The Solitude of Work

Unscrew the hatch and look down in the hold:
ten thousand purple crab in a living cast,
clicking the air with slow claws or clinging
to each other’s horny shells. In boots and gloves
I’d stand on their backs, bend down and throw them
two at a time into the lowered mesh,
two hundred to a bag to be hoisted away
and kept alive in the sharp brine of the bay
till it was time to butcher them . That job
was harder, breaking a ten-pound crab apart
on a chest-high blade. They sensed death coming
and slowly fought the blade with claws like fists,
and when their shells were gutted empty things
thrown in a grinder, there was still a smell,
my own grim smell from a day of taking lives—
never a very happy enterprise.

Incarnation and Metamorphosis

My Theory of Language

Poetry is both incarnation and metamorphosis. It begins in the beginning with absence. Darkness on the face of the deep, then a flash of light—an unfolding into being, or covalence and dividing cells. As Ovid’s Metamorphoses put it (in Charles Martin’s translation):

Now when the god (whichever one it was)
had given Chaos form, dividing it
in parts which he arranged, he molded earth
into the shape of an enormous globe. . . .

Under the Peppermint Gums

Under the tall peppermint gums
with rain-dark skin and upraised limbs,
I see her choose her body’s way,
pausing to stare out at the grey
of the Huon’s water, and beyond
a cloudy wilderness. Now her blond
hair tied in a mop appears,
her eyes that might be full of tears
as they are brimming with the world,
the color of the sea gone cold.
I could be a hunter in a blind
but she’s no prey. She’s another kind
no one has quite identified,
though doubtless many men have tried.
Enough to love and let her be
between daydreams of sky and sea.


for an anniversary

I have always loved wood,
the smell of it, the grain
under the hand, the sinew
of living wood upright
in its roots, the green
it breathes to the world,
the crazy salad of colors,
blossom and leaf,
and the eyes where branches were,
knots and boles,
the way as Mark said,
men are trees, walking.

My whole heart is walking,
love, to you, on this,
our day of wood,
the grain of us, the rings
remembering, the way
you will feel like time
in my two hands
when I touch you again.