Upon Finding a Letter Written By My Father,  Age 14, From Camp Chewonki, Maine, 1949

It isn’t difficult to see you there:
the cabin empty, rows of regular names
notched into ancient pine, a few beams
of afternoon sifting the dusty air

above your parted hair & half-moon lids,
your fingers choking the sweat-slick nub of pencil,
digging your way from word to word, while all
the other boys hoot up the summer woods,

their voices echoing across the pond
& playing fields, the rim of hills, & farther,
mountains rolling down to dusk & weather
like a dark armada burning; still your hand

kept to its task, till slowly what it gave
was this: the image of a solitude
you were too young to name, these words I read  
now hard as diamonds, dark as any love.

House

House of the heavy door

House of the bronze claw cool to the touch

House where twilight pools in cut glass
& polished wood, where dark mythologies lie coiled & still

House of stillness but for the trickle of water
over copper leaves

House where a dream of lost empires 
shimmers in the gloom, smelling faintly of salt
   
House of hanging plants & embroideries of plants,
of priapic fungi, swollen fruit, flowers & herbs, imaginary
lives lived out in a tropical mind

House of porcelain-tusked elephants poised
on a side table’s beveled palm

House of high-backed chairs & low chairs,
footstools & plush couches crouching
& empty, lazily alert as lions

House where lacquered silences are hung, reflecting
a hidden source of dawn

House of the grizzled portrait

House of puppets sleeping open-eyed in their boxes

House where a woman still appears 
in her dressing gown, her hair
pinned back tight from translucent temples,
her real hair, grey & stiff as smoke hanging in the woods

House of the keen-eyed petite woman
& in the background a man, her husband
stooped & dignified as a mountain,
hard of hearing, moving to greet me

House I keep coming back to, trying
to find them, wanting to say something

House where I have to say something 
or hear something said, to listen
to the clock’s distinct faint chiming echo
through those more expansive hearts,
those darker, blood-filled, unfashionable hearts

House of shadows where I
keep reaching for the wrapped gifts,
for the thin blue hand

A Game of Catch

After the meal, the den-warm faces
drowsing in the lamplit velvet arms
of couches, the kitchen sounds a soft
staccato, TV muted to a pantomime
of something dreamed almost remembered,
Grandaddy lying down again,
dying of cancer in the back bedroom 
where I’ve never been but will be,
I slip out through the sliding glass doors 
to the slate-paved patio where leaves 
still twirl like mottled costume feathers
from the dark attics of the live oaks,
each trunk banistered with a vine 
of braided steel, the highest branches
black against the vaulted sky,
the sky leached cobalt-blue to rose
by late November distance, where  
I see him now, far from the house’s glow,
brother to my mother, framed
by the same hand working me still
through bones’ ache & foundry
to that congruence, treading gloom
& roll, sure-footed of the course,
one of the Charlotte cousins with him,
moving apart, away, but keeping
a measure local to themselves,
shifting, compensating in it,
a dialogue of sleeves, white signals
coded, sent, decoded as he 
hooks from the momentary stream,
& cradles, bears it a few jogged steps
over lighter rough & onto the blue
swell of fairway, twisting in his run
to send it out strongly into darkness
toward the waiting arms I now no longer 
see but hear like wings the sent thing arc 
into that waiting, sing snug home, 
their moving now gone ghost against
the night of trees, a hint, a dream 
of boots in wet grass, creak of fingers
gripping the leather’s rough & give,
the surge & snap of strength delivered,
the light, listening breath––