Dreamtongues

Way back in the mountains, up beyond 
the barbwire snags & warnings, laurel hells
so thick & gnarled intruding flesh goes blind,
a wounded groping over frost-locked spills

of boulder, rotted leaf-mash slick as ice
on crags where Ox Creek springs fully-formed 
from the mountain’s broken skull, from bitterness
& wind as keen as hunger, whiskey-warmed

I make my bed of moss as darkness drips
from twig-tips, flows on quartz-veined rock
to sluice among the moon-inflected shapes
of trees, & swelling, whelms the measured wake

I drift, past archipelagoes of dream
& stormclouds gathering black sheaves of air
tobacco-sweet & burning to relume
a piedmont town, a girl left years ago,

an arc of light translating time’s dark ore
to fluent tongues, pale leaves to psalms of snow.

Orphrey

I dreamed last night our neighborhood again:
A streetlamp glowing like memory’s axiom,
Familiar trees gone quiet, dark with rain.

As clouds recoil, a window's hard quatrain
Cracks my reflection open to a poem
I dream.  At night, the neighborhood again

Unfolds, disclosing latticeworks of jasmine,
Plastic toolsheds, plots of fresh-turned loam, 
Familiar trees so quiet.  Dark with rain,

A rhododendron drips a silver chain
Of sound, its flower so pale beneath the dome
Of dreaming night’s last neighborhood.  Again

I walk my brand-new bike where shadows stain
The grass, my fingers dreaming dew-slick chrome
And darkness, trees, & then a quiet rain

Begins, & suddenly I see her, plain
As moonlight, laughing, turning, running from
This dream of our lost neighborhood, again
So quiet, & the trees, so dark with rain.

My Father Finds Water

-- Weaverville, NC, 1990

 

The trick’s to ask the question right he says
& plants his gnarled stick. Soon cove & orchard
tide with dusk & only ridges blaze
like ships on late November’s shore, a word

spelled out in coals. He turns, heads up the mountain;
I follow, shadowing the familiar boot––
rock-chewed, encrusted, harsh on mossy stone
& log, the slow earth’s give & taking it.

But I’m impatient, anxious, have somewhere
to be, some destiny to follow from
these fallen leaves, these worn-down hills grown dark.

He moves in circles, face gone blank with work,
with listening as if into a dream
of oceans, till he steps & stills: It’s here.