for Kenneth Miller
Last of its kind on the eastern coast,
White wood bolted across the river,
Made to pivot when schooners passed downriver to the bay.
Boys jumped from the railings.
Or dove forty feet from peak
Into water snagged and quartered-off by pilings.
I never heard that any drowned
Or died against the wood,
But the boy who lived to father me
Split his back open on a bolt
And sent his older brother home to warn their mother
Who never fainted anyway.
Loblollies sway and whistle like old men asleep.
Where the wood bridge was, concrete cuts
Across a river nearly silted shallow.
You're the one they always sent to warn your mother.
Last night, away from your mother who never fainted,
Away from your brothers and sisters and slow, small towns
You held a gun and shot yourself.
After this, what should my father warn his mother of?
February: Two rooms
White cold room whose only windows lead
to other white cold rooms where
the masters of the body wash and wash their hands.
I lay myself down on the white table, having asked
that the early-dying bones of my right knee
be taken from me. I have asked the masters
for a hinge instead, made from materials that
never lived. White cold room where I am given
walking toward my own old age.
Room with windows nearly everywhere,
stories up, level with the trees outside. Winter morning,
grey-lit, early light, another early morning waking up
to pain, but soft pain, just the body slow at learning
how it might accept the foreignness of hinging. Snow outside,
the flakes almost the color of the light itself. A hawk
lights on a branch, almost the color of the branch, and
stares, hawkishly, down at unraked leaves,
watching for movement underneath.
Small birds gather on the closest tree, speak to one another,
chatter and argue. One bird shakes itself, then settles, shakes again,
takes off, dives at the hawk. Which shakes it off and returns to
staring. The bird dives again, the hawk settles again.
Two birds dive the hawk, then five. The hawk settles, stares,
shakes the small birds off, settles, stares. All the small flock
throw themselves at hawk. It rises off the branch,
arrows off for other yards. The small birds, wrens, I think, or sparrows,
take turns watching for our cats, and pecking among dried leaves and
sparse snow for what they might find. The snow stops.
They're out there, the trees
Busy chewing away
At a sky they can't hope to swallow,
Spitting it back out
Right through the windows
And under my eyes-masticated morning.
Sunbeams spit their wakey selves through curtain cracks
Spraying everywhere else, glaring through the sheets,
Snarling my hair as if I slept in a cat's gullet,
Playing its wet fingers in my ear,
Startling my gut awake.
I roll over like a rhino in a wallow.
You're there. You grin.
I don't kill you.