The white vans driving out of the city,
Out to tall, beige crematorial kilns,
They have your life and hope in green boxes.
Tomorrow you may be smoke in the air.
You have seen the white vans in the city,
Parked on side streets and under bridges.
You have seen them driving through alleys,
Graffiti vanishing from brick as they pass.
The white vans move slowly in the city,
Circling apartment blocks and ragged green parks.
They idle in front of cafes and storefronts
By empty meters for hours every day.
In the city broken glass is swept up quickly,
No cardboard blankets the pristine sidewalks.
Listen: that sound is side doors opening
In white vans. The white vans. The white vans.
Moss and lichen devour stone over eons.
The sun and stars slowly eat themselves up.
You hear your stomach growl in the night.
Everything is hungry. Thin-stemmed grasses
Dig into soil where the worms twist endlessly
Between sandy crumbles of nitrogen
And the disintegrating boxes we plant.
Everything is hungry. Rust and mushrooms.
Viruses. The herons eat, and so do the foxes.
The muskrats and raccoons find their meals.
The coyotes crack bones in their long teeth.
Heavy trout hunt in the cold tea of streams.
All around the obtuse curve of earth
Water is warm flesh rippling under
The moon’s caresses. Even in winter
Water moves with the tides, keeping
Dry crusts of ice cracking and scaling
Daily to slough away old, dead constructs.
Every day lake after lake of sweat dries
On creased foreheads and hollow abdomens
Leaving behind thin deposits of salt
On each of us; Each of us alone can
Be no more than a small scab of desert,
A crusting of old want on the world.
Do you wish for mitigation? To have
Someone to walk with, even in silence,
Through the dew under a full summer moon,
Under a new moon in autumn while ripe
Corn rasps in the wind? To be not alone
With an ocean murmuring in the night?
You must be water, ever in motion;
Be the foamed wave singing on warm sand
While the murky tide recedes after
A late summer storm. You must taste faintly
Of salt, copper, gold when you drink deeply
Of each other’s whispering soon soon soon.
A poem is only the ruins of a city
Seen from a distance in the twilight
Falling from the shoulder of a mountain.
You may imagine its wide boulevardes
Teeming with people out for supper
Or trinkets or long evenings of love.
You may imagine a glow of windows
In the graceful lines of high towers
Reflected in pools of languid fountains.
You may hear strings and pipes and percussion,
But these are only your lungs and heart
Labouring up the hills of existence;
A poem is built out of broken shadows
And emptiness. You cannot enter here.
I have seen the moon become an ear pressed
To the sky, white, cold, listening for you.
Yesterday on hills time has worn low
The grass was grey and stiff with morning frost.
Soon November rain will fall again.
The exuberance of geese is long gone.
A few spruce slouch towards the river.
A sweat of bitter resin beads their bark.
A blue heron’s wing stirs yellowed cattails.
Tonight the moon will hear nothing through the rain.
There are these autumn days when
The potatoes wait, pale in
The wet ground, while slow rain beads
On the digger sitting silent.
The kitchen, too, is quiet.
Only an occasional crack
From pine or spruce in the stove.
There’s nothing to say. The rain’ll stop
When it does, bringing a brief
Glimpse of sun and a drying wind
Before the long rods of the chain
Begin again to travel
Through twelve or sixteen hour days
In clinking syncopation.
There is in long solitude
A kind of sheer obstinacy
Often mistaken for purpose.
It falls in gauzy folds over
The lives of itinerant poets,
Of hermits, of holy men
And other sociopaths—
It veils whether they kneel
In seclusion only to gain
The selection of bruises
We study upon their knees.
And so we are left earnestly
To compare how slowly purple
Blossoms yellow and fade away.