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Nest of Songs

I want to nestle you in the songs of orioles,

Weaving mating calls across the maples

Their voices concolorous, suasive,

Wheedling leaves from enchanted trees.

This house withstood the test of isolation

Four seasons and one more

With just some paint peeling off the walls,

But not you; you whittled in silence

With the wall of one sentence: “I do not know.”

Yet, here we are, above the ground,

Suspended between spring songs tangling

In air all around the garden and the streets,

Palms of the magnolia opening to say, “Hold this.”

                                    31 March 2021

This October, winnowing

The day has shortened, hours are

Books between tightened bookends,

Light slants into the under-growth.

The sun places its last kiss on the roses

As insects devour their dying leaves.

And so the summer sighs into fall:

This is the autumn I have no words for.

Apple picking, meals with friends—

Distant memory. Fear gnaws at the heart.

The virus, like a sickness of the conscience

Has spread together with the war among

The righteous. Hope rattles its inflamed lungs.

Justice coughs, kindness wheezes and spits,

Faith plays double game with oath

And governance, truth has lost both legs.

*

I see us dancing in the kitchen years ago,

Salted vine leaves on the wooden board, herbs,

Mother holding house the way the breast-bone

Covers the heart from whatever could strike,

Father calling for the music, “Children, where

Is the cassette?” We were on Helen Street.

There are calls. There is silence during

The calls. There are quiet walks in the garden

After the calls. The virus roams.

The sun has shortened its working hours.

Time pushes its bookends of light closer

Together. Many will not see the winter.

*

We walk around the yew tree. Blue jays

Hide inside tight-wound branches.

The back garden is a busy landing strip.

A cardinal perches on the kitchen rails,

The chipmunk family argues in the gutters

By the stairs, crickets in widened cracks

Sing away the nights in the basement,

As I pace upstairs in the dark kitchen;

A wood-pecker knocks on the dormer:

Here is the harvest brought by these

Visiting creatures—memories squirreling

Their freedoms away:

Now I see her, never happy on her own

But glowing whenever we were with her,

I see her taking her smile from our faces.

                                       –October 2020

Waiting for Spring

Under the last of the snow the trees

Wiggle their roots; the warming sieve

Awakens branches and their twigs

That stood numb with cold for months.

Last evening before supper

Half a dozen young deer galloped

Through the yard, their sound

A surprising stampede of happiness.

Booming birdsong, as if the hearing

Itself has sharpened in our bodies,

And windows are raised, doors flung open,

Our eyes train on imagining new buds.

But it is fraught, all is fraught this spring

When the mind rushes everything in

To offer consolation: when the blue jay

Is perceived to have arrived to cheer us up.

We have not left the island in one year,

No one has crossed our threshold,

We remained closed in, in the house,

The way the trees seem dead in winter.

Half a million dead: who can count on

The accuracy of the number?

The earth groans with the cadavers of those

Who last year went about their worries

With notepads filled with things to do,

Bills to pay, families to feed–

Just when the world came to a halt

“only temporary” like an unplanned vacation.

 25 February 2021