Busted pocket warmer. Drawer of owl pellets
In vials divorced from labels. Rod and fly,
Rod and fly across the wainscot. Taut belly
Of a German urn. Railroad ties—unaccountably.
The curtains only move one way, sucked to cup
Like sailcloth against the rotted screens all night.
Where were you? Tonguing snow banks, so you dreamed,
Snow hares bottoms-up inside their warrens.
Burned a cache of clippings as the need arose,
The bulk from True Crime and Diderot's Encyclopedia.
I would like to ply my trade in knee pants
And a dusted wig. I would like a solid alibi.
Days of pinhole cameras. As you tracked the weak
Spots in the ice, my own vessel took a vole
Skull breached by taper-flame. In its sockets,
I would find another phylum's skulking fugitive.
It was safe to shoe across the bay
To visit Ollie's monument. One-Man Injun
Band—Barkeep, Father—Bless the Goner—
Can't brook old facts: Our Ollie an invention.
Sussed out by neighbors, would we flee their greeting.
All signs point to yes, and yet you bang out
"Gypsy Rover" on the upright like Mr. Oliver
LaFourge himself, friend to man and water spirit.
Pantry survey for a pair of starving hobos:
Apples, sauced, apples, peeled and whole, rhubarb
Stew, Eisenhower-era. Stew, Reagan-era,
Carter beets, supper beans, Sunday-dinner beans.
The mantel fawns in pert communion—
Sipping, prancing, womb-glaze ever glinting.
Oh fever Christmas! Oh God we have met
And never known. Play that song again. Again.
Not dead, only sleeping where October left them,
Where you figure-eight in shadow. Not dead.
Trudging leather-shod through litanies of minerals,
My blood goes uneclipsed. King of chapped lips.
Evenings of Canasta by the oil lamp
In this marsh of dust and mangy pelts, and you.
But days! The sun pierces sooner. Trestle music
In the distance. The sky's dome pried loose.
I read the Knights of Pythias, in idea-form,
Descended from a rope of cloud to scout this broad
Peninsula. As if exile coaxed a civil grace
From men by means of schoolroom rites and self-regard.
You heard it, too: a ripsaw's burr across the road.
A paddle stabbing ice. Lone church bell from the point,
Cold as the palm that tugged it. And the lore of derby
Season on the radio. Tonight, you heard it too.
Home from a trek, and handprints black the entryway.
Aborted ransack, or Ollie wants the light to flood
The drawers, to stir the ashes with his shallow breath.
Pack your case tonight. Sojourn overturned.
Though we have spared the rarest volumes from the stove,
And every barren season wants for testimony…
All the same, there's no recompense for jam and spirits;
Their vessels cram the shed. We are not much for stewardship.
To every rotten stump a hole for light, for curled
Parasites the wind would scotch . To every teeming thaw
A chorus of flues and ores. To every ferrous shore
A wall of shanty-smoke the branches will disperse.
In the north woods of Wisconsin and Michigan, small lakes named for women are lined with modest summer cabins. When the snow flies, how many of them are easy pickings for benevolent squatters?