Sadness, I instruct you

For my dear friend

And now, sadness,
I instruct you
to be still.

Let these bones rest. Marrow
pale and depleted by memory
and forgiveness,
they are weary and cannot stand your shaking.

Let the exhausted heart
encased in this bombarded cage beneath my skin

jarred by your gnashing and clamouring

float in the buoyancy of you forgetting

for a moment

to squeeze it dry.

Do not bewilder
me with your wailing.

Now I tell you:
Let me be.

~~~

Five Reasons to Love the Long Nights of Winter

This poem is one I wrote maybe a decade ago, but it still expresses something important to me about the beauty, peace, and comfort of this time of year.

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After a bright afternoon’s quickening light
To be cradled by dusk,
Its slowly sit-down darkening

To contemplate the softening outline of the old cat
Curled warm on your grey-trousered lap

To watch the women and men with briefcases and backpacks
Walk from the bus toward darkened houses

To see a glow appear here or there and know
The tired homecomings have begun

To unravel the mysteries of your heart
That can only be glimpsed when the busy sun
Pulls up its thick shadows
And the arms of the evening encompass all

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Ark

All night the wind filled with snow howls against our walls.
What happens to the animals,
or people still outside
I do not know.

Small ship on a vast ocean our house sails alone through the gale.
Carries us fretting to the borders of morning,
the furnace and the radio
land ahoy.

~~~

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With its secret dances

Come in, with your body
and its whispered dreams

I will not breathe a word

come in, bring its needling anguish,
its yokes and shackles, the chains
and burdens that make it stumble

its tears that stream without permission

bring in your body
with its fine, secret dances in meadows
and under full moons

the songs it sings while diving
for pearls and the bursting
of its lungs as sun pours in heavenly shafts

deep as the bottom of your thought

bring its tattered edges and frayed cords

lie it down and we will mend
what we can and tuck in the rest
smoothing the weave of its priceless fabric

you shall not leave undone

bring in your body

~~~

One by one,

One by one,
winter lifts its long fingers from the deep freeze
where they have grown, collecting crystals
month by month

with its diamond file
sharpens them precisely then slips out to
test an edge on the skin of our necks
and back it goes

sitting in the shimmering dark
wearing the glimmer of a smile
as it hones and shapes, and the wind
comes calling

~~~

Small offerings

The night’s small offerings to the road
are easy to lift: wrapped in a leaf
or carried on a bier of two stout twigs
an empty drink cup in the ditch will do
if a scoop is needed

Their still, often neat bodies
of feathers and beaks
of claws and fur
tiny red stick legs and translucent wings
or simple uncoiled lengths
finally agree
to settle
deep into the long grass
and wait for the seasons.

But some
if I come too late
cannot be pried from the asphalt
black as a clean slate
they are too small
the load that felled them
too exact:
these, after a few soft words, I leave
their diminishing flesh and precise skeletons
recording history

~~~