Salt is all that is left of the water, dull crystals
clinging to the edges of the concrete pot
where angels in relief raise their graceful
robes around the citrus. Barren, its rain-
water leaves softened where we rubbed
the bitter scent onto our hands, into
our singular human grooves. If it, the plant,
has written in its roots a line upon which
it continues, if somewhere in the lining
of the stems the current of an underwatered
relative makes its leaves gleam with the zeal
of anger or revenge, this potency is lost
on us. We kill the bell pepper-shaped leaves
of the sumac again and again as it chokes
the trunk of an osage orange, but we never think
of it rising against us to take back its land.
Squirrels eat the oranges and leave a black
scattering rot in the grass. They lick the minerals
from the edge of the pot, salting their living
water, and taking on the shape of the contained.
Of Ancient Lights
Light in the eyes of the law is ancient
after twenty years. The sun must reach
the church arch and transom,
the windows of timber-
built homes. We fixed the divisions
of the calendar: Nothing
should have to be born
more than once. In January:
ploughing— No season is dead.
February stabs at winter with barren
strawberry. We doze on the cold
morning lawn and behead
its sprouted daisies.
The willowherb fluff will be blowing
next month. In clear and root-
lifted October, animals bury
the last hazelnuts. Weekenders
finding fault with the Earth
can look into space for comfort.
Through our framed hands we see:
Mercury with no procession of night,
Venus wrapped in clouds,
Sea of Crises, Sea of Mists,
the starry river splitting.
What can we on Earth still hold
when Autumn ends? Woodsage,
hogweed, prickly and stripped,
like a scarecrow’s umbrella of bone.
A tremendous question hangs
in the December sky.
It’s our turn to walk on the surface of earth,
packed pockets trampled by ages of faithful,
firm steps of believers in ground. Water finds
a way in a way air doesn’t. There can be life
without thought. What we place on the grave
was never living, was pressed through a stencil,
clamping flowers and letters together. Such rain
it would take to make this remembrance dissolve.
It’s our turn to walk on the flat, back-hoed earth,
as if air never will drive cracks into pockets, never
bring into being an abyss that will travel like sparks
on a wire to the brain, no embolismic doubt
will bloom into a beautiful network of faults,
invisible under the surface of earth where we walk.
In the darkroom, the image unravels like a ribbon.
Misreadings rise up out of the gray. We wait at the strange
destinations of letters. First, a fog. What will rise
out of the fog? Some trees, a hill, a pond. An odd stalk
or egret is made no more still by being contained
in the still. The egret is an unpigmented stalk until you turn
away. A great gray Figure A standing in the center
begins to seem slumped and heavyhearted.
Because we cannot predict anything, a head becomes a hat
on a head. A man is strapped in wooden wings,
shingled wings, body bent against the heaviness
of theory and marrow. A print-like ripple disturbs the center
of the pond. Brackets are marking a space that appears
neither to start nor to end. We cannot predict anything.
Carolyn Guinzio is the author of Quarry (Free Verse Editions, Parlor Press, fall 2008) and West Pullman (Bordighera, 2005), winner of the Bordighera Poetry Prize. She lives in Fayetteville, AR.