Monday, June 1, 2009

The White Horse of Uffington

Forever broken, this curve of turf,
by lines deep carved
in centuries of chalk—
white as if some crazed garden path
circling to nowhere
ran amuck among the eternal sheep. 

Sheep farmers with pick and spade,
from below in the valley, come
as they have always come—
through lavender and mustard seasons,
past the iron hill fort they
come up from their fields.

Fields once oxen plowed, now
stitched together by railways,
pinned in the corners by roundabouts.
Here Roman legions once camped,
gawked at Epona’s steed, at her people
come to clear the chalk.

Chalk horse steady on the hill
as it has always been, seven year
to seven year. Wide now, the body,
then narrow necked—
one tender hoof stretched out—
running full tilt, forever.

Originally published in  Full of Crow, June 2009

Those Dream Houses

When you dream of houses—of thick-walled
stucco bungalows skulking across Sonoma,
the gingerbread and bric-a-brac fantasies
of New England, or cold French villas
beside greying seas—you should

dream, too, of bleached linoleum, unpolished
spoons, of dry tangerines in wire baskets,
the velvet dust of shelves and thumb-licked
books, the strange machinery
of basements.

When you walk in dreamt hallways,
between undiscovered rooms where
the etched light of dim lamps picks rust
off iron bedsteads and lingers
over the many-fingered clocks,

you should dream as well of the closets—
filled, as they are, with feathers
and peeling sequins, hatboxes,
failed prom dresses, the detritus
of mousey sweaters, cedar shavings.

And when the dreaming takes you
to hopeless chests never meant
for a bride—where soft-edged cards
of sewing needles and a grandmotherly
jar of mixed buttons horde their

dreams of usefulness—then,
and only then, will you understand
the sharp wit of broken windows,
and the clean-swept floors

of an unfurnished mind.

This poem first appeared in  Full of Crow, June 2009.

Living in the hour of the wolf

I am tumbling in that awkward moment
between the owls and larks, when sleep
is held at bay by shadows of things
undone and all the could-have-beens,
tensed toward morning, still on guard
against the nightmare and all her ponies.

I have been washed in salt-watered
worry, crumpled by the daily
uncertainties, a dandelion wanting
the morning, hoping for
coffee-sweet gossip and soft
scandals not my own.

I will whisper into darkness,
pull my tattered icons around me,
facing the silver wrinkles in the river
of my life and move on,
always thirsty to name that well

from which I dare not drink.

Originally published in Full of Crow, June 2009.


          You are all the same to us,
solitary, standing above us, planning
your silly lives. . . . Louise Gl├╝ck

You can argue the finer points
of hoe or hand trowel, thrust
reluctant fingers into
our prickly intentions
and pull,
but this means nothing to us.

You seek solace in the docile flowers,
the whispers of the wood violet,
the reverie of roses,
the sunflowers hanging guilty heads
by future generations;

but we will not be silenced. We are blue
voices repeated, rising: from
the last white taproot, from
each silky seed thumbing
a ride
on the wind.

Blind weeders of tame gardens,
you are all the same to us.  
We are savage daughters of the
mother: we crowd the columbine,
bite bare ankles, tangle your thyme.
We wear purple. 
You are never safe
from our sharp critique.

This poem first appeared in  Full of Crow, June 2009.