living life in captivity
behind the glass of my office
window facing McGann’s lumber yard
hearing but not feeling
the west wind, incongruous
smell of citrus zest
on my hands,
watching tarps billowing
on lumber stacks
like sailboats on a tropical sea.
What sort of hawks are these,
brown and white, on fence posts
in central Wisconsin in January?
There is so much I don’t know.
Do you think they eat mice, or small birds?
Why don’t they overwinter in Illinois?
Or follow the Mississippi south
past Memphis, Vicksburg, the Delta,
to some bayou rich with crayfish?
What do you think they’d make of you,
North-Hawk, those birds of the South,
would they call you Cousin, Mon Ami?
Now 37 straight winters I have endured
since the one I passed in Mexico and
I don’t know if I could stand even one more.
a winter poem —
black words perch on white paper —
five crows on a wire
A murder of crows stirs
in the tree that is my heart.
Morning light warms black feathers
and then they take flight,
dark premonitions scattering
on the day’s errant winds.
Words spill like autumn leaves.
Snakes bask in the heat
of the compost pile.
Crows are ubiquitous,
they can stand the cold.
I know they’ll come home
to roost on bare limbs in a tree
gaunt as a saint in winter.
after a three-day storm –
minus-sixteen and everything
settled and smooth,
like a kind of truce
or like the moment
after hard loving on
Frequent scatterings of little birds,
snow buntings or horned larks, and
hawks at sporadic intervals on posts,
also northern harriers, or hen harriers
you might say, over the snowy fields.
Some people believe seeing a harrier
perched on a house is a sign that
three people will die; on a happier note,
some Native American tribes believe
seeing a hawk on your wedding day
is a sign of a long, happy marriage.
I cannot say, Birdie, why they make me
think of you, something about your
face or is it just the way love drifts
on winter winds with white wings
like it is made out of loneliness,
feathered with the self-same snow
it flies above, and I cannot tell
from day to day if I am the car
speeding down the icy road
or the field mouse just beyond
the grasp of your talons, but I hope
for the latter, that I can feed you
with my four limbs and pounding heart.
Mistress Moon, I feel your million-mile stare
over my shoulder as I cross the black plain
of night, but my weak Earth-bound eyes only
see the dumb grin on your pock-marked face.
You are the shape and heft of light and its absence.
In your wax and wane we know death and birth
and the mighty tug of sea-tide and womb-blood.
Tell me what you see in your blue-white sight.
Mice scurrying across the wind-spun snow,
the red-eyed wolf, the faint glow of my heart,
more ash than ember? Can you penetrate
the caul of deceit that smothers me, beneath
to the field of tiny stars tattooed across my chest?
Have you missed your mother these four billion
years, or did you long ago turn your best side
away from her, toward the cold fires of eternity?