Quatrefoil is a collection in four sections: Tree Music (poems about trees); Congregation (poems based on collectives such as Murder of Crows, Ostentation of Peacocks, Clowder of Cats etc.); An Island of Bones (poems about dogs) and Poems for Red Canyons (poems about the Four Corners Area of the Southwest).
from Tree Music
IN THE FOREST
There are things that trees know
in their bark, from leaves
that sound without wind.
When I enter a forest there is a stir
along the pathless tracings
of animal or bird,
of things that creep.
Jays crackle overhead,
seeds push the erosion of rock
and trees bend slightly
to sift the air,
make it part of the chlorophyll
that spills by day.
I have read that corn crops thrive
on the arias of opera,
that fields of delphinium turn lush
with Verdi, and so I imagine trees
waiting with infinite grace
for the soft whistle of my half notes.
They sense I am here,
taste me with sap, smell me
from roots. There is no end
to their patience.
Wrinkles of change, the tread
of feet, feathers,
the loamy breath of worms,
each of these are what trees know.
A CLOUD OF GRASSHOPPERS
Walking through a sun-baked meadow,
wildflowers gone to beige stalks,
the grass sparse and reedy, was it
the shadow of my footsteps, or the
vibrations of my tread that turned
the meadow into clouds of grasshoppers,
spronging every which way, to land
and fling themselves again?
Then quiet, then their back legs,
then the vibrato of their music
filling the air with sun, heat, dust,
grasses, and their I Am Here.
Like my son’s guitar when he used
to sit in the sun at Tahoe and strum
out his song for all the girls to hear.
From An Island of Bones
THE LANGUAGE OF SHOES
In the closet, his human’s
shoes are lined: neat, orderly,
by occupation. When his human
nears the closet, he is right there,
alert to choices, the conditions
of smell. If his human chooses
the black, shiny shoes with
little-hole-designs, all is lost.
These shoes leave the house
without him, don’t return
until evening, or go out
in the evening without him
and come back covered
in conversation or maybe
a whiff of vodka, steak, fish.
These shoes are unworthy.
Or his human might choose
At home is good news.
Strokings and tummy rubs.
There will be yard work,
or a pillow by the fire. These
shoes are acceptable, but he tries
to lead his human to the third set;
nudges them, pokes his nose
in deeply and drinks in the smells
of hills, digging holes, fur and spore.
These are the best shoes, thick
scuffed leather and deep treads.
These are for climbing
the headlands, walking along
ridges, digging in sand.
He has been waiting for these
shoes all week, shoes that cause
his paws to dance and his nails
to click the floor like castanets.
These are shoes of invitation,
inclusion, and all out running.
They lead to jacket and leash.
These are the shoes of happiness.
from Red Canyons
CALL IT SILENCE
Call it silence, if you want,
what happens when humans peel their veneer
off the land. Call it bitter, when arroyos
overflow and wash out a burrow or cabin.
Call it Kokopelli when the slot canyon sings –
when the maw of a cave takes on the sound of wind.
Call me awkward as I descend the slope
where my tentative foot seeks the gully at the bottom.
Call it crow that adapts its feathers to the sleeve
of a bristlecone. Call it weight that anchors
the rock to the sand, spilling its chert like coins
at the base – quick clatter of assemblage. Call it
thirst that burnishes the stone-dresser
as he brushes rockdust from his skin, thick
grit from his mouth. Call God the stone-dresser
of this open land, where so much happens
we don’t see, where the human is awkward
no matter how agile – where the crow sees
vistas beyond my ability, where the spiky
hoodoo is morphed into horse, poodle,
a clutch of women. Where red has weight
and girth and colors the air, until I want
to touch it. Where thirst scratches
along every path or non-path.
Where silence is not possible – where Kokopelli
is a plaything of the wind, slender as a wisp,
where there is music in a canyon
and in the wing of the grasshopper,
in the reeds of a pond and the lindy-hop of
an aspen leaf – where the smell of hot dust rises
and fir-smells from the mountain braid together
as they fall – where listening to silence
is surprises – those small sounds
I overlook; harmony unfolding around me.
The silence reverberating
like flecks of time.