Read an Excerpt
the wind blows
through the doors of my heart
The wind blows through the doors of my heart.
It scatters my sheet music that climbs like waves from the piano, free of the keys.
Now the notes stripped, black butterflies,
flattened against the screens.
The wind through my heart blows all my candles out.
In my heart and its rooms is dark and windy.
From the mantle smashes birds’ nests, teacups full of stars as the wind winds round,
a mist of sorts that rises and bends and blows or is blown through my rooms of my heart that shatters the windows,
rakes the bedsheets as though someone had just made love. And my dresses they are lifted like brides come to rest on the bedstead, crucifixes,
dresses tangled in trees in the rooms of my heart. To save them
I’ve thrown flowers to fields,
so that someone would pick them up and know where they came from.
Come the bees now clinging to flowered curtains.
Off with the clothesline pinning anything, my mother’s
It is not for me to say what is this wind or how it came to blow through the rooms of my heart.
Wing after wing, through the rooms of the dead the wind does not blow. Nor the basement, no wheezing,
no wind choking the cobwebs in our hair.
It is cool here, quiet, a quilt spread on soil.
But we will never lie down again.
Call out the names in the procession of the loved.
Call from the blood the ancestors here to bear witness to the day he stopped the car,
we on our way to a great banquet in his honor.
In a field a cow groaned lowing, trying to give birth,
what he called front leg presentation,
the calf come out nose first, one front leg dangling from his
A fatal sign he said while rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt, and climbed the fence.
I watched him thrust his arms entire into the yet-to-be, where I imagined holy sparrows scattering in the hall of souls for his big mortal hands just to make way.
With his whole weight he pushed the calf back in the mother and grasped the other leg tucked up like a closed wing against the new one’s shoulder.
And found a way in the warm dark to bring both legs out into the world together.
Then heaved and pulled, the cow arching her back.
Until a bull calf, in a whoosh of blood and water,
came falling whole and still onto the meadow.
We rubbed his blackness, bloodying our hands.
The mother licked her newborn, of us oblivious,
until it moved a little, struggled.
I ran to get our coats, mine a green velvet cloak,
and his tuxedo jacket, and worked to rub the new one dry while he set out to find the farmer.
When it was over, the new calf suckling his mother,
the farmer soon to lead them to the barn,
leaving our coats just where they lay we huddled in the car.
And then made love toward eternity,
without a word drove slowly home. And loved some more.
a man like this
That summer he and my brothers unload rusty barrels on the hill above the lake,
the barrels to be filled with air from a compressor mostly on the blink to buoy up the dock that’s sagging, starboard, almost sunk.
It’s a long enterprise that will take days of sinking barrels in the shallows,
rolled out half full of water, to the hull.
My brothers dive and struggle,
drumming their heads and elbows where the jack cranks up the far left corner,
then treading water, shaking heads and spouting as men do in grand productions of hard work, their little sisters watching,
drown the barrel, hoist it up between the beams.
Now the compressor’s hose so many times wrapped round with plumber’s tape,
stuck in the barrel, hisses out the muck,
the remnant water, oil and stink.
My brothers wear my father’s surgeon’s masks as if that helps. And so it goes,
this or some other year, except today high on the hill one barrel tilts, set down sideways on its own lid, perhaps,
and pitches, beating down the hill toward children in a playpen, children in the shallows playing, mother
What does my father do but leap over the hill and fly a moment, airborne over gravel trying to catch the barrel till he falls sliding, sprawled and raked across the stones. The babies scream.
The barrel hits the water, bobs into the cove.
Still, for a moment he is flying out beyond heroics,
willed aloft a little once above the earth.
Better such flight than consequence.
I want a man like this who, restless, bookish, given to sudden outbursts or affection, takes running jumps,
it would seem, all his life, against reason,
a man who flies and falls, scraped head to toe,
whose daughters wash him in the lake with Ivory soap,
dive down to pick the rock shards from his legs, then dry him gently off and lay him in the Ozarks sun on a half- sunken dock and rub his ripped and bleeding skin with ointment.