the Museum of Science and Industry
there is a heart large enough to walk through,
its chambers big as rooms.
Stepping from one ventricle to another
I expect to see my father tying flies
in the circle of a bright lamp
and my mother, who hasn't yet had her breast removed,
teaching my sister to dance slow.
are told mistreatment of our hearts
leads to the grave. Fifteen billion beats
to each of us. The unfortunate, less.
Malaysian monks believe each teaspoon of sperm
subtracts a thousand beats from our already
slim total. The equation simple
as third grade math: Beats minus X to the nth
equals dust. We are doomed even by love.
night my new wife's heart amazes me,
how her steady muscularity times our lives.
Pressing my ear against her sternum
I believe in the hugeness of the heart,
its capacity for echo. I hear the heavy rush
of wings rising up, see myself overlapping
my hands into a call, pulling the swelling sky
deep into arc of my arms.
Letter to My Friend from Montana
About Impending Bad Weather
Dear John, after I finish my weak tea
I will have a small glass of scotch.
Something good that took me a year
to buy and probably a year to drink,
and I will toast you, and Hugo's gray ghost towns,
and the small plate you gave me that says "Oro y Plata"
under a picture of the Western Meadow Lark.
me, I should have opened this letter
with a report on the weather.
Tonight is windy and the trees are wild.
Black thunderheads roar from the west
and break like surf against the soft blue.
Funny how quickly the sky can turn ugly,
bad luck drop down like a funnel
take apart our lives, blow the windows
like bombs. You and I are umbrella holders,
trailer home owners in the flat plains alley.
Like that forest ranger from your part of the country,
five hats exploded off his head and five pair of boots
with the stigmata of exiting lightning through the soles,
yet silly enough to work the peaks.
have never known colors, but I think the sky is green.
Omen enough to drink up and leave the porch,
fold closed the shutters like a prayer and go gently to bed.
A little drunk, I'll try to sleep holding my palms over my head.
If lightning strikes, I'll offer "here and here," accepting
It is like that often, John. Everything hidden,
then sudden and thunderous in its arrival.
friend Pete says
wood sings when he works it.
Layers and layers of song
for his hands to learn
until the wood wears smooth
and he can carve.
I can't say the same
though I see how wood could sing
if you knew it well enough
and I love as much as anyone
the yellow grained plank,
tight palm of a bowl,
the thin spines of leaves
crushed in the mud dragging heavily
on the heels of our boots
this cool fall morning. Pete and I
cutting and splitting pine,
neatly stacking it inside the porch.
I lay back in my boat
knowing work leads only to work.
There's only a moment for coffee
the caulking gun
and carefully painting the name
across the bow.
the way I never expect
to catch fish, I never expected
to be married, to learn each morning
is mine in a house of repairs
on a river. But like my wife,
her hair spackled white with ceiling paint,
am not afraid of work
and love what I never expected:
the web of relief spreading itself
sleep each night, the beautiful dream
of everything I fix floating without leaks,
of the fish rising, full of color, to meet me.
Letter to Bruce about Sleep and
Bruce, I hear you are going to sea next season,
turning to water for comfort, when the comfort of land runs out.
No doubt sea foam images and dolphins will leak into your poems.
Maybe mermaids. Maybe a dream of weightlessness—
you dive below the depth of color where light
is swallowed and float in darkness.
may have heard I came apart on the San Juan River.
I drove twenty straight hours to escape my unraveling
marriage. Rising out of the canyons at last,
I mourned, dreaming all my friends were dead,
then at the river, in the rush of so much water,
I heard your voices. Some good soul
found me on the bank bawling like a baby
and I openly shared news of this miracle.
A grown man wearing waders admitted
to the Farmington hospital, diagnosed sleep deprived.
days later I was dismissed and caught
a rainbow trout as evening fell, its colors
an orchestra given from the river.
Take hope Bruce. That night I slept like the dead
in Abe's Motel and my dreams came in great flocks
carving through an expansive blue sky. At the San Juan,
I turn left at a cracking adobe church and wave
to Sunday’s crowd, stiff in the stark sunshine.
I wonder what they must think of me. Such a lucky man,
escaping the occasion. Driving down to the river
to kiss the cool lips of water.