Isabel’s a Coming
Until this season closes down
with frost these stubborn blooms
set low beside a cottage door
will yet renew themselves
pursuing favor from her hand
my gardener or perhaps the bees
predetermined by their seedings
take their season as it comes
like single purpose youths they dance
scratching tiny marks on time
one season for a life
one breath then blown away.
She sought to make her home just here
a welcoming beneath the shade
a modest place where we might dwell
by water and the birds of hope.
The dream could be a verdancy
intrigued us, we would set about
remake the cottage modern
if with a hint of Sissinghurst.
Wild chance like a change of wind
small lives lived in ignorance
left stranded in a field of rock
an ocean’s roar receding.
Heading out the dogs engaged
they danced just shy of nervous
yet were curious to witness
how mad the striding man might go.
Seemed a storm from Haiti crawled
the coast and they were headed soon
down to the Banks–just couldn’t plan
these, the islanders all laughed.
The elder trees in canopy
softening summer in the cove did not
seem benign those evening stoics soon
were plagued by devils riding winds
and maladroit weather lingering
south in middling waters last week
–just behind us one tree went
against his brothers to the ground.
Run away! run far away
limbs, long fingers waving GO!
the wind was wearing mighty robes
wrapping tight his universe.
Odd habit peeled a weather eye
judging just how far from shore
spinning sideways from the Azores
was this monster running wild.
What trees survived this pummeling
winter soon would weigh with snow
and ice, its new blades sharpened
crystals staved through old wood hearts.
Sheltered under oaks as stout
gave pause when violence tattooed
the roof like gaming shots
scuffing god’s best velvet.
Windows leaking sideways rain
the wind would take a roof as soon
a tree, so carnal close his piney breath
Aeolus loves us till we choke.
If wisdom’s in the age of trees
these limbs were bent like broken hearts
slapped down love, no play in sight
grimly pleading dawn would come.
Life holds no privilege on this rock
we don’t know; it does not care
prospering breezes yesterday
will render someone’s night to shreds.
Collected in a cottage, outside
birds were huddled where they could
and DC’s finest had been kissed
excused and sent on home.
Aft and stern the boats were hitched
clambering a line the chimes
went straight against their chains
high hat down to baritone.
Isabel’s plowing atmosphere
was boiling further south
this migraine freak arriving
was aiming for a favorite haunt.
Riding Interstates the day before
making what a living means
with silent words past Blacksburg
where I’d once visited the morgue
alongside fleet strength power crews
invited to the hurricane
Ya’ll rolling for the storm? I’m
driving for the money, dude.
the roadman thought about his home
Be back Sunday, Jo, I swear
for football, lord it’s time
your brother brought some beer.
Life’s gamble is a workman’s curse
his time on someone else’s clock
so he plays it like he’s fully free
choosing freedom for his heart
unfamiliar with a sailor’s lore
dumb reckoning past Hatteras
could hang him on the closest shoals
or find old age worse than that.
Soon with wires on the ground
newsmen would be talking short wave.
Seems George the Second had declared
voltage for the lobbyists
in Great Falls, so crews were sent
hell bound north from Tennessee
though no fresh ice m’dear
your tequila will be warm tonight.
Faith of My Mother
Before this season closes down
days hence and if the Banks survive
our too thin ribbon caught between
has not been grinded flat we will
attempt a southern coastal
life with miles of beach ahead
with huskies by an ocean
running far as hearts can make.
Fading in off-colored light
above this suspect panoply
is madness building into night
though Hatteras would be worse.
Faith of my mother had confused
my youth, that God could be
benevolent, a father to us all
while devils hung with minions
living with blind chance.
Candles flair in darkness, die
dim reading by erratic light
power’s failed and will long drained
sorting truth from willfulness
arguing the Devil’s cause
still wanting angels to caress
weak lakeside creatures huddled
underneath mad trees in this
temporal build of studs and glass,
we have each other have no more
before the king of fury.
Invest in Oil
North Africa, if one would stand
to face migrating dunes to breathe
the air with such particulates,
Suleiman’s entablatures can’t
seem to resonate across the miles
west to where we worship, posed
as infidels to our own ethics
squander fossils in a riot’s heat
spending all our children’s wealth
failing tests of wisdom until
water’s lapping at the ledges.
