Issue 79, Spring 1981
Black-white-black the flock of scaup
pushing hard against whittles of the tide.
Each seems to have a window in the side.
Light might shine right through. The day
is frozen gray, a steel engraving,
the bay a pewter plate, sky icy mist.
Black scaup, bluish bills poked forward,
float, white middles on dark water are
transparent squares of light.
Snow beginning makes a brightening.
Scarce white fur released from gray sky
starts to gather, dense in darkening air.
Expectation freshens the hibernating mind.
Is the scene beyond the apron of the eye
about to shift? At dawn will new birds
arrive, stand vivid on an ermine floor?
Inside, we now vicarious watch
winter’s rigid climax. Crystal by crystal
formed in the opening of mind’s burrow,
the dream of death rehearsed, and the
costume fashioned. Of rich white fur
the curtain, parting, deepens its folds.
March 17th, Before Storm
Sky, a red-striped flag, billows
over cobalt tide. A low lightblade
snags on ridges of the waves.
Wind begins to agonize in bare trees
and it rips lengthwise the murky
banner. There is a clear green
naked staring iris between clouds.
Ripe in the green leaves (a whistle
urgent and tireless) a pulse of pleasure
sits, shaped to fit my hand. Radish-
bright, it pretends to hide behind
the leaves. Instead revealed, is seen
vulnerable and flagrant. Radical
whistle, color ripe and candid, the pulse
of pleasure shaped to fit my hand,
has wings. Has wings. Has vanished.
July 3rd, Morning Descent
Gray wing divides blue from white.
Blue blank as swipe of waterpaint.
White unsmirched, mat without sketch.
Gray wing whisked by cold upper air.
Slantwise shadow brushes its tip.
The carriage rocks. Blue widens,
white brightens. Round-as-Rubens’
forms begin. To become shaded
on one side. They sedately shove
each other. Become each others’
bodies. Blank mat gray wing severs,
dives through, slides under, hides blue.
Depth becomes height. Wing downglides.
A long white slope. The carriage stops.
So long I’ve wanted to get him
into my word-cage, Wildhead,
his call a pack of cards
shuffled, riffled, crisply
reshuffled. Then expertly
gathered up, he flies
beside the canal over the sandy
road and the bay. Blue and
white and belted, buoyant,
flamboyant acrobat, airclimber,
clown, hovering diver, Wildhead,
best of fishers. King!
Tall sails going away, turn
from broadside to profile
in evening light. Their spiny
masts support great silken quills.
Wind loves feather, flag and sail.
Colored cloths lick out, looking
for the panting wind. Gulls
hover the tall white pinion
shapes of ships going away.
The horizon has disappeared.
A gigantic pair of shears
has cut it off. Or it was
effaced by a thick fog eraser.
Crossing the waves’ border,
a faint boat starts to creep
the sky, keep vertical, sail
nudged by an odourless wind.