My Rose of Sharon has gone dormant,
Thin and spindly as
The many masts of sailing ships
Gone to port in winter
That I’ve seen in paintings,
So I’ll be a long time waiting
In the black flowers of my days
For summer and its lavender napkins
To be waving their rare promise.
It’ll be some time before my company
Of wasps is returning to their small pueblos
Tucked under the wooden struts of the fence.
Evening, and I’m standing near the smoking
Pile of compost with a flashlight watching
For new things and thinking of myself
Weighed down by dirt. Cold,
I’ll have to go in, probably watch Jimmy Stewart,
Stuttering to run a Savings and Loan,
And dark Barrymore in his chair, scrunching
His bushy eyebrows, clutching his rumpled blankets,
A familiar story helping us cross over the river
Where feelings try to rise like drowned bodies
Worn, now, unspecific, pale and lumpy.
At times I can’t help wishing a different life
Where I mastered a second language
Or learned to make a cello moo precisely.
What I am doing is trying to get out of the way,
Grow small enough to gust high
As ashes blowing east
Come another dawn’s decent wind.
What I’m doing is trying to make
These little constructions to collapse easily
Down to the deepest margin of my page.
I know late, again, I’ll be scanning my papers,
Arranging the light here and then there, lifting
My sharpest of scissors, putting them down,
Taking care with my fingers.
For now, I’ll be awhile standing
For nothing but myself,
With my one hand glowing,
Breath blossoming into air, just feeling
The good suspicion of my neighbors,
Just watching the moon slip
Another cloud-braided halter,
Just prodding this word or that
Where it lies in my head
Like a flatulent ass or an ox
That’s not minding the flecks of blood
All around but just chewing the night straw
Burning like gold from the lips.
–“Holiday,” D. James Smith