A wounded jay
had hobbled onto the dogwood branch,
a red hole in its side
as if he had been punctured
and he was singing,
lost and loud.
I wanted to go out and lift him,
try to heal the mark,
but he was wild,
singing of the dangers of entrapment,
of the cubed rooms in my house
as if he could always lift himself
off the branch, into air
where wild wings flap in free mornings.
The autumn droops down,
its colors fading,
and the wet banks of leaves
lie not to be touched
except by worms.
The spring is growing,
like a pilose head of hair,
and the infusoria incubate
from the edges of flowers,
fronds of leaves.
I wanted to live to see
this one more spring,
to follow the serpentine trail
between the two green willows
to the mare's pasture.
She, with her short sweaty coiling coat,
has been running through pale days,
remembering the winter
when she bore what was
on her back upwards—skywards—
always with that sizzle of attention
to the length of the pastures,
the long ongoing line of the fields.
Night fell inside me this winter,
with the dreaming elms,
the sycamore sainted with knowing
all was not well and kind,
and it seemed to me,
this had always been so.
I breathed darkness,
and the forsythia
did not rise,
no rose resurrected
in the spring.
I was like this then, but others
went through their lives this way,
transporting their sore and unflinching selves
from dusk to dusk.
They were the first to smile
and say, "I will give you this,"
sharing their clothes,
their hamburger from the diner,
their black-haired dog who greets and smothers
Now no one lifts them
from the spare, bare
apartment without a kitchen.
It is as if what they own and loved
disappears from them
like roses that only leave a red residue
in the garden
after the first frost.
A merciful justice
seems to await them,
and they hear its promises
in the loud winter wind,
but its sword is harsh,
a milky, unfair justice,
like dreams that seem to eat up the daylight.
The sun rises in the east
and is breathtaking,
but those that know no joy are perched
where darkness mixes with light.
For Leonard Peltier, Leader of the American Indian Movement
You wanted the land,
the coiling snakes in the mute forest,
the rapids alternating in the stream,
the sun whose glare never made
you blind, as you put a tong
in your chest, linked yourself to what you worshipped.
The old lived out of their cars,
and never wanted houses, money.
You chose the land over the money
the government offered for the land,
and the land seemed to answer you back,
without greed, without hurting you,
the young doe flicking her ears
beside her mother,
the rabbit, and the spirit of the rabbit
following with gentleness,
the lumbering raccoon,
with squall in his night-sound,
your having the knowledge that the land
contained peace, and it
came from the ancestors,
like descending snow,
and was for the descendants, on.
The day we walked through
the park the Native Americans called Caumsett,
we wore no socks, just shorts
and shoes not made for walking.
You stopped halfway, where there
is a mound of woodchips now;
my dog climbs through, but I do not.
I got a sense of your frailty,
the asthma that made you need
an inhaler. The next day at the beach
you walked lightly, your breath back,
holding hands with Tom, and I got
a sense that life might go on.
Now I am on an imaginary journey
to where you live—near Kansas City,
seeing the weighted clouds,
the snow blossoms portending spring,
the clouds ready to leave me in peace,
so I can see you, not sure
which of us is dying, as if we die
in pieces, and sometimes together,
in pieces of the earth we walked on
years ago, the Native tongues
and Spanish in our mouths—
a piece of the train with me
always, as if in perpetual motion.
The Moon Is Backing Away From Us-D. Laux
We have not valued the field,
have not taken care of our gardens.
We have drilled for oil
in the white home of the polar bear,
and shot the deer in the park
that abuts our backyard.
The moon is backing away from us
with her yellow arms
held open. I want to stretch my hands
back to her, but
she does not know me
or the ruined earth.
Linda Benninghoff: Hunger Artist
Part of the PoetryCircle Showcase series.