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Poem from March, 2019

Mesa Verde

Drive up with me.

Show the way, magpie, across the invisible bridge.

Old ghosts, be near,
but not too near.

September, early morning, not a trace of haze.
Rabbit brush glows like sulphur
and the mesa dozes in sunlight.
The corner-eye specter on the trail
is a rock or a piñon stump
or a tourist aiming a camera.
Sun-shimmer and squint. The gorges
lie silent and waterless
like dreams of river valleys
that rivers never made.

Climb into me, Anasazi,
take my tongue and language,
tell how you came to farm the corn,
hoarding the snow-melt, learned
to be weavers, potters, masons
in the huge American daylight,
gathering pine nuts, hunting mule deer,
crushed juniper berries with water,
mixed them in cornmeal for our thick blue bread
-- what was our word for bread? --
and praised the gods, hunched in our smoky kivas,
singing over the soul-hole
the mystery of our birth
when first a man crawled out
from warm dark to open air.

We farmed till the droughts got worse,
the corn and squash and beans
shriveled and died, the game thinned out,
and we moved down to live
in the scoops and pockets of cliffs
where water seeped and food could be hoarded,
two hundred feet below the dizzy rim,
nine hundred feet above the canyon floor
perching like squirrels and jays
because the gods decided
(what were the names of the gods?)
that life had been too easy,
that snows should stop and water shrink
and we too nest against the canyon walls
mindful of hardship.

Silence again. Silence in Spruce Tree Lodge,
at Hovenweep, Chaco Canyon,
stone and sunlight resting against each other
and no ghosts coming to converse
at nightfall when the stars spring out
and we stand on the rimrock, staring up
at the Bear and the hunters chasing him,
at the stocky women, grinding corn
among dogs, turkeys, children,
while smoke floats from the kiva
and snow-fluff crowns the sagebrush.

Silence, solstice to equinox.
Empty granaries, cold firepits, dry cisterns.
The sun walks through the canyon,
peering under the sandstone overhangs,
and the wind walks too, wearing pine-smell.
Skull-jar and serviceberry,
sipapu and alcove,
a ghostly sea of buffalo
tossing on the plains below.

And the light slips off
among the rifted mesas,
the dead are wrapped in turkey-feather blankets,
rabbit-fur robes, yucca mats,
and buried in the trashpiles,
while the living move south or west
in search of food and water
leaving it all to the sun and wind and stars
who lived here first.

The night is dreamless,
a star-chart, a crescent wrench moon,
and the air hangs quietly
a sea whose bottom you walk
looking up through the empty miles,
the rocks around you liked turned backs.

The sun cracks earth, the frost splits rocks.
What’s history if it falls away,
if the brick-colored woman
milling corn in the courtyard
isn’t kin to us, can’t leave this landscape,
neighbor horizon and brother canyon wren,
toehold and rampart,
the old river of belief
that pounds through empty gullies
like sunlight and moonlight
leaving them undisturbed?

Touch me. Moisten my mouth,
dazzle my eyes. Link me for a moment to the life
that wore on gently here
and left these ruins to the sun.

In the swept museum,
smaller than hummingbirds
these people kneel and climb in little models
weaving their tiny baskets
hoarding their dollhouse ears of corn.

And who doesn’t crouch below some diorama
while sunlight moves across a mesa.
hearing the call of raven,
glimpsing the Steller’s jay?

I write this on an overhang, a porch,
against a California canyon
that runs down to the sea;
across the way the houses perch and nestle
among the live oaks, palms, and avocado trees.
Hummingbirds float through my eucalyptus
like strange little fingers, or gods,
while the raven’s shadow travels the rough slope,
wrinkling and stretching,
recollection of another life.

The hummingbird comes to rest, midair,
and the mind meshes with other minds,
lost patterns of thought that hang
over the mesa, across the hillsides,
in pools of light and shadow,
and make us bow in thought or prayer,
silence or speech,
while the sun that walked this canyon
when it was brown and empty
and will have it so again
carries the day away
through dry and shining air.

. . . . . . . . . . . .Laguna Beach. September, 1981

Previous Poems of the Month on one page.

