Plain American Language

I cut a sliver/of WC William's finger
and placed it inside/my philosophy...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Unknown Bird (I saw this phrase in an Elizabeth Bishop poem)

The unknown bird sits atop leaves
and leaves of green--jays, pigeons
scooting up against the windows
the swooping, leaving
imprints indicating: birds, birds
this is the oven of us all,
four hundred degrees we simmer
in juices savory with lemon and dill.
Summer bakes us and will never treat us well.


Beneath the daytime, people pass each other
on the street. "No one smiles back at you,"
my friend complained. "No one says hi." We
watch as the ladies and gentlemen in
seersucker and fashionable period-dress
cycle by--we snap photos, imprint our
eyes on each gaunt hat and they are
changes as wood drifting down the river changes,
becomes the last sign of life, entering the ocean.


If I can swing it, my next lecture
will be titled: For My Next Trick: Residual
Patterns like Electricity Buried beneath the Wood.
Each word will contain sequences,
like bath and both and bother,
path, pith, patter, late, loath, lover.
Judge whether the path in the woods
with broken branches that are stormy weather,
leads out or simply further. The way
gets dark. It is an unabashed lover.


The most extreme weather I can think of
is a tornado. When I was young, I looked
out at the tail of Hurricane Emily wagging
darkness and almost filling up the drain pipes.
To have ripped off the roof of a school, to
gauge out the lungs, veins, of trees makes
nature seem overlordish, though it is not, though
we are making it be this way, us, caressing
as two pieces of used uranium nestled in their bed of shale
forgetting, later, that they never had known other than this.

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