Southern Cross

It wasn’t what drew me there,

but when I saw the Southern Cross

that year, visible all night down under,

turning with the hour,

it took me home, to my childhood

when I didn’t quite realize

what had risen

just above the horizon,

but I knew enough to know

I could keep that starry kite

if even for a little while

up above the boundary line.


I didn’t know it then, how special

the sighting was, my place in the world

far south enough to see it,

my hometown floating on the edge.

People looked right at the cross

and didn’t seem to notice

it was there

before it dipped below again.

Almost like a secret, that made it mine.

It was something I could turn to,

away from all the trouble,

and call my own.

Reverdie

It snowed today: at last, I understood

they were not joking when they said mid-May

would still be ice. My tender waterplants

brought up with loss of blood from Tennessee

unrooted, drape the new pond’s depth, and fish

seek what they can beneath the drowning leaves.


And so in Houston: in that summer, I

could not anticipate November frost

and planted tropicals around the ponds.

There’s sadness in a burning leaf, when ice

has broken down cell walls, and loss reveals

deficiencies of structure and design


hidden before by blossoms. I should know

to listen to the voices of a place,

to listen to her voice. But I go on:

tomorrow, miscanthus will line the edge

and give a place to rest, until what sun

this slope can promise quickens my new blood.

VALENTINE SWEET CROSSES AT THE MOUTH OF THE HIGHWAY

              High school feels overgrown and unsteady. A doggy pants in the car window,

and so many things are on their way to me.                                                         I put my hair up and

expect a halo. I’m here now, and for what it’s worth when I open the window I feel like I fit

within. I see numbers growing brightly, a catch in my breath as I spy a little lucky patch of

clovers.                                      Spotted and friendly.

              Nothing is a waste! I’m cooking rice and juggling so much within the palms of my head.

A plush membrane unfolds like the tongue of a pearls within. Do you go to school? Normal

right, like a normal person? Do you know where you’re going? Do you think yourself deserving

or did you fit yourself inside their pocket lining, soft and sighing in a tone only sweethearts hear.

              This guy sits at the head of the table and has the nerve to tell me that he misses his little

home made in mud. In a way that feels like:

                                         I miss it when the women wore their red little checkered aprons and would

                                         lay down their life on the nearby bus stop for his skin. You miss when

                                         they would wiggle and blush, as you threw a window at an old car. Beer

                                         collects in pools of sweat, a smashed bottle and pleading. She knows this

                                         because she’s heard this before. Not all papa’s are like sweat and stingy

                                         breath filled of onion and tomato, but sometimes the world feels too small

                                         and when you break a mirror for a glass shard it feels like you can do

                                         anything.          Now, in case anyone gets too close, I shape my eyes like

                                         daggers and turn my head quick.

I check all around me, and sometimes the shuffling footsteps soft—

              of my shadow on bare winter flora frightens me. Usually I’m the one

              who strays, and if anything, I’d at least like to get too close to the sun.


              You point your fingers to the sun, quick, before it sets!

Late Summer

Late Summer

I

Afternoons languish like untensed muscles,

like a mind gone slack peering into a screen,

whole days awash in faint light, feint wind,

cloudless blue of old paint, dust-covered.

Time lowers down in the dry grass,

crunches under foot, whispering

softly to mask the speed of its passing. 

A crackling hush, a hushed absence.


II

Warm dry months stretch ahead like waves

glimmering ghostly above the ground, 

ocean of air, streaked window of the future.

Tonight’s moon is a waning gibbous,

ever-fading, ever-seeming to retreat.

Orbits break, patterns vanish like ash in water, 

vastness and sorrow, oceans of summer,

most ships safely reaching port.


III

Late summer days scatter like money

after a bubble implodes, stunned people

who thought it would last forever

scramble for all their pockets will hold.

The ship of living sails the ocean of time,

some of us dreaming close to the prow,

others below deck, clutching our bags.

Late summer, as though it has already died.


IV

Mostly we lived in great seclusion, far from

events and people of worldly importance.

When the rains finally came, we soaked up

all we could, we mirrored the leaves,

turning our insides up, downsides out, 

stretching through multiple contortions

to nourish our blanched bodies, dry roots,

water, seclusion, turbulent screens of cloud.


V

We pretended to be sleepwalkers, romantics,

anarchists, realists, anything but what we were,

which we never determined, moving about

with eyes closed and hands at our sides,

hoping to feel something without reaching for it.

Money was the great mystery of our days,

which people gave us freely until they realized

we had no way or plan to give it back.


VI

Every summer unreels like another childhood,

terrors of whispered-about corridors,

passageways through shrouded woodland trails,

night hovering within midday shadows,

undersides of leaves, stones, unfound doors.

Always some haunted tale awaiting the children,

doors into darkness locked behind them.

Somewhere out there an ocean, a wave cresting.


VII

Somewhere awaits a shore, a homeland,

ships have been sailing toward it 

for centuries, guided by tremulous captains,

steering their crews within sight of land,

before twists and turns of fate drive them

back out to sea, cruel fate, indifferent hand.

The long fingers of summer evenings close

around the wan throats of summer days. 

Movement

There are no orchids here, and no long shore

teeming with raucous life, no salted wings

rising above the multicolored boats,

no overwhelming breezes, and no tides

rising, impelling everything that floats

to shore or seaward where no warbler sings,

and no palm trees, waving their endless fronds.


Instead there’s only heat: the algaed ponds

cannot reflect the sky or even trees,

birches grown bare above them, whose bare limbs

are falling constantly to riversides,

and floating downstream where a viper swims

in wait, for me or you, and all of these

impressions have combined to replicate


the feeling of an ever closing gate.

I want to leap it, get away, become

something completely other, changed somehow

just by the landscape, as my life divides

between the endless blossom and the bough,

walking in rhythm to a restless drum

to Panama, Maldive, or Singapore.

Night to Her Birds

on a black piece of paper

more shades of black

gliding, a stream on a map

the doodles, shapes of dreams

in quiet words


float, my traveling birds,

this February canvas

is yours, say the formidable

clouds


eyes of stars, blind

as dyed red hair, a veil

behind a grotto of gloom-

illuminate as I walk


a friend’s house calling

a studio apartment above

a Cape Air office,

eight college kids, a stray cat,

I notice north-south spanning

as if a flag bleached

underneath

as dark red and gray red

conflict for a muse


the birds in unison in a strange voice

call for a hope of a home

they will chase all their life,

with a night running after them,

the mother pleads: stay


I walk inside an aroma down

a stairway, late night curry,

my ears still ringing of that

strange call. A night to her

birds, hope you find what

you’re leaving me for

NOVUS Literary and Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN