Sunday, February 2, 2014

II. conversations with ghosts in situ

gray bayou. somewhere between baton rouge and new orleans.  january, 2014.

laughing, that's right 
yes they were, they were  
laughing them in, laughing 
at prairie dog town fork 
when the soaking rains came 
and laughing as they skimmed 
over the red river mark, 
bluewings in the flyway 
funneling into the sun, 
onward to the gulf they flew
on their way home to galveston.

yesterday as today
some didn't stay, some strayed
but most were homeward bound—
or trying to discover such a place
as you, dear ones—and yearned
for rest near the bayous
in the years when
an ocean of big bluestem
and land-locked mariners
in prairie schooner flotillas
that blazed new trails in the grasses.
rasps, sighs, barks—palm, pine, shorebird—
joined the clicks and moans
of freewinging above
corridors of flatwoods, clear

lovely ones, you remain—many did not—
secure in your sugar palace
in the company of the fittest oaks
in moss, dark linked
with the others, equals free at last
you flit the night air over shadow gardens,
whip over batture, over bound mississippi
a land disfigured, levee swollen
witness an iliad of loss;
what does losing mean, losing
your hundred thousand acres, the taste
of beeless honey in your mouth
losing yourself and all

yesterdays and tomorrows, colorblind
days indistinguishable blend
no longer circle dancing with sun and moon.
i too will unlearn that
and this: the difference, little birds, between
when we played with our mothers' cast-offs
played we know better, grown-up is better
how we longed to be like them, to speed up time
to be like them, we thought we had
all the time in the world
and when that black & white dream dissolved into

awareness of your alluvial caress, you
washed over me like the grains of sand and soil
that crumbled and bled out of your saccharum fields
and rose again in riverbed waves of mud
breaking me routinely, routinely hypnotizing me
your breathing a sound that was silence
scattering my thoughts piece by piece
you put me together again
o beautiful blackness, together we glide
though you don't light long enough.
my senses long to interrupt
the perennial part of amaranthine stillness
i struggle to hear the sere reed, interpret
the raw glaze tuning your throat
but everything's garbled, the connection obscured.

About This Poem

While in Texas, I was thinking about how the Texas prairie was lost, lost like so many people, in a relatively short time. Scientists, environmentalists, and other individuals who recognize the benefits of prairie grass and wetland habitats along the Central Flyway are working to bring a little bit of prairie back to the Houston area. Driving down the coast of Louisiana, you don't have to go far to find a ghost or two. I recently got to know a few on their own turf, around the sugar plantations near the Mississippi River, and added them to my personal circle of ghosts. Water, wind, birds, live oaks, sugarcane, native grasses—where you find these, you will also find the other ones. They seem to belong out there with the natural world they once roamed (not in creepy crypts or dark alleys—New Orleans can keep those!), nature and spirit no longer lost to each other, but reunited. So that's what I did, brought them together again.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I. conversations with ghosts serene

do you remember nightfall on the coldest
night of the coldest year, the wind
after howling
the entire day
us climbing
between smooth, frosty sheets
frigid toes and feet overlapped
like the child's game with stacked hands
only this time the bottom one wins

after an evening in front of the fire
remember—you do, don't you?—
the many faces lit bright and hot
equal measure
of flame and fierce bonds
love beyond the sting, the frozen froth
of seawater, the stoney peaks, the abandoned
mill, the silent fields
dead above
but not below

there is a sound
that comes to me, no sound
you or i have ever heard before, a cry
like laughter, laughter
like a cry
to penetrate all chill—frightening?
no....bold, knowing—
it is time to listen to them
let them in
—the grandmothers, mothers, cousins
aunts, daughters, friends—they are here

expecting us to set off, become
part of the bluecold landscape
but we will risk
linking tears, laughter
sorrowjoy mixed along a calendar
of days telling where to go and when
and how one minute we're shivering
the next we're wiping sweat off our necks