“If there were a middle ground between things and the soul
or if the sky resembled more the sea,
I wouldn’t have to scold.
my heavy daughter.”
—Dream Song 385, John Berryman
Bonds of booze latched behind beveled wood
and glass. All day, the window; the bare
ground hard as iron; the woods, still
stone crosses. Strangely sentient, the un-
plugged telephone near the sleeping cat;
daughter drags in the latest cold from school,
mittening a paper collage of winter stars.
All night crystals dune at our door.
Morning, I get up from writing near the window
(the Christmas cactus flames) walk across
cold maple, slip on wool-lined boots and open
biting December. Warmth from the house vapors
into God-rutted cornfields: ivory Sahara.
I trot pushing daughter on her sled, icing
a run. I backfall into a drift, drunken with cold.
(from The Dryland Fish, 1st World, 2003)
Each day I come to the end of this pier,
to the tarry fragrance of rotting planks
and shellfish, to kick the sand carried here
by my shoes into the Atlantic.
I love that sound–not like the ocean
frying rocks on the beach–but that fizz,
manmade, sand peppering water. The motion
of ships in the drizzle
is huge and slow. Burdened with ore
they seem asleep. I hate my life. Sweating or
to scar this painless existence:
this is the air browned by the steel mill
at the end of the tongue. This is death.
(First published in The MacGuffin, Volume VIII, Number 1, Spring 1991 as “December: The Shore.”)