Poem from February, 2019
Wishing the Gift of November

Poem from January, 2019

Poem from December, 2018
Thoughts of Chairman Mao

Poem from November, 2018
Pacing Around in the Memory Palace

Poem from October, 2018
October Couplets

Poem from September, 2018
Suite for Jean Follain

Poem from August, 2018
Vermont Summer: Three Snapshots, One Letter

Poem from July, 2018
July Morning Vision

Poem from June, 2018
I Wear My Father

Poem from May, 2018
Two Trips to Ireland

Poem from April, 2018
That Spring

Poem from March, 2018
"Other Forms Were Near": Five Words

Poem from February, 2018
The House Was Quiet on a Winter Afternoon

Poem from January, 2018


Poem from December, 2017
Notes on the Poems

Poem from November, 2017
Late November:
The Wolves at the Cleveland Zoo

Poem from October, 2017
Six Ghosts

Poem from September, 2017
Section 9 of “The Light Show,” from “Poem in Three Parts,”

Poem from August, 2017
Phenomenology for Dummies

Poem from July, 2017
Landscape with Disappearing Poet

Poem from June, 2017
"Broken Field Running"

Poem from May, 2017
The Fragrance of Orchids

Poem from April, 2017
"The Light Show" III, 2:

Poem from March, 2017
Dinner Time

Poem from February, 2017
The Bird Feeder

Poem from January, 2017
The Poem of the Cold


Poem from December, 2016
December Fourth, 1974

Poem from November, 2016
My Father at Ninety-Four

Poem from October, 2016
October Couplets

Poem from September, 2016
From “The Light Show,” Poem in Three Parts, Earthshine (1988)

Poem from August, 2016
Chopping Garlic

Poem from July, 2016
An early poem, c. 1962 . . .
Landscape in Three Lights

Poem from June, 2016 and November, 2008
A Ghost, to One Alive

Poem from May, 2016
Poem at Seventy

Poem from April, 2016

Poem from March, 2016
Wind, Rain, Light

Poem from February, 2016
Small Muliple Elegy

Poem from January, 2016
Hymn to the eye from

Names of a Hare in English (1979)


Poem from December, 2015
The Snow Bird

Poem from November, 2015
Reading Yannis Ritso in November

Poem from October, 2015
My Mother at Eighty-Eight

Poem from September, 2015

Poem from August, 2015
“It’s a Whole World, the Body. A Whole World!”

Poem from July, 2015
Three Walks

Poem from June, 2015
One Who Came Back
. . . . . . . . . . . .
for Franz Wright

Poem from May, 2015
The Poem Against the Horizon

Poem from April, 2015
Walking Home on an Early Spring Evening

Poem from March, 2015
March 10, 2001

Poem from February, 2015
The Hour of Blue Snow

Poem from January, 2015
Lullaby for the Elderly

Poem from December, 2014
On Neglecting to Baptize a Child

Poem from November, 2014
The Light Collector

Poem from October, 2014
October's Stem and Head-Piece

Poem from September, 2014
August Notes

Poem from August, 2014
The Reapers

Poem from July, 2014
Three sections from Night Thoughts

Poem from June, 2014
How Music Began

Poem from May, 2014
Midwestern Families

Poem from April, 2014
Landscape with Grief Train

Poem from March, 2014
The Secret Life of Light

Poem from February, 2014
Fang's Amazing Horse

Poem from January, 2014
Chloe in Late January

Alt text

Poem from December, 2013
Nineteen Sixty-three

Poems from November, 2013
Four About Metaphysics

Poems from October, 2013 and October, 2008
Autumn Ghazal

Poem from September, 2013
Two Villanelles

Poem from August, 2013
A Sonnet from the Sequence, "Cloudstown Lightfall"

Poem from July, 2013
Half of Life

Poem from June, 2013
Writing Poems After Dinner at The Zuo's

Poem from May, 2013
The Fool's Tale

Poem from April, 2013
In Heaven

Poem from March, 2013
Walking Around Retired in Ohio

Poem from February, 2013
Winter Remembered

Poem from January, 2013
After Fujiwara no Teika

Alt text

Poem from December, 2012
Black Labrador

Poem from November, 2012
Late November: The Wolves at the Cleveland Zoo

Poem from October, 2012
The Language Question

Poem from September, 2012
Occasional Sonnets

Poem from August, 2012
The Lemon

Poem from July, 2012
At the White Window

Poem from June, 2012

Poem from May, 2012
In Exile

Poem from April, 2012
from Earthshine (1988)

