Over and Over

The two names I know for you
I repeat over and over
Under my breath so low, even alone,
I can barely hear them

The one with round sounds
And the abrupt knot of an ending:
That one’s like a balloon filled
With the laughter of a warm room

The other is all angles and
Corners that won’t be seen around;
That one trails off into the remote
Hazy distance of a vowel

I hold both on my tongue
In the night, savor your salt and scent

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Folding Laundry

I see your face in stillness,
Caught in the moment of a smile. And hear,
Faint in the low tones of the wind,
Your laughter across the miles between us.

It snowed some here yesterday.
When I told you, you spoke of windows, curtains
Opened, a fire in the night. Memories
Exist in movements of hands, lips.

Tonight I slept very little.
I listened to machines in the streets
Outside my windows. I couldn’t hear the wind.
The sun will come up soon, I suppose.
I wonder if your laughter will arrive
With it, a wash of bright colors.

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Fifty

Though the moon seems now
To cycle faster, faster,
Neither days nor nights
Grow any shorter with age
(Only my hair disappears).

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Asters on the Hillside

This year I almost missed the asters,
Their muted purple hazing the hillsides.
Fortunately, once they ignite to bloom,
They burn for weeks; miniature stars,
Life span scaled down with everything else,
Collapsing towards their cores—must be
This increasing density draws me out
Briefly from my early hibernation,
Back to the shortening hours of sunlight
Before they, too, shrink away, dwindle
Down to insignificance. I stand here
On the slope everything will descend
Eventually. Even you will fall
With me among the cold ashes of stars.

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Under the Swollen Moon

It is autumn now, and down by the creek
The trees bend in the northwest wind and wait
For nights to bring frost with long, thin fingers

Wielding scraggled and wispy brushes to
Paint everything with the colours of fire
While clouds roil and stream away in dark wisps

Under the swollen moon crouched on thin legs
At the edge of its wide white web of stars
To hatch a pale brood of spiderlings

Who will spin soon, in long and twisted strands,
Winter storms that freeze the creek and drift snow
Over this grass yellowing and matting

On the bank in the weak afternoon sun
While I remember your lips warm in the night.

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At the End of Day

In the fields oats
bend their heavy heads
at the end of day,
wait for rain
dawdling lasciviously
over the apples
turning red
in the south orchard.

When the rain passes
and the sky clears
we will see what will be
the harvest moon
already
honing its leading edge.

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Old Woman Walking with a Cane

The sun rises to find her on the move
Between the kitchen table and the sink
After buttery toast dipped in hot tea.
Every day she does everything the same.

Between the table and the kitchen sink
She’s carried everything over the years
Every day. She does everything. The same
Motions take longer than they used to now.

She’s carried everything over the years
In a sack stitched from bits of memory.
Going through the motions takes longer now
After more coffins than you’d care to count.

In a sack stitched from bits of memory,
She rummages all the time, distracted—
After more coffins? Perhaps lost her count
At last, this old woman walking with a cane.

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