There is the desert
that is a slow wick,
and the cactus and the highway
defiled in waves of heat.
There is the desert of this blank page
where waters freeze
and are released at the first light.
Water and salt water.
When Hugo hit these shores
people fled. Houses were torn
like families, trees uprooted
like sons. Storms clashed dunes,
Bagged, re-bagged. The aired salt
coated a new coast in its icing.
There is the blood moon
striped to peppermint by clouds.
There is the sliver of a gravestone on my shelf
split by kudzu from an antebellum
cemetery in Orangeburg,
and it spells MARGARET.
There is the field beyond the vineyard, beyond the orchard,
where a shuttered, clapboard farmhouse burned
leaving four brick sentinels
no one will curl up to in winter.
There is Miguel Marti i Pol
with Multiple Sclerosis,
he writes in Catalan.
He hears the breath’s rhythm
“When someone makes love with a nubile girl.”
There are the antiques of my grandmother’s house,
where every scratch of teak wood,
every broken doll
the groove-worn records of the victrola,
recall the lingering wings of the dead.
There is the deck of cards,
in four suits, aristocratic,
who will continually lose
their crispness in the shuffle of our hands.
There are vowels.
There is the blue heron on my dock,
a curved question mark.
There are many birds on the branch at my kitchen window.
The creak of hardwood floors
breathing back and forth at night when the frost sets in.
There is the bookshelf my grandfather built as a boy
to hold his Latin grammar
that still smells of the tobacco barn
where he plied the wood.
There is the guitar,
that was left behind by my uncle,
a long crack beneath the pick guard.
All is multiplication and division,
Sines, Cosines, and Tangents,
numbers I can no longer add
without counting my fingers.
There is a porcelain doorknob,
a paperweight from a dead house on my desk.
There is Michael,
my cousin, who lives alone
working glass to stained-glass,
he goes to sea two times a year,
a ship’s engineer, and we will not hear
from him for months on end.
There is the artery tug of an Otis Redding song,
and my father who pleads with the Lord
“to please let Otis have whatever it is he wants.”
There is both Epithalamion and Prothalamion.
What is released
when the gas pipe opens?
when the glacier moves?
when the Galapagos Tortoise
breathes his last breath,
the one whose shell was dated by Darwin?
What is released when wood warps,
when guitars buckle under the pressure of six strings?
All is kinetic and potential energy,
I have memorized geology,
I still forget the ground below your feet.
What is released when we wake
in the morning to the slant light
through Venetian blinds
written across our eyes?
What is in the hollow arc of my mouth?
There is enormity.
There is vast openness.
There is the voice of a blank continent
calling for jungle.
And what there is not
is a dark storm
slowly forming on the Gulf of Mexico.
Poetry for imaginative conservatives may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.
The painting above is Little Blue Heron by John James Audubon.