Birds from All the Days You’ve Lived
The wind drew its long hair across the bedroom floor,
but the bedroom was outside now, as the houses were scattered
and the floors of the houses were splintered, and the windows
were out there in the field, where windows are nothing
but the wind, whose long hair had been dyed gray
by the rivers it had moved through. And so we could no longer
read in the dim light with a cup of tea.
And so we could no longer listen to music
in the morning at the dining room table, ignoring
the newspaper’s nothingness and sales-events, and we could
no longer talk to the gesture, we could only
imitate the faces. The wind’s hair was freshly washed
but it wasn’t yet braided.
I was walking up the mountain
behind you who were talking about the stones you’d visited
up here and over there, back behind that clump of trees—
stones that held the birds that must have been flying
before there was anything like us, flying overhead
before the rules were made, singing and flying,
birds that were caught now. It was a field of boulders.
So we sat there through the afternoon, we dozed there, and when we woke—
the birds were everywhere; they had long strands of hair
in their beaks, there were so many birds I couldn’t move
without touching feathers, and when I moved
the birds flew up, casting darkness, and then
they settled down again. You were crying, pulling out your hair
and holding out your hand so the birds could take the strands
and fly off. They are not birds with names, you said,
when I started to thumb through our guide book; they are birds
from all the days you’ve lived, birds from so far back
inside you the days themselves have vanished. They still live there,
way back inside you, and when we clap our hands
they’ll fly back inside, though it will look like they’re flying up
into the sky. You clapped then and watched,
sitting on those warm rocks, that held themselves more still
when we were sitting on them than they did as we walked away
up the mountain, where we camped beside a waterfall
that rushed past so loudly
we had to gesture to be heard.
We all know stories of people who’ve turned into things
like trees, who woke up as an insect or a bear,
a river or a whole field of flowers.
And of course we’ve heard stories of people turned to ashes
and snow—snow falling, snow covering the ground
in deep drifts we could tunnel through, almost disappearing there.
One winter the snow was so deep in our town
we had to climb out our windows and up
to the surface, a vast expanse with just
the top branches of a few tall trees sticking through.
If we fell through the crust, we might tumble through the white
too deep to climb back out. There were birds in mid-flight there
and dogs standing still, as though the snow had caught them
in a flash. But when the snow melted, years later,
everything returned to normal, though the rivers
were swollen at first with dogs and debris.
There were ponds in the woods for a few weeks; they became
fields of flowers when they vanished, full of buzzing beeswhich taught us something else, something harder
The Measured Breathing
And so I understand, at least for a moment,
how something and nothing can sometimes be reversed,
as I understand nothing: The black in a crow’s wing
works like my own deepest sleep when I wake
beyond mere self, that black like the waves
lifting their shoulders in a sudden swell of memory
or just a sudden swell. If everything we needed
were real, those delicate yellow-bellied birds
might fly through this thicket without brushing anything
and I might come home to a house full of absence
and meet all the people I’ve loved, sitting there
in the bodies they had then, but stuffed now with straw,
propped up and grinning. As my body too
is stuffed with dry grass, which pokes through my clothes.
I was hungry and you fed me—just enough to survive
until I was only what I am now, disappeared
into the music behind all this sound,
as the trees are connected to the trees of their past
through roots and branches and leaves—without thinking
anything we’d ever recognize as thinking,anything we’d recognize: a place beyond this air.
He had walked the empty beach for miles,
gathering driftwood branches, interesting
shapes and contortions.
But now he’d grown tired, so he put the bundle down
and stepped in for a swim. And though he waded far out,
the water didn’t deepen beyond his waist,
so he kept walking, until he’d stepped up
onto a sandbar, almost out of sight,
beyond which the water dropped off, dropped deep.
He could see large fish swimming there, creatures
with dog-and-bird faces, with ravenous eyes,
pink-fleshed and grunting, too large to swim
into the shallows he’d waded through.
The winds had picked up, and he wondered if maybe
he should swim out there, leap out, just to see what
might happen, before the darkness fell
and the houses in the dunes started filling up with fireflies,
as though they were dreaming, which they did every night now,
though few people noticed. Instead he turned back
and waded in, grown chilly, and walked home empty-handed,
so he could tell stories about
the driftwood he’d gathered, and the fish he’d almost swum with.
And what about the fireflies? No one would believe him.
He was almost naked. That beach glowed like the moon.
the book I
continue intending to read
a wilderness of
bushes we planted just a year ago,
we intend somebody
to live beside
too tightly to
sleep, or wake in an unfamiliar
that flesh no plot,
She talked about
the faces we've memorized so well
He said he could
hear what people were saying
He told me he
could recognize my heart beat
He said he could
hear the unexplored terrain inside:
landing, singing in patterns
daughter came home