“There is water here.” [Reflection Poems]

The wind that raised me


spartina alterniflora

juncus romanus

then laughed,

in wavelets holding

brackish reflections

of a blue that we called ‘sky,’

at the way we try to name things

The stories carried hints

like the underside of leaves

that had just pushed out

through the flesh of stems

in a gathering of cells

quick as lightning to open

without knowing why

into the sun that warmed

the tiny chambers of sap and cellulose

to cast a glow out into air

and radiate the simple, fervent scent

of brand new life

barely more than a breeze,

a soft exhale through the epiphyte

they called Spanish

even though it knows nothing about Spain

or anything else in the world

where things and places

have names

who I am, who I was,

the place where I am from,

which doesn’t exist anymore,

in the way that it did,

just like everything else

they come in the night

hot breath and mother’s milk,

smoke and beer,

the cold of ice on the tongue,

hollering across a blazing field,

speaking low

with the pine gathered close and quiet seeping

the sharp smell of a home

I will not see again.

glabrous shine dark red

to black, a critical mass

sweetness building slow

Beautiful people

all over the world, living

sad lives, scenic places

a chart, scatterplot

would show no going back now

too much ripe, ready

(what is it to live

the last summer of one’s life?

…asking for a friend.)

Next year’s cane reach bold

soft green, fleshy thorn, straight tall

not knowing, they’ll wait

Last week, a surprise

to find the dark half globe hid

among the blood red

Now, everywhere

more than ever,

then gone.

The look of the room 

was full of New South 

Palmettos in pines, sweet blessed shade

beyond the plastic lines of blinds 

and brutal swathe of buffalo lawn 

stucco on the outside 

carpet and rush of cold,

compressed air 

on the inside 

all pale blue and grey 

pastel accents 

under khaki, sitting prim 

and civilized, fur sprayed and face made 

to be modern, educated, 

informed behind the convex spectacles

that hide the earnest child

the one who wants to help, 

the one who thinks they know the answers.

The answers were all wrong, 

but she gave them anyway

because she thought they were right,

the answers. 

A common mistake,

very human thing to do. To have the wrong answers, and to think they are the right answers.

“Your daughter,” she said,

“has a condition.”

On the night before the full moon

I bickered with my oldest child in the wind

About why he could not run off

to Shining Rock at sundown,

we watched the day explode

Glad for the gales that make silence

No need to talk in wind like that

light gold and purple

All across the mountains

Walking in the dark

Across the field of dry grass

Spotlight on our backs

Shadows on the road

Land rising black against the sky

Right under Venus

No lights up there on that rise

feet getting wet down here

shifting stones in the ink of the ground

I was with my children

Taller than I am

Daughter in the stream, wetting her head

her feet, like some baptism

just silliness

Silly like the geese in the river on Sunday

Reminding us

not to leave one another behind


a day full of voices

Warbled and piping

Bowed heads

and the happy, kicking feet of children

Old brows stern with the serious business

Of giving thanks

and the rituals of passing plates,

setting knives aside

with a gracious hand


Away from talk

of games and scores,

sickness and health,

plans, a grievance,

maybe two,

wishes and a regret,

the solemn nod to the seat

now empty

owls call into the dark

roots rest in cold soil

dry leaves spin silent to the waiting ground

their arrival announced

in a whispering, settling sound

that nobody hears

While water falls across rocks

Stirring up wind

That blows branch and limb

against the windows

of warm houses,

and shudders the flames

of fires burning

all night long.

She considers the ringing in her ears

sweet lull between cars passing

Down on the street beyond

The tangle of old apple trees and privet

That hides this house

The birds settle down

when there are no cars

And the sky is beginning to have

That soft look about it

Like the inside of a blanket

Not even grey, just the white glare of down

a thunderstorm just being born

In the slight wind from the southeast

Where all those boneyard beaches are

She’d spent the morning daydreaming

Awake and smiling

In the ease of line

And in the imagining

of a quick drive from here

To there

A whole ‘nother world

Down there by the water

Now she considers the ringing in her ears

And how bothered she is by the sound

Of cars, the guttural push of a bus on the hill

She doesn’t think she wants

to go for a bike ride

To be out on the road

With the bright and the glare

The cars driving past

Loud all around her

I painted a tiny picture once

Of a woman on a table

Cut open at the chest

Blue roses spilling forth

From the cavity of herself

And what I meant to say with this

Sitting at my desk in a white painted room

With a window northwest facing

The view of the roof next door

lives underneath the tar

woman at a counter on the bottom floor

A store clerk and a seamstress

Making noodles

behind a wall of glass

While the brush painted blue

Onto blue

The curve of petal and closed lid

The movements of the city

Rushing as a breeze in the bare limbs

Of the tree that grew up between the buildings

And what I meant to say

Years ago, with that tiny figure

Blue roses spilling forth

Was that I wanted to show you

What’s inside of me

“Here, look,” she said,

leaned into the dark

disappearing into the slur of night

new moon, no moon

thick of shadow suggesting

just a little light

up there, Venus rising

sun gone, still

over past the mountain

casting dim on clouds

shimmer the leaves and slick up the water

but, fail

to show us the bark,

to show us the details

(Lenticel and the pursed mouths of blooms

not quite open

“Kalmia latifolia,” she’d told you at the car,

when she’d said,

“I am learning to learn again.”

and listed all the names she knew.)

(She didn’t tell you that the sounds of them, these names, felt uncertain in her mouth, that she felt like a child saying them. She said nothing about the strangeness of remembering that she used to be a person who knew the names of things, could say them like quicksilver, say them like music, syllables like dancing in the everyday talk of flowers. She doesn’t tell you any of this, standing beside the car with the day bright blue and Rhododendron catawbiensis mutely blooming behind you.)

At night, she leans forward

into the mass that is earth

toward the rustle of spring

and for a second she is gone,

swallowed, but you heard her push aside the branches,

hollow knock of rocks disturbed, 

feet grinding stones,

licking into moss,

the damp fur of mountain

speckled with light that might be the moon,

or plain old mica.

Reaching forward, one finger, two,

bracing toward the glow

curious to see what would happen

if she touches it. 

Held her breath to find

the light stayed the same,

fixed to the ground,

beaming up in pinprick smears

a scatterplot spelling out,

“There is water here.”

that place is still


underneath the pavement

and the tires

and the signs

with their sun-bleached messages

that said:

You Don’t Belong Here

they lied


this has always been your place

underneath the bones

and the branches

the moss like ghosts

and the tides like a heartbeat

as slow and steady

as your very own history