bend and–three more, their noses twitching against the twilight grass, their leg muscles tense and stringy and poised to flee when we passed the threshold of their kingdom. Out of the trees and into the garden. Three more waited in the grass. And then they retreated to the blackberry bushes. They waited for our footsteps to wane, and at last they reclaimed their places in the setting sun.
I close my eyes and imagine the blanketed oceans, how they quaver beneath the starred sky. The sun hides coolly in the corner, overshadowed by the dull blink of the crushed moon, orbiting us like the rings of Saturn. Underwater, the sky burns red, and the world is, for a moment, still. Nothing is alive yet, except perhaps some bacteria. I wait. A meteor crashes into the ocean. Water shoots up around it, and then it’s swallowed into the emptiness. Another few billion years and the first, primitive animals will sputter into life. Brachiopods. Trilobites. Sea urchins. Will they love each other? Will they feel concern and worry and hatred? I can’t see their eyes, so I can’t know what’s inside them, but I like to think that I’d recognize something there; that, maybe, just maybe, I would see something in their eyes similar to my own, some glimmer of life to combat the emptiness of space, and the dark, young emptiness of the first ocean.
I had a dream about you, cedar tree. That you were gone. I ran to the empty space where you had once been, and I knelt in the rusted leaves. The sun fell over my hair, and over the fine, carved lines on my hands, and I ran my fingers through the blistered earth, as though through water, through black, bloody, seaweed. But you were not there. No stump. No place of mourning or rest. I stood and ran. The heaviness of the air followed me. One by one each tree vanished, until the forest was barren. All I wanted was to sit with my back against bark. To look up and see the lace of your leaves against the sky. But the trees were gone. The ferns lay severed and stepped on, and the salmonberry bushes wilted into pale, thorned dust. I couldn’t run anymore. The wind halted to absolute stillness. And then it was over, and I heard only my own small heart, flittering softly, like a dead leaf, trapped and wrapped carefully in my chest.