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 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––