The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Roger Mitchell
I came out of my lighted cave,
blinking with jerry-built wisdom,
headlines eating the sidewalk,
nothing to chew on, no sow’s ear
to fill with silken promises,
and there, like a spread blanket, day
lolled on the grass, waiting. For what,
it couldn’t say. People lay
all over it, dogs sniffed and peed.
A man looked up at the sky
where the trees held their annual
gathering of leaves, beetles and birds.
The air managed the secrets
of the moment by keeping them,
but too by keeping them moving.
Some stood, struck. Others strolled
in a manner suggesting small
wavelets lapping a lakeshore beach.
Nothing was happening, and so,
continued. Though nothing has only
the instant to move in, never
the hour or day. Even the park
attendant sat in one of his spry
green, collapsible skeleton chairs,
one of which an old Black lady
used as a cane as she dragged it
to a better vantage, from which
to observe, or possibly make,
a more floral arrangement
of the median amicability
which came and went with the same smile.
Everyone seemed to have someone
or be someone themselves, but none
knew anyone in any way
that made the moment skittish
or wish to leave. The purity
of the anonymity carried
the float forward, but so subtly
as to make it seem it wasn’t
merely another day, merely
a stumbling old republic
caught in the arms of forgetting.
My Bags Are Packed
Out on a visit, now it’s home.
Back to the back of the field, stones
at the edge of it, woodshed, stump,
accoutrements to a plain way
of doing things, a way I thought
might straighten the grain or loosen
the knot or lessen what was heaped
against the door, allow a flow,
follow a wing out to its edge
and over. I was right, but it still
hasn’t kept me from wanting flight
into the city, crush and release,
the other and wilder other
we are when we’re together, thrown
like an avalanche at the earth,
scavenging the day for glitter
and purpose, finding it glanced
like one building off another’s glass,
people shoving into a subway.
Prison in the Mountains
I bring a pine cone in a sack. I bring eight.
I say, let’s take a look at something simple,
something always around. Let’s start
with what’s right there, a thing on the ground.
But we’re not on the ground. We’re hardly here.
We’re where nothing grows that isn’t
put here. We’re where something took everything
away so something else could take its place.
People brought from lives so far away
the pine cone is a mystery. What is it,
someone asks, fingers already sticky
with pitch. Another says, Don’t write poems
about us, ok. We’re not here. I say,
rubbing somewhere near my elbow, ok.
Below Seventy Mile Butte
A breeze finds a way to get between
the new sign and signpost behind me.
All afternoon it makes a tune out of
five or six intricate, wailing tones
with long silences between them and no
need to stop. Or start, for that matter.
The sign and I are the only things here
besides the view, the grass, the miles of sky,
and all that nature hides inside them.
The square of shade I sit in lets me write,
in these words, at this pace, that everything
has its song, and sings it best alone,
in as few words as possible, out here
checking on the limit and its aspects,
listening to the least amount of sound
recorded anywhere, here in a grave
the ocean made out of its last long waves.
A car creeps up behind me, stops. Then turns
and goes back, trailing its rattle of gravel.
Without Giving Its Name
Just when I think thought might avoid
attaching itself to the high south wall,
lights flicker in the tower across the road.
Who says you have to return to that blind
city, along whose streets one afternoon
you were neither the customs inspector
in red nor the man asking the avenue
for time. These querulous buildings, people
speaking in a way you could not make out,
about things that seemed completely
their own, were not what they seemed, but all
was aflame, and though burning, never
consumed, but climbing the flames instead,
as a snake squirms up a tree in search
of a nest, the egg in that nest, having
no sense of the bird's great breast,
of things thrust outward into the air,
of crossing the sky as though it were
nothing, an ocean surrounding the earth,
and somehow knowing without knowledge
that everything passes us at least once,
perhaps no more than a car over leaves,
but quietly and without giving its name.
Copyright 2006-2012 by Cook Communication