To watch the play between
a culture and its progeny
who have lived beneath its shelter
no need to read our history
these times say we’re great
at raising Wall Street temples
anthems of New Amsterdam
paeans to our brave new world
we are what we were born to.
Africa, our mother to these storms
how many other ways has sent
her cradled energies her curses
though an ocean lies between.
Danse macabre as they can
the bending trees comply
old marionettes poor drunks
beyond full vertical, which
to credit wind or branch
for this fine amplitude
high C screaming diva
the unlit darkness faintly
backlit by a sky too choked
for crying. Boom box sounding
Chopin’s cello in her hands, du Pré
was playing to high drama.
While wind runs up the scale
we will lie down beneath the trees
gathered in a single room
counting on the luck of things.
The storm will do its mauling
if we protest or we plead
though cannot touch immunity
of a soul already taken.
In the local aftermath, debris
leaf piled decks and floating
tangled turbid water
ruined trees left dangling
drowned across the cove
startled in their vertigo
good for snippets lasting cocktails
through Barcroft dinner parties.
Though freighted youths and waitstaff
retirees at eighty fled the Banks
when Isabel came churning
close up all that witnessing
the grinding at old wood and how
when living seemed tangential
left them questioning the bones
it was a matter not of scale but kind.
Scoured by the waves down south
new inlets tore through Hatteras
Route 12 was buried, gouged
gone sections pummeled sideways
crazy tiles of asphalt
like ice floes in the melt
sand and shingled roofs, whole
houses joined the party mix
up and down a well loved coast
wind and waves had worked good joints
apart, fatigued and brittle things
like so much wasted effort
dropping failures into heaps
life scurrying from the front
else the ocean winning free
my Ocracoke of chimes
and Key West slyness near
where Blackbeard ate his last.
On previous excursions it had
seemed in those days riding
the ferry bright adventure
to an island wanton and
removed with smiling dogs
further south of most their breed.
The ferry wasn’t running
after twenty feet of ocean
had rearranged the bluffs
phantoms laughing looking on.
Across the Sound a western sun
in soft strokes like a painter’s graze
lit low clouds in the aftermath
chopping waves, it always was
a time apart, untouchable
floating in a dream offshore
the soft hued place was broken
ruined like a heart pulled down.
Past summers we had lingered
breathing ocean oxygen
we’d run the coast with dogs and
Ryan learned to stand on waves
innocents in such a place
pretending heaven by the shore
having never known such violence
to the song of who we tried to be.
Evening waves still run to dusk
angry water rouge past sunset
scattered lights, now coming home
no longer seems quite possible.
Since he’d laid his board to wave
with late sun lancing waves
this ocean is an emptiness.
Where else could I stand?
Broken hero with his dogs and love
seeking how the rest of life
might play, though cannot cure
his heart, the tides returning empty.
An old companion, Helpless
watching people checking out
sooner than they come they go
a small boy once took note
leaving just the room key
and a blinking message light.
Coming back to Albermarle
in a red sun’s signature
standing lookout on an ocean
gray as foam, a sky of hues
and waves flattened to a mist
of lace against the sand,
far as the horizon, fading
whitecaps still are showing.
Pelicans in formation
flying down the coast
are no way turning back
before this gale force evening
and at their rate should make
Hatteras by moonrise.
Seagulls on a Sunday run
angling a line for lift
again they cruise the shoreline
south against an easing wind
past gnawed and worried stumps
where beach stairs once stood proud
and the ferry ridden last year
south to Ocracoke for chimes
runs past ruined headlands
leaving further north for Hatteras
to bypass broken pavement
breached easily by overwash.
What wildlife rode it out were
who could swim or fly away,
staring at that grayness,
mean and raw indifference
the hope entailed in coming back
witnessing the waves dump shells
and broken boardwalks, ocean trash
reminded and remembering
Ryan, two, quite voluble
a boy of stout opinions
his first summer cottage time,
Kill Devil was much cheaper then.
The crabs were fresh and free and
I’d set about with pots to steam them
when he heard the frantic scratching
at his brother’s explanation
asked why I was killing them?
Following a flashlight road
walking toward the evening Sound
we two released survivors there.
Another line of pelicans
is pacing south, the waves are slow
and lazing and the sun is fled
and I still have the week to go.