Poem from March, 2012
Poem for Adlai Stevenson and Yellow Jackets

Poem from February, 2012
The House Was Quiet on a Winter Afternoon

Poem from January, 2012
Piano Practice
from Rainer Mria Rilke

Alt text

Poem from December, 2011
from Six Ghosts

Poem from November, 2011
from Leopardi: L'Infinito

Poem from October, 2011
from Four by Bashio

Poem from September, 2011
from My Little 9-11 Poem

Poem from August, 2011
from Stevens Ghazal

Poem from July, 2011
from Thunder in the Marsh

Poem from June, 2011
from June 17, 2003

Poem from May, 2011
from Sonnels to Orpheus (II, 25)

Poem from April, 2011
More Basho Translations

Poem from March, 2011
Mirror Ghazal

Poem from February, 2011
Pelee Island, Lake Erie

Poem from January, 2011
Five Winter Haiku by Basho

Alt text

Poem from December, 2010
In the Afternoon

Poem from November, 2010
Fall Day

Poem from October, 2010
Kitchen Ruckus

Poem from September, 2010
Visiting the Fengxian Monastery

Poem from August, 2010
David Young Meets the Ghost of Wallace Stevens
on an August Night in His Back Yard

Poem from July, 2010
from A Painting of a Falcon

Poem from June, 2010
from Thoughts of Chairman Mao

Poem from May, 2010
from Henry Vaughan

Poem from April, 2010
from The Light Show

Poem from March, 2010
Whichever Stone You Pick Up

Poem from February, 2010
from 'Water Diary'

Poem from January, 2010
January 3, 2003

Alt text

Poem from December, 2009

Poem from November, 2009
Oh Salmon-Colored Edsel, Run Us Down

Poem from October, 2009
Hearing You Read

Poem from September, 2009
A Country Postcard

Poem from August, 2009

Poem from July, 2009
The Day Nabokov Died

Poem from June, 2009
June 17, 2003

Poem from May, 2009

Poem from April, 2009
Root Vegetable Ghazal

Poem from March, 2009
Poem for Wrists

Poem from February, 2009
Blake's 'Dante and Virgil Penetrating the Forest' (1824)

Poem from January, 2009

Alt text

Poem from December, 2008
December Fourth, 1974

Poem from November, 2008 and June, 2016
A Ghost, to One Alive

Poem from October, 2008
Autumn Ghazal

Poem from September, 2008
The Portable Earth-Lamp

Poem from August, 2008
The Picture Says

Poem from July, 2008
July Morning Vision

Poem from June, 2008
Four About Death

Poem from May, 2008

Poem from April, 2008
The Self: A Sonnet Sequence

Poem from March, 2008
A Lowercase Alphabet

Poem from February, 2008
Chopping Garlic

Poem from January, 2008
A Calendar: The Beautiful Names of the Months

Alt text

Poem from December, 2007
The Poem of the Cold

Poem from November, 2007
At the Back of the Year in a High Wind

Poem from October, 2007 and October, 2014
October's Stem and Head-Piece

Poem from September, 2007
Poem About Hopping

Poem from August, 2007
Putting My Father's Ashes in the Cemetary at Springville Iowa

Poem from July, 2007
Vermont Summer: Three Snapshots, One Letter

Poem from June, 2007
from "Four Songs on a Bone Flute"

Poem from May, 2007
Waking Home on an Early Spring Evening

Poem from April, 2007
Easter Ghazal

Poem from March, 2007
from "Water Diary" (Boxcars, 1973)

Poem from February, 2007
Section 10 of "Dancing in the Dark,"
from "Poem in Three Parts," Earthshine

Poem from January, 2007
Two New Year's Poems by DU FU

Alt text

Poem from December, 2006
Christmas: Ohio and Capolongo

Poem from November, 2006
Three Time-Trips

Poem from October, 2006
October Couplets

Poem from September, 2006
Mesa Verde

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