He Holds His Bottle In Both Hands
He holds his bottle in both hands. His dog
Is by him. Blankets. From the shoulders down
He is massy as a stone; like a stone
He has the task to shrug off wind, the rain
That eats him drop by drop. Dirt occludes him,
Dirt impervious to rain has been ground
Into the ground of him; he knows, so he
Places the cup before him for the coins.
Once villages with plague did much the same.
Beyond the door nailed shut, the lintelled coffin
Hatch crossed in red, whose angel was absent
To halt the destroyer that hopped the threshold;
Beyond the path (green with three days’ grass);
Beyond the houses and the sprawl of the disease
They found a stone with a hollow, a cup
In its bone, like a newborn infant’s skull.
They filled the cup with water, left coins there;
The traders came and took them in exchange.
Left bread, such medicine their science could afford.
So the village, closed, hingeless as a stone,
Still maintained a commerce with the world.
They went so far and no farther: they shared,
So as not to meet, a mutual orbit.
He holds his bottle in both hands. He raddles
His blankets round him, strokes the dog. Then
He dips his fingers in the cup, feels the copper
Laid there to bait silver; they come back wet.
Three Stromness Acrostics
Forward and back roof-raddled the cat,
Round and around rolled the moon,
And Venus and Mars in a carafe of stars
Noodled the night’s afternoon.
“Kaleidoscope cat, my syrup, my fat,
Liminal lynx” – said the moon – “my love
I see that your eye waxes, wanes, as do I,
Now a crescent, now plump as a dove.”
“Render me puss, oh answer me this:
Or my dark or my light find you nice?”
“Ah – I like you best when you are half-dressed.
Dim – for the sake of the mice.”
Grim sea, ink on this wild night,
Rise. Wind, prepare a nib, an edge of
Air and frost. Black sea, come. Write
Your secrets on the lapped lids of the town –
Satisfactions only for the birds.
Name your mysteries, your underwater
Ossuaries, the hug and knell where lipless mouths
Urge a second deluge. Confess all, waves:
State safe your deepest soul in midnight ink.
The coming day will clean the slates, unread.
Below, a segment on a patterned top,
Runs the town. Behind, hill-hurdled, the Atlantic. What
Is the hand that spins us but the sky, and,
Now, this dawn, the Spring-appointing air? Winter
Kept things close, stilled the thrumming cells with sheeted
Ice. That age is over. The island stretches,
Enters the uppermost sun-dabbled sea of sleep
Spreads skein of sky of wing, and lunge of lung.
Broad sphere, you share the moon’s illusion:
Regarded at horizon, seeming greatest.
Ah, but – between itself and its own limit runs the eye in
One Blow Breaks…
One blow breaks these floorboards, shows the bones
Where the dead damped down, bravely or morose,
To be built upon. All graves are shallow:
Worm on barrowed worm, dead on dead laps storying;
Apartments, tower blocks as in water,
Shown in their inverse, sinking, tend their quiet
Occupation to the cold core of all
Beginning; and we on the lowest floor.
There are clouds in the crawlspace. The soft rain
Eases, balling its fists between the bricks,
Downward. All graves are shallow. Bald of a clock
Still the walls show times, the years’ slippage
Into disorder – windows seamed with mould
And autumn leaves loose in the citadel.
The garden has been sown with dragon’s teeth.
Summer brazens through the mulch of spring,
Itself the chewed stuff of autumn. Beneath
The flowers draw their blades. Trees cast leaves, fling
Upon the lower world their cuckoospell
Of shadow, shuddering the pollen. Warm snow.
Thousand-coasted, million-mated world, swell –
For the year’s yolk is in its overflow
And over-golden, too big for any shell.