Illusion of Mountain
Pretend I’m a mountain,
cloak me in a million notes
of someone else’s song,
assign me this role as if true
music and not hollow sound.
Take my face at face value
and pretend nothing queer
betrays my angular brow,
pretend my forehead’s plane
didn’t permanently furrow
with pubescent distress
over my skull’s new geometry,
and the way my skin cratered,
and the perpetual sprouting
of scratchy beard shadow.
Believe this fiction:
that I was born a mountain,
and so too will die a mountain.
Don’t listen to me complicate it
with talk of tectonics and friction.
Dismiss the intricacies of geophysics,
because if there’s no molten mantle,
then I have no secret self
burning in a subterranean vault.
Days of Jazz
(for Sonia Sanchez)
There are some days when
perched birds are jazz notes
inked onto the staff of power lines
that slouches outside of my window.
Days when I see a sheet of jazz music
suspended above an oblivious street,
and watch the feathered notes jostle−
hover or flutter to above or below.
And from this flux of staggered pitches
I hear a song emerge from city noise,
a gentle reminder to stop
and let the jazz make itself known.
The Waterfall People
The downtown skyline is a cluster
of urban silos stocked with people
sequestered in cubicles and hunching
into the retina scorching pixel planes
of computer screens for forty plus.
People who push their fingertips
into keyboards as if to plant
alphanumeric seeds into database fields,
sharecroppers on the corporate plantation
who toil under hundreds of humming
rectangular suns that glow cool
fluorescent in beige dropped-ceiling skies.
People who journeyed here to draw water
from the muddy banks of murky rivers
but slipped into the swift current
and now spit and sputter under
the endless flow of ringing phones.
And people who in private moments search
bathroom mirrors for a glint of something
familiar behind their inky-sickled eyes.
Who are these meticulous decimal rounders,
high priests and priestesses of the hallowed data,
the sums and quotients that determine
such destinies as who’s entitled to what debt,
and who’s health insurance covers which treatment?
Who are these people and what waterfalls
of primal scream do they secretly contain?
Song of the Field
At one time the field was soy,
deep green, almost blue in shadow,
with thousands of leafy bushes
that undulated in wind as if to echo
the waves of nearby Lake Ontario.
Tall as torsos, the beans threatened
to bulge free from fuzzy pods,
and for a time it seemed the field
would never cease to grow.
But growth is sly in its mystery,
it progresses even as it slows,
and this subtle march to zero
effaces its own endpoint,
until only blunt evidence remains—
like when the holes and smooth soles
of a teenager’s sneakers force him
to realize his shoe size is permanent.
And so the field surprised me
with its sudden yellows and browns
that lasted late into autumn,
and its decay convinced me
that the farmer forgot to harvest.
For a while I envisioned wilted
soy neck deep in snow—
a monument to the lazy farmer,
but my daydreams were mowed
into stubble with startling efficiency
when two industrial tractors arrived.
Afterwards I watched from my window
as the field absorbed the cold rain
until it became a field of cold mud,
its lowlands transformed to ponds.
A diversity of windswept garbage
accumulated at its edge and encroached
in bursts like a jerky stop-motion animation.
And something inside of me bruised
when a mud-caked bicycle appeared,
ridden into the mire and abandoned.
At first I only marveled—
at the absurdity, but also at how perfect
an emblem for abandonment,
and how this field is but one of many
spread across a vast world of abandonment.
And I allowed myself to sink
past my shins in the muck of this thought,
until they appeared like mirages—
delicate and patchy but clearly rowed,
as if they had been sown.
Later I learn the sprouts are winter wheat,
and I walk among the sparse growth,
an Arctic airmass has frozen the field
and the earth murmurs underfoot—
a sound that somehow comforts,
as if confirming what I’ve always hoped.
October groans for death to come,
the weary trees relinquish chlorophyll
in bursts of fiery homage to the sun,
and anxious fields of soy and corn
grow jaundiced and freckle brown.
October groans in throaty honks
of Canada geese flying south,
groans in the sparse chirps and hums
as the hearts of crickets slow,
groans in the whitetail’s belly—
aching from a crabapple binge.
The branches jettison their walnuts
and the rot stains sidewalks black,
the slate of clouds releases rain
on shoulders in gentle reminding taps,
that although October groans for death
it is we who stubbornly cling on.