Mercury moves between the Sun and Earth,
Carves a slice across the night before it's born.
Mailboxes everywhere are empty
While leaves wrack in and out of a bucket
Half-filled with shells, on a sulfur-painted stump.
Vines antiseptically untangle from fences
For fear of thorns, for suspicion of split skin,
For fear of an edge, for the sake of the purge.
Blue tarps howl and tatter, pulled up by a gust
Of smoke, then settle and wrap, forming a husk
Around the orchard and the Sons on ladders
Filling their baskets, inspecting the sky for manna.
Slate begins to fasten the ladders
To the trees and the Sons to the limbs;
Daughters circle singing the Curtain Song,
Looking for thumbs in the field of scattered oats
As if the body burns to touch that which is not
Part of it-the blood of another never to enter.
Keys are tied around their waists with rope
That the skin swallows-many cycles have passed
Since the ropes have been removed.
Mercury disappears. What can't enter the vision
Can't be real. That which remains untouched,
Must not be stitched into a lace slip.
The trees begin to seem gracious-the smoke
Lifts and carries eggs into the atmospheric hand.
Like marbles, like trawling in the air
For fish that aren't, since the vapid fish
Caught and cleaned can turn a squall on its side
And arrange the trees to form a stage
Where the eggs spin forever, never settling,
Where the eggs spin without varying.
The Daughters think rashly of letter openers,
Water fountains, the gesture a mountain makes,
Unopened letters, letter openers slipping
Through bread, bread in a sleeve, hands leading
Bodies up barn ladders to placated twilight,
Bodies up barn ladders to brackish tongues.
SPUTNIK is the first word all babies speak
After they are wrenched free from water,
Left to imbibe milk and nurse scars until they walk.
Many volumes address this phenomenon;
Initially, the cliché of a baby being like a cannonball
Hidden in a pile of other cannonballs
Was struck from the dictionaries
And from the history of language.
All insects and birds fly through this borough
During migration. No exegesis of events
Has been easier to understand. Another planet
Is moving across the firmaments, Sons guess which one.
The Daughters stop singing. The music enters the daffodils.
The speck moving across the sun is no planet
Or bird or cloud, but rather the season's yearly curve
Wrapped around the fists of gods,
Calendars, gunpowder, and contagious weather.
Soon the orchard becomes a valley again,
Soon the orchard's trees are sucked underground
To find fire and foster light into the dark hours.
Then the shape turns into a toe-shaped island.
Then the shape turns into an invisible shoulder tap,
A moth stuck in a jar.
How fictive it seems to those who predicted
Its name. How hollow can a shell cease to be?
How many marry because of some thing
Seen in the mirror of a vault, in the opiate sky?
There's a pandemonium drip where the confined owl
Waits outside the Son's tent, made from a sheet.
His owl looks authentic like the bowl of fake lemons
Placed on a table at Bria Park on the first day of Autumn.
Bluets cycle around the town on this day, too.
Mayors weep for the owl, the fruit, the Daughters,
And all the streets named for Saints.
Little is forgotten because little is known
Of the saints-it steals hope from tear ducts while faces
Are forgotten, as well as the true arrangement
Of their bones in metal boxes, their hearts kept together,
Of their bones wrapped in salt and stiff ribbon.
The Son catches the drip in a dented Dixie cup,
Drinks anodyne as if it's engine oil in a rib canal.
Symbolic suspense often takes the form of a bird
For its own. This bird rarely flies.
Like a bundle of knotted blunt words,
It can thimble the town like a prophet's tongue.
Winter does not force its migration.
Faults prove there's no such thing as panoply of moon,
Drowsy children, or closely clipped ducktails.
"Fine anthropological specimen," was the first thing
The son thought while rolling in the grass with the Daughter.
Her heart might one day be cut out and put into a box.
Her heart might one day be bled to a twist
Meant to be worn around his neck
After the gutters overflow with melted snow.
"Events built around normality can go awry
On any sunless day," the foreman said climbing
Through the back entrance tunnel
To the Graphite Rod Factory.
"You can't send a man to the moon
With only the profits from a rummage sale."
Cotton bales bawl throughout the cadenced night.
Daughters have become Mothers
While trying to determine
A formula for bottling Sculptural Energy.
Like a petting zoo and not having hands,
The energy made the fecund air counterproductive
And as unwelcome fluids tend to stain the air
One cotton bale bawling becomes the cadenced night.
Looking up, wondering where the looping music
Originates, the Children throw rocks
At each other and stand as if undiluted
By the smells of the pastures and orchards.
All greeting cards and lunchboxes and whalebones
Prove this external structural fact.
Voice of a man (once thought to be trapped
In a tree, deep in the orchard): "Radiance all around!"
His shoes are canvas and stitched
With fiddle strings from before the war
And the catalogue of language changed.
Tone used to be a stepped-on fork stuck in the sidewalk.
Now, tone's a white grease rag, which if seen from a mile,
Would be the color of a pyramid of teeth.
And if the pyramid of teeth had a door,
Its lock would be carved from chicken bones
And above the entrance, a sign:
"Weep for tears are only uncolored blood"
And the town scribe would carve
These words into all of the gravemarkers
Until something better comes along
And the concrete would be filled with putty.
There is no tone in this cemetery,
Except for this phrase, in big letters,
Overlooking the monuments:
"Serpents sleep on beds made from dilemma books."
But there are no reptiles here, no water.
Abundant fodder, but the lake's a dried up oxbow,
Only a dust stem and the hulls of cars
(Once driven into the lake) crack
Under the curving presence of the sun's lips.
Numbers grate ears like a picture
Of a glass of water left in a freezer
Almost to the point of becoming ice.
Voice of a woman (once thought to be afloat
In the ocean): When I walk the dog and shut
My eyes, there are forms that spider-web
Everywhere. Geese fly into the eyes of omnipotence.
The nest needs the bird's scavenging techniques.
The Daughter says she and the oak could swim in words
For hours, but the dog tugs her off down the lane
And her house is burning. Ashes still pour smoke
But there are people she can invite herself to stay with.
Until Mercury returns, money has been stapled
Under leper rugs and mousetraps.
Shadows of flying birds trick the town,
Make them think the curve has bent
Across the world again. "Without gods, no culture,"
Someone says and says again on the news
And it appears in one-sided papers where tomorrow's
News is on the other side, waiting to be read
Like a kink in a rope, like a knot in a wall.
Those deemed without technique
During this phase agree, but they are the ones
With faces painted on their fingertips.
When their shadows appear on the North,
They can take up typewriters again and create news
Presumed only to contain shabby aphorisms,
Presumed only to contain textured cholera.
Airplanes have the same result as metallic birds
Only there are no nests and the shadows
Can shade more accurately than hummingbirds.
The pilots have lives and wives filled with rage.
Of "rage," there are two types, not interchangeable,
But the papers prefer the violent, ignoring nothing.
During this season, the pilots panic in pews,
The newswriters pack up their duffel bags and move
Into the Cimmerian night. The ground, once solid, shifts
And a stone surfaces as if sliding out of a mouth
From under a tongue kept quiet because of its size.
A congregation gathers in an automatic manner.
Someone pokes the stone like a forbidden fruit,
The anonymity (and generalizing) of "fruit" saved a species.
Along the path, there's room for this final stone
Right by the lakebed. And the Daughters and Sons
Unshoe themselves, walk down, paired off,
A fist for each hand. The birds choose extinction.
A shadow moves across the ground. A mirror is under the dust.
The wind pushes the mirror into view and the Children curl
On its reflection. The children coil into harvest sleep.