Friday Harbor

With a friend of a friend,
at America’s edge,
I scale a cliff whose gleaming slopes
in the preposterous moonlight.
This woman and her courtly silver dog
rove amiably through needles of grass.
The dog sniffs ahead, then bows, urging us
upward as if spreading out a cloak
of moss and gleaming rock for our steps.
Dark and impossibly thin, she quivers
with the wind that blazes through the bones
of everything that lives here.
She’s built her own house, quietly pioneering
on this hill that springs nobly into nothing.
Each dot of light we see below, she says,
stands for another new home
as the San Juans are gradually claimed.

Evisceration of a Roebuck, with a Married Couple

Flemish Portrait, 1625

Blood, starched linen, matted fur.
What makes a marriage?
The prosperous pair in black silk
stand over the guts laid bare;
he leans over his work,
knife at the ready
along his thumb,
to cut a further slice
from the folds of red-edged skin
while looking miserably elsewhere.
The deer is propped against a brilliant
lobster, downy antlers alert, echoing
the legs of the dead fawn
who twists, with uncanny grace,
to caress the husband’s hand
with its tiny hoof. She ignores
the platter of grapes she holds,
even the sprightly vine
curling and waiting to greet
the tongue hanging off the maw
of a pig’s inverted head.
White scatters like dabs of butter:
artificial clouds out the window,
the belly of a hanging calf,
the husband’s businesslike cloth,
set over his shoulder while he guts,
the wife’s achingly polished brow,
her hair pulled back as tight as
the pig’s tongue is loose,
like the tongue she refuses to use.