written for my wedding
Many of you know what it is, struggle
To explain, but could not survive without.
It happened to me in spring, by the water.
Figured we'd stroll to the park, feel some sun,
Watch sunbolts dart through impatient weather
Crowded, stuck in line over Puget Sound.
I respond: "Doesn't look like rain." My nose
At your earlobe. You've been climbing with plums
Or zesting lemons. Hits me in the brain
Every time. The clouds pile up like wet socks
And damp blankets. You say they're more like sheep
Playing in the wind. The bay grows shark teeth
Or wolves' fangs. The flock spooks, panics, gallops
Over the Olympics toward Mount Rainier.
Pillows become washrags and frog-sized drops
Start flying in sideways. Running for shade,
Dodging flash-puddles, sunglasses clouded
Under an awning, breath short, kisses warm
Like home. Wiping rain from cool cheeks. Never
Let you go. Never want to see you cry.
"Coffee's gone." Sal's cup shatters on the rock.
Harald flinches, rubbing his knives over
And over on a stone. "You ready yet?"
With one eye closed and the other squinted
He inspects his edges. "I'm just thinking--"
"Don't think," Sal snaps. Harald buttons his blades
Into their sheathes. "Seems the water's rising
And no one's built an ark." He cracks his neck,
Knuckles and back. Sal dry fires the shotgun.
"But old Noah'd only take one of us."
Tall as the table and nearly as wide,
The bulldog swivels his jowls and muzzle.
One eye is closed, cancelled with a white scar.
The other is oyster pale. His black hide
Is tickish, stiff, and twitches like a cow's.
A bird perched on his spiked leather collar
Pokes its narrow beak in his tattered ear.
One bright tooth jabs up from his frowning mug.
With sniffing, stumpy steps, he finds the corpse
And begins to crunch bones. The pack stays clear.
Any day off the ground and not in it
Is a good one. A comfortable rustle
In my wingtips. Wind polish my plummage.
Sleek silk missile. Cool air on my belly
And filling my lungs, purging dirt-foot breath,
Grease smoke and horse exhaust, green and humid.
I skate through my morning orbit, pointless
In my circles until my crop grumbles.
I focus my search to gassy odors,
Motionless bodies and sounds of conflict.
Brawl Atop the Rock
The stout man asks the tall: "Which way down, Tom?"
And slugs him in the kidney. Uppercut
Grazes Tom's ear, who counters with a knee.
"Eliza said: 'No daisies for that Tom.'"
Heels near the edge, Tom ducks a cross and springs
Into the other's knees, wrapping, gripping
But unable to lift the thicker man.
Both are buttery-white, belly and back.
Walnut-bronze from elbows to leathered hands.
"But Eliza likes it in the daisy."
More Early Cathartes
Turning circles over an alpine lake
Blue as a beam, framed with boulders and firs
Turpentine green. A man in a wood boat
Ripples a goose V through the glassy dawn.
Slow as a shaded rocking chair, he rows.
Smiling like a man kneading yeast and flour
By the warmth of his stove. I spiral down
And hear Pavarotti from the cliffsides.
Figaro vibrates the needles. The air
Trembles with song like a tumble of stone.
"I could pour you a cosmopolitan,"
He states, squinting through a martini glass.
Buffs the rim. She bites a sliver of lime.
Pulls her hair from her neck. Wraps her lips, pale
Yet plump, around a champagne flute. Drains it
With a swan-like motion and starts giggling.
"You don't pour a cocktail." Her barstool rocks
And creaks. She snorts. "You build one, my darling."
She stands like weaving smoke, smoothes the black silk
Of her small dress, chuckling. "If you had ice."
Another Brawl Atop the Rock
The tall bald man weaves. Fists guarding his face.
Right eye swollen blind. Right knuckles scraped. Thumb
Broken, twisted like a toy. Bare feet wide
And balanced on the rock burnished and soft
As an old wallet, familiar slippers.
The stout man bares his remaining teeth, frees
His dark hair from its ponytail, stringing
With blood and perspiration. Open hands
Darting over his head like birds, like snakes
Coiling and striking. A stone strikes a gong.
More Harald and Sal
The sun melts, from a golden-wicked candle
Into a bloody purple stump. How long
Can two men cook one rabbit? I hop up
To the lip of the dented copper pot.
"Not yet, bird," snaps the balding one, stirring,
Sniffing the simmering garlic, onions,
Fungus and beans. "I've eaten stewed buzzard."
"That's a vulture, Sal. A turkey vulture."
Like they're polishing gold, they cook with pride
To have captured food. "I've eaten them too."