The little sister of the
teenager with gauged ears
has bought two paperbacks.
She gives a dollar to
the tattooed cowboy
playing classical guitar.
Old fired brick floors
cradle our feet.
We will wait here until
the westbound train arrives
here in this little town
without vending machines.
The granddaughter of the
bookseller holds up her skirt and
dances.

Sole mate,
partner
friend for the road
leather tramp,
we met
along the Way,
wayward
brother sister.
Home
hearth
health
dimming
behind
yet
homeward
pull,
hurling
us
heavenward,
hoisting
our haunches
through hills
and haunted
valleys.

Each leaf
is an aperture
of light.
Buds open
to admit the sun.
Each green leaf
courts light.

In autumn
the golden leaf of aspen
clocks the measured hours of day,
each gold leaf
witness to
the sun’s
divided loyaties.

 

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There are waves
that beat against
a wooden vessel
like the mallets
that beat a story
And in the hold
there are bodies
bolted down

And when the waves roll
and the ship rocks
there’s a clang of iron
like a hammer
coming down

There are waves
that rock against
a wooden vessel
and there’s moaning
in the hull

There’s an anchor
and a landing
iron clanging
voices coughing
as the ship’s hands
haul the bodies
in to dock

There’s a market
and an auction
and a mallet
like a hammer
striking
when a deal
is rung

There is iron
flesh
and silver
and a hammer
striking
“done”

There are judges
in the markets
walking aisles
to weigh
the cargo’s
worth

Then
there’s iron
shoulder
muscle
and a bullwhip
lashing
flesh

There are feet
that strike
the earth
like mallets
and there’s rhythm
in their labor
like the raging
in the wind storm
striking hull
and mast

There’s a roar
that shatters
iron—
and arms
that hoist a new flag
and there’s thunder
in a trumpet
blast

There’s a vessel
plowing oceans
with a stolen
human cargo
and there still
are many more
to come

There’s work in making a guitar.
It’s mostly in the bending,
steaming the wood
until it curves like an hourglass.
Trees bend to the wind and rain
like wood shaped and fitted
to sing. Wood yields to the song,
to the air that rushes through it.
Wood resonates with a player’s breath,
a finger’s touch.
Surely Mary did no more,
no less, when she said:
“Be it done unto me
according to thy word.”

Nails are silent
till the hammer swings.
Muscle whets muscle
when music rings.

Rocks won’t sing
till the riverbed fills.
Water wears rock
as it rolls downhill.

Flute can’t speak
till you hollow the bone:
Finger the holes
and blow through the bore!

Iron sharpens iron
in a forge called life.
Nails are silent
till the hammer strikes.

After harvest, talking flutes announce the wrestling season.
Villagers gather to flute tunes by moonlight
to watch their young men wrestle.
The wrestlers’ bodies glow like molten bronze;
their muscles are ripe as millet, full to the husk.
All summer, their arms planted and reaped.
Now, like the musician, who first carves a flute,
then fills it with his breath,
the wrestlers stand apart,
then improvise and flex.

I know women and girls who walked five miles
To gather water. After market, they stopped
At a well next our house to replenish jars;
Then balancing, walked smoothly westward.
I sat on the doorstep to see the sunset:
Their silhouettes wavered through the millet,
Sky and field rushed in gold and salmon,
Their silhouettes flickered like blue flames.

A neighbor used to watch. I thought he
Relished in the sun, as I did, and the smell
Of sunset, which is yeast and resin.
I respired air rank with amber liquor, but
He was inebriated with the female figures,
And when the women disappeared,
The colors swarming in the sky went out
As if their wicks had crumpled.

Now a woman walks.
Her legs move through the dark
like twin canoes
riding ocean waves.
Now a lamp hums.
Around a globe
a microcosm of the daylit world
clusters: woman, man,
and a team of insects
that beat against the globe
like children’s feet against a soccer ball.
Rainbow-colored insects,
night is a blue wood
peppered by your wings
numerous as salt grains
in the ocean water.

The corral is empty now.
Blue-gray wood, weathered and worn,
corrals the grass.
Only a buffalo
gourd flower
lies tethered here—
her enormous white trumpet
lifted.