Considering Elaine de Kooning’s Self-Portrait #3

Everything was a matter of tension.
……………………….. – Elaine de Kooning

Is she the small thunder
on either side of my house
on a smock-blue day
as neighbors roll
trash bins to the curb,
rid themselves of all
they don’t want or need?
Or the half-drawn valentine
on the back of the chair
where she sits
in this painting?
Or even the reflection
of a chickadee—a tiny tornado
at the glass window
of my front room?
As I move towards her and away
I am afraid she is
the echo of Willem,
a cigarette normally snug between
her fore and middle finger
like a coiled seraph: not there.
An early self-portrait.
A coffee cup and ashtray
clean and as empty as her
sketch book. So many hard
angles: the tapestry, the photos,
the sharp cut of her hair,
the ghostly pages she reveals.
What is left out
of a portrait is as important
as what is put in.

Everyone Says I Should Write a Love Poem

but I am too busy. My dog is too loyal.
A war could break out any minute;
it might be a Civil War.
I don’t know how to make charms
and I’ve never owned an amulet.
These horns and hooves never let me
rest comfortably. It is better
when looking at sculpture and fine art
to keep moving. The moon is a pod
of milkweed, the seeds are the stars.
An emerald beetle is destroying ash trees.
Blood pools in surprising areas away
from the mortal wounds. In death,
his eyes were closed and glued.
He could not see me even when he
was alive. My father wanted to be a preacher.
So did his father. Now, when I make the bed
I have to tap his pillow four times
just like this:
……………………. I find clementines too bitter.
My son remembers the last words he said
to him. My scars feel like fish moving
under my flesh. The winds are too strong
in my new home. We lose power often.
I have fallen in love
………………………………. with the snow.

The Fox

One red fox crosses Route 100
skittering past our front tires—
a few yards up, another.

We could be near or half a world from
our home. Wheeling
in our seats, we try to catch

a glimpse of these two fiery hymns,
their chanting footsteps
crossing the familiar spine of a road.

I bless your ears and eyes,
and remember last winter when we watched
a fox span a snowy field, pause,

then call the other, as if with small bits of thunder,
and it was then I asked myself
how shall I live?

Spring Peepers at Flanders Hill

I try to record the song
lifting from the pines and birches,

one solitary note—shrill—then three
trill, trill—then twelve or twenty,

all at once like a reunion of women
at a kitchen table: my aunts and grandmothers

with wine in hand & cigarettes bouncing
to the syllables of the names in their stories,

their ash-flick of grief.
Why is dusk so melancholy?

The vesper of tree frogs begins
with or without me. I often sit

and watch the end of the day
turn to a steely grey. Those women