Mudlark No. 17 (2001)

Clouds & Green Police

by Robert Gregory

Robert Gregory is the author of two books of poems, INTERFERENCES (San Francisco: Poltroon Press, 1987) and BOY PICKED UP BY THE WIND (Emporia, KS: Bluestem, 1992). Poems recent or forthcoming in TERRA INCOGNITA, HANGING LOOSE, MANY MOUNTAINS MOVING, POETRY MOTEL, and WILLOW SPRINGS. Has also published essays and short fiction.


Thanks to the state of Florida and to the NEA for fellowships that gave me time to work on these poems and thanks to the editors of the following magazines in which some of these poems originally appeared: Larry Smith, CALIBAN: "A Charm Against Captain Poison & Captain Seafish." Marion Wrenn, PAINTED BRIDE: "A Man in Black Shoes Walking Slowly Because His Case Is Heavy." Alan Ainsworth & Rob House, GULF COAST: "History of the World." Chris Howell, WILLOW SPRINGS: "Two Sisters Who Had Wandered," "Blueish City," "Say The Cloud Boy," "Miss Joy's Gone South," and "The Thing." The cover of CLOUDS & GREEN POLICE is a digital photograph, called "Still Life," taken by the author.


Emptiness is a long story
that swallows up heaven and earth
a splash of ink turns into two dragons
stray clouds become an azure dog

      Shih-shu (Trans. James H. Sanford)

You've got to find some way of saying it without saying it

      Edward Kennedy Ellington


Two Sisters Who had Wandered
The Previous Tear
A Young Breeze Gets Restless
The Thing
Say The Cloud Boy
Someone's Been Eating the Moon Again
Rain the Modifier
A Man in Black Shoes Walking Slowly Because His Case Is Heavy
This Morning, Breath is Jealous, There's an Inch of Red
Reminder Too Long to be a Sonnet
A Charm Against Captain Poison & Captain Seafish
A Sleepy Town, One Black Marble
In Passing
Clouds & Green Police
Here (and There)
Blueish City
What the Sleeper Understands
History of the World
Miss Joy's Gone South
Letter Home
Crossing the Sea of Kansas
Of a Man in the Road

Two Sisters Who Had Wandered

two sisters who had wandered
met in a field by the riverside
the elder spoke and said
September, they say
continues very close
houses, neighbors, babies, they say,
will go to ashes in the burning world someday

I tasted sweetness, the other said, yesterday
the day before it rained so much, there was general disorder
the spirit in the house made shaking, noise, and clamor
Elias Miller of our town had a horse killed by lightning
I was detained at Mother's by the rain

what else did she see?
the dance of the blessed
skeletons and lutes
burning spirits, a scorpion, a bird-man

what else did she tell about?
invisible spirits, a dog-face
a surplus maidenhood, a stranger

what else?
that there is music in the motions of heaven, they say
that even all this is nothing they say
to what will turn and drift upward, as light as a girl
inside the burning eye of grace

The Previous Tear

A tree still asymmetrical from lightning
in its cheerful youth, an idle spirit by the door
in tender hesitation. You chose a fairly blue morning
for your dream, she said, the girl with cobweb
on her hand and a smile like a new pair of scissors
or a sleepy dog harassed by a mockingbird.

An angel playing solitaire on a table by the door
beneath a painting of a person fundamentally lost
and a butterfly with eyes along the edges of her wings,
the rusted edge of a Chevy coming in from the left.

What's the curve of a life and is it ever visible?
That's a question. We don't think of the rain as a story
or even a sentence, she said. People here are crazy
every day, she said, today it's like noises banging
at a dirty door, not sure if I'm inside or outside.

The baby stares at small hallucinations: the nail an eye,
the cake a city, the clarinet, about to curve or speak.
She yawns like a cat does, completely, she's round like
the world, she's forgotten the previous tear.

A Young Breeze Gets Restless

a young breeze gets restless when the light begins to move
and moves itself, goes through the grass
and rearranges everything and then again
and then a freight train moves in confidence
through wordless neighborhoods and blurry groups of trees
and sounds a warning, slightly mournful and mechanical
and then one bird and then three hundred
name the space again and then rename the name
as "easy disappearance," as "the miser gave her
a kiss and a promise," as "the little white
stain is true," as "Christ
is like the candle flame, I think,
like a willow tree, like anything that loves to move
delicate and dangerous, to light a house or burn it down,
bonehouse the same, the one infinity that pours and runs
like a stream coming down from a terrible fierce mountain
sweet and clear and very cold, too cold to drink
save from his hands" and that one holds for a while

now the train is past incorporated places, Sister Gone
and Slowness in Control is the name of the first town,
Wren Who Owns the Red Bridge, A Gangster called Too-Sweet
Ancient Legs of Angels Blue and Smooth,
Two Sirens Ignored by a Crow, The Tender Motion Repeated
are the names of others, seen in what the books
call morning (or evening
or pretended shade, with six grown cats along
to carry small wax packages of truth and lift their faces
at a precious flow of breeze that smells of
birds and leopards, of a gray ocean in a long
gray coat and dirty boots and just ahead
that place where the fire goes
after it burns out and goes away somewhere)

The Thing

All around the broken house
the light is fierce, the weeds are glad
the tits on a black dog napping
shine in a casual splendor
and in the city proper
doves in Chinese dresses
go straight on ahead, around, and sideways
on those nasty bright pink feet
eyes wide in everyday amazement
while overhead the birds
caress a thing of sky
above a local person brown and blue
advancing with a very blue and silver fish
too big for dinner, way too small for shelter
in her arms, in what they call a taste of off-time
when people crave the shy beginnings of a smokeless fire
and that long and milky brand of sleep
white leather on a testament
hot lemonade and simple local solitude
with heavy sky and silky dirt
all hot and motionless together
at least they do
according to the word of old man Mr. Darkness (senior)
authority on spider-meat (the sweet, the bitter)
and the gravity of cats
and what a bear will eat:
bark, frogs, lightning bugs,
red plums, all kinds of flowers, hornets
(both adults and juveniles), balance, pain, and dignity
or anything at all, so that
there used to be some very careful names:
the dog of God, the blue tooth,
the old man, the one
who is going around in the woods,
the thing, that which went away

Say The Cloud Boy

say a visible life is best,
and say one feather in the jar, six
fires in a sleepy neighborhood
and say the snail begins to cross the long dark table
while the chairman, early for the meeting, stares,
his face like the square of pork inside a can of beans
and say the dog without a master noses at
a small unambitious object, say the doll stares
at the sleeping child with envy, the old
lady wears a hat so red her head is burning
and say in a closet where the janitor is sleeping
voices quarrel on the radio about a dream-America
and clouds delight in riddles: now what am I?
and then say in the dark the cat
abroad sees something big and runs away in pleasure
and just before the solstice, say the tiny stars are crisp
in a shiny black sky, the breeze no longer a blessing
the shadow of a young tree naked, say a boy with
his new cloud belly floats above the branches
and the stubborn curves, floats above the
cricket fond of the music of sticks
who stays up all night long just listening
and say this wide expensive book
displays blue rivers in the brain
say it's just a cinder otherwise,
red earth to wrap it, grease to spur the fire
tasty for the creatures in the dirt
a gift unwrapped by weeks of rain
by lightning, by either end of daylight
that makes the green lens shiver and the old tree sigh
like a door for the spirit, loose on its hinges
and bangs like a stranger who comes when the wind comes

Someone's Been Eating the Moon Again

Someone's been eating the moon again,
so only a beautiful curve remains,
a single light still burning in the
black palace, smile of a Cheshire sky.
Dried-up cheerful streets go through
the neighborhoods. Inside the dark and
silky black, up through the box hedge,
a flop-eared weed, glittering with frost.
In summertime, it's birds and green
impostors mainly, everything falls open
in the light and crams it in and the wind
has harmless whispers for the grass. The flavor
comes to things again and makes them fat
and sleepy and the nights are black and
stubborn and preoccupied like a solitary
bee inside the flowers rising from
the sage on swaying bones that rise
in a day. Then winter's in the yard.
Two big drowsy weeds stay back, stray
paper flaps a minute on a fence and
disappears, a wind in what was
clover, dill, and violets investigates
the change, the starlings hang around to see
if this is permanent and everything
prepares to close again just like a fist.

Inside, in the rain of hard
fluorescence, a man in a melancholy
blazer orders a biscuit. All around him
voices sing My Mashed Potato Baby, an old
song that still sounds good to him
and everyone else in here. There's a dance
of dizzy angels on a slice of toast
and tiny beings turn and spin inside
the chairs and manufactured flowers rise
in a permanent way in a vase that's like
a TV lady when the lights come on, smiling
in her armor of cute. In 1956, the wind
ran through the tiny yards unnoticed,
they hung a light to represent
the moon, they taught us the road
to heaven and fed us ham with a circle
of pineapple. We kept our stains to ourselves
and imagined a city elsewhere with singing
late at night, Jaguars and murders,
a silky night lit by the luminous curve
of something naked and white.

Rain the Modifier

Early April gray-sky Sunday
waiting for the hissing voice of rain
for the pleasures of rain, the deepening
it brings to leaves and roads, the rust it urges on
the lazy dirt it stupefies and muddies, drowsy worms
it drives up to the surface, to shiver at
a vast ferocious heaven, to answer the endless hunger of birds
all the dead things it breaks and separates
—leaves and pages, faces—
to send them on to green again (they say)
the finicky lovers of dryness it sends scampering to shelter
the foolish walking wanderers it calls, their foolishness
a kind of horizontal rain
a rain that brings out the fragrance of dust on the moon,
the stink of certain notorious mountain spirits
(from a black and silver hill inside the mountains
where also lives the moon, in her dark sister's house)
the way it makes another different morning
where later on, rags will sing in all the trees
and everything will find a way to scatter
will surely find a way though (even though)
every hour of the night the nameless thing
was listening, like a shadow, like a skinny widow
in the house of voices, like a baby misbehaving
crawling naked on an oily driveway
little and fast, too new and fat for silence
letting out a thing, a pre-word, a sound
like a spoonful of glue which came from (in the old days)
bones—and stunk like hell—so the men would cook them down
well away from the houses while the women were gathered inside,
peacefully tearing and ripping scraps for patterns
of warmth: water lilies made of rags

but just for now, because the rain came through
there will surely have to be some early morning heat and
splendor, sleepy angels in the grass who change to vapor
and the vapor to a waver dance and shimmy in that heat,
reason to a glitter on the little blades, identical
and everywhere, and clarity be shining
hard hard hard (for now)

A Man in Black Shoes Walking Slowly
      Because His Case Is Heavy

today the wind is here
from far away, from the silent neighborhood
invisible creatures are laughing
with the sound of ticking ten speed bikes
at all big sentences
and pudgy fingers squashed by crusted rings

the man who sweeps the floor
has cleared his countenance of memory
and that other language with the funny rhythm
father of all edge and angle now
he brings the trees inside where they are safe
tiny black haired girls no bigger than thorns
run to keep up with their loaded mother
chattering to her of the actual world
its monsters and heros

out in the county
abandoned houses are invaded by wisteria
no more iris, no more nandina
they use pie tins there to frighten deer away
from tender things, they put catfish
under pine straw for safekeeping

people in the city now
they know all kind of tricks—he said
but he was fooling
crumbs of marble lay around the sleeping dragon
both of them a city blue
and there's no law that says
you have to walk that way
like a chicken in a churchyard
while underneath the bones give in disgracefully
and shapeless forces have their way

This morning, breath is jealous,
      there's an inch of red

This morning, breath is jealous, there's an inch
of red at the edge of the sky, I saw a bearded guy
walking his dog or a bearded god walking his demon,
the lights of a building where everyone slept in white cloth
or a burning rusty ship at anchor, last night I saw a naked
moon, this morning I saw crows, one made a crack about the
heat and waited for an answer, a wasteful day begins
that spills with light and wind, young insects
gripping leaves, gray angry mockingbirds,
green theories, smoke and sweet ambition,
small and hard but not a seed, fingertips and cigarettes,
lost petals, swaying magazines, an elegy for last night, gone
like a train with no one aboard in a polished sky
with no edges or sides, the light falling through
that came a long way to fall on blacktop and mockingbirds
hunting with smiles on their faces. But another time is
hiding in this time, the wind is working on its music then,
small rain, a withered house, green secrets, a cloud above
the city, eyes with tender wings. A blistered place appears
and lifts a river on the map. Seeds on paper
in the sun are fading. Standing legible in rain, three
long old shadows. The chains can make a kind
of music, things can stir inside you on a working day.

Reminder Too Long To Be A Sonnet

Let's not forget the god of underwear
or either the faded paint
on the once-ugly but now old and beautiful building god
or the dirt god, the god of blue jays and yellow weeds
the 8 1/2 x 11 god, the god of twigs,
the god of hidden stones
and ones too small for hiding
the beer can god
the god of sky held tightly between branches
the bumble bee god, the god of toads, the crow-laughter god
the god of rain asleep on naked leaves
the god of webs and dirty roots and hundred year old spiders
the god of skins, shells, pelts, and feathers
the god of meat and apricots
and small bone-colored flowers
the god of 24 hour markets, of necks, of butter
of glittering ink, the fruit stand god
the god of cablevision, the god of UPS, god of nightclubs god
of seagulls, god of tits, the god of tourists
the god of waitresses and their inarticulate
but loyal boyfriends waiting in silence
while she counts her money, drops her cigarette
into a glass of flat Pepsi, says okay, we're history

A Charm Against Captain Poison
      & Captain Seafish

daughter of the blue man
she sways to the left and then sways to the right
she is the descendant of ancient notables and worthies
she walks surrounded by myriad harms
malicious beings and voices
toward greasy beaches and trashy bus stop shelters

you can see his sadness in his body
in the way he walks and breathes
and looks in one direction only

is there a change in the weather
and no corresponding change in me?
when he fell down, his spirit flