blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1




          I’d like to get away from earth awhile
          And then come back to it and begin over.

          —Robert Frost, “Birches”

A fly lands on my hand   it’s how I got here   sleeping outside
past ten A.M.   Dreaming how the colorless shirts still snap on the line

Geese fly out of the fog
an undertow of bright green snakes heads inland
the trees bordering the big lake writhe with them

And the wind has to die   even though last evening didn’t kiss the shadows
on the dunes like snow singing through a chandelier
your favorite kind of delicate midnight might boomerang back

Those moths falling like snowflakes in Green Bay    
a newspaper blown flat against the wolves’ cage    
corrugated metal warehouse    
chicory dwindling toward nightfall 
a clapboard coffeehouse where a girl stands up during a dream she’s having
about a punctured water tower

And the Saints who are dying   And the Birds who are drinking   

She goes looking for the desert
and finds it miles deep in Lake Michigan
she finds the opening     she finds the moon
let’s just say she finds a place amongst stones
guarded by fish
she has a bag of letters she keeps reading   moving her fingers
over the ink inside this elevated tank     it’s a dark echo . . .

The wind thinks her cage is a larger stone
egg twisted inside the sound of a car backfiring
two fistfuls of birds like a body in praise  
a current of air ruffles the wolves’ manes    

Remember when she washed the shirts
and they came out with extra color     the way the edges of the paper
cut her blisters     opening an envelope makes a sound like fire

Straight-line winds   someone in the Midwest had a thought
and then the heat piled on heat piled on cold and
there was a wreckage of minds    

There’s an apple the bees enter on a green bed of moss
metal ladders bending open like a slow divination under black clouds
but everyone sleeping sees a tornado eventually    look at the way the sap
      pours from the pines
horses foaming on place mats      boys on rafts land in the wash

They tap the screens in the neighborhoods looking for milk
a fever cuts open water    I mean a ferry bound for Ludington
a bale of hay bristles around an apple’s knot of bees on deck    
somebody planted it there

And the Birds who are watching, and the Saints who are sleeping . . .

It towers on deck like the shadow of an angry crowd
it sits humming in its hole of air
like a bullet spinning back into its chamber

It’s late 2001 so the bale is quickly tossed
it hangs over the water like a pregnancy    
it throbs with the internal buzzing of bees
when it hits the green water it bursts into silver flames people can feel
driving the Mackinaw Bridge because they have their radios
tuned to frequencies that sound like light bulbs popping . . .  

They can feel the sound with the tips of their fingers   

They let go of their steering wheels
a girl presses her thumbs on her doll’s hard plastic eyes    
Miss Olive is blind she tells her sister    

The Central Intelligence Agency
guitars breaking over the hull    
Upper Peninsula feedback the girls’ older brother predicts    

The bees blow small air bubbles to live in
they can feel the crushing weight of the water pressure
inside the doomed tower
that is why they are so yellow and bright the last minutes of dusk
splinters of color    thistles and lightning     the first hours of morning
the stolen hours of midnight
a sphinx dreams she is an amphetamine of stingers . . .

I sleep with my hands in a puddle near the downspout     several frogs
      see them     
without expression they decide there are too many frogs

They make calculations the way a computer wishes it could    
the snakes rub their chins along
the causeway of my many blisters     they sip the tears from
my eyes     but when the bale hits the water out in the lake the flames disperse
a girl wearing overalls is watching    
she splits her cocoon    black snarl like a short blackening the deck

It is eight ticks from dark     she opens a green envelope and blows in it    
everyone on board is afraid of the powder in her hair    
she looks light as an alewife     
she keeps shifting and setting her wings
she grips a guy wire on deck      I notice her legs are bare
they are semi-translucent
then they turn dark as water inside a ship’s hold     I still believe she is dangerous
I have the shivers     I’m halving quarters with a pair of bolt cutters 

Fog crosses the boughs of the cedars     the snakes spit out my tears and dive
under the grass     they spool out scorched and flip over the deck railing
they write words in the air falling
then they fade like everything else     the girl with her blind doll
closes her eyes in the car’s back seat    She touches her eyelids   
she listens to the rushing water
I put one half of a quarter inside her mouth     it is an act gentle as
      teenagers kissing
the frogs stare with miscomprehension    an idea stuck like a polar ice cap
light years of space between eyeball and gray matter

A woman whose car has been blown off an expansion bridge
drifts into her coffin plush with spilling
she sinks like a flotilla of bruised roses
love burns in the flaming water     not a frog blinks
she touches the place where the hair thins near a young deer’s groin    
she is kissed by a boy in the vacated lighthouse  

Cars stream over the bridge under the shadows of army planes
a spotlight roves the dark-bellied  clouds
a woman says Welcome to the bat cave
I have visited the desert and you can’t live on earth
without feeling love     the girl has her bag of letters
she leaves puddles on the floor in the pool hall in Green Bay

A young man with a voice like wind through pine needles
speaks in a whisper     Now you’ve come back but while you
were gone the water in the bay
pulled something tidal     it leaped out of its grave
is the real story     people in their beds had Charlie-horses
tears popped out of the skin under their shoulders
they were still dreaming when the electricity flared
the spigots spit dust and ground bone
birds went insane inside the empty water tower
and the ringing is just now stopping
in the elementary school the children just open their
books of stacked numbers     pages and pages of predictions
no trace of pulp in the paper        that night a girl fills a wheelbarrow with clothes
   to burn
she breaks into the post office     they’d issued a stamp
with a plow blade under an orange moon silhouetting a crow
The universe had yet to be set into motion
it was a shining equation

Now the ferry heaves open under a flapping of wings
smoke freezes where it pours from the school teacher’s house
piano dangled over a break-wall of stones
the metal door falls and makes a sound like a pile of bones shaking
the cars with their hopeful lights dim and sputter
they idle out of the ship’s piss-colored maw

The hay burns sinking and the bees dream of
rising     (the frogs think long and hard
and happily come up with a single image in which they see only
themselves)     it’s a day quiet as knives   the steel moored
in a harbor just before war     the wolves sleep in their wood houses
they feel the earth quiver     they know what they know with the pads
of their feet     even in daylight the school books in town
are really nothing but dust   fish begin spraying from the splitting ball
   of the water tower . . .

And the Birds who are dying, and the Saints who are rising . . .

She’d come back from the desert      she left puddles in that pool hall
but ten minutes later even the peanut shells were dry as desert spit
the girl opened her wings     now she moves her fingers over my eyelids

She says The life you’ve been living isn't even good for you . . .

There is a white dog in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, sleeping on a flannel
sheet on the floor with a woman whose daughter is a crucifix of blown fuses
she can’t move or close her eyes   weeds grow through cracks in her driveway

The daughter sees an orange moon hanging over the water tower
rust filters down over the grass  
there is an explosion of metal and breaking concrete   
water runs over the roots
her pillow turns black under her head    the ragged crows cry and fan out

They drop shadows in the valley where the water pours off the daughter’s bed
like feathers over the mother’s fat ankles     she twitches in her sleep
even the dreaming dog frets and moves his feet . . .    

But when I turn to face east I see only rain and a blur of leaves . . .

There is the roar of the night singing
the wind cutting hard over the blades of the dunes
the sound the storms make of the lake all November . . .

The cold earth steams under the boiling grass and hums like an E-string
the frogs are almost stone now
and I remember waking in those garlands of light
moving way too fast
the little quickening in the blood when I hit the spot where the bridge can’t decide
if it wants to come back down  

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