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From Mechanical Fireflies:

I set up my desk in the woods and write

At night the moon blooms the shape
of a mind.

There are fragments of words
beneath tumbled apples
fermenting by the stream’s edge.

I count wasps landing on the rotting fruit,
separating the remains into different
stages of decomposition.

And once, in late evening, I watch a coyote
feasting on a dead doe at the wood’s edge.
The coyote has the face of an old man.

Or sometimes it is morning and I write
about the discarded skin of a hognose snake
by the fallen hickory.

Bacteria and fungi are claiming
the dead wood. Witches’ butter, split-gilled
mushrooms, tricholomas.

Or I write about my youngest child
and what comes to mind is dandelion, feather, dragonfly.

Or about my wife: leaf wind, stream, alluvial.

Or sometimes it is winter and the ghosts
are riding the snow coming down.

There is something here they forgot,
something that spoke to them once.

The flakes become whatever they long
to become, the ground accepting
whatever it can manage, clinging.

And I listen to the ghosts in the woods
then try to write down what they say.

Snow in winter like a doe’s underbelly.
The skittish coyote with its blood mask.

Carnal Knowledge

This morning the crows were calling
from the woods. I thought of Degas
in his final years, his eyesight failing,
so much of his art of women bathing,
while the crows called out from somewhere
I couldn’t see. Late in life—his deteriorating
eyesight keeping him from sketching
any longer in the evenings—Degas worked
on larger and larger compositions. In one
piece a woman is just out of the bath
and drying her left foot, which is hoisted
against the lip of a blue tub, and the woman’s
left breast is pressed against her left thigh,
and her brown-red hair is tumbling down
her back. The first time I saw the female form
outside of photographs, I was fifteen and at
a friend’s house when by mistake I walked
in on his older sister in the bathroom. She was
naked except for white socks she was removing,
and water was running in the bath. Although
I had not heard of Degas or seen his art, I
later imagined the girl drying her naked legs
with a towel, pictured her with her back arched
and her chin nearly touching her outstretched
knee, her left arm angling behind her while
her right arm pressed a towel to a naked foot.
Or perhaps I imagined her washing her breasts
above a pale green basin, or combing her long
hair after a wash, or bathing in a shallow tub
or in the sea at dusk, or drying her hair while
an older woman brought her something steaming
in a cup, the crows calling out from somewhere
in the distance, a tuft of hair sprouting from
between her legs like the nest of a wild bird.

 

Read more sample poems from Possum Nocturne
or Black Tupelo Country and Where We Come From.