From what bed or bank or shop
from what habit to adore, have you
placed a few just so in a vase and let go,
what air of finery
a simple gesture makes
though lines of rust run
over their mouthy curvature,
and they give up a snuff
of seed dusting a maple grain.
It is a pleasant picture, simple
as water lilies Monet set
down over years, war years.
His water lilies he might say
of lilies, of seeing
an amputee, say, on the roadside,
or hearing someone gassed cough up
some blood-spotted phlegm
into a kerchief he folds,
like a scrap of canvas, politely
back into his pocket.
Or was that his wife settling in,
her lungs busy mired under
the surface of her skin.
From what well or eye does one
slog forth a life. Is that my morning
Is that my paper folded so precisely
I can’t tell its date or the names
scrolled as delicate
as fiddlehead, as a fiddle leafing
through a sheet of war song.
You write this and already
these hills littered with funerals
receive another, and the hills too
sing dying in an undying congress
of birch and beetle and drought.
Is that Monet’s wife at my door
her lungs in her hands
or my brother waking at night
under inches of sand and sky
This ain’t Surf City, Bro,
This is the fucking moon.
Is that my country kicking
some teeth in. Is that my soul
prattling on about cut flowers
at the breakfast table,
unwanting of brush or gaze, arbored
in the fat shade of grape leaves
even though we know
what we know. What should be said—
Imperiled toward what
does a soul turn, what shrill.
Whatever you are you are coming
late. The flowers a low flame,
the vase a Molotov.
And there is this—light
leaning through a window, a quiet
fire that drinks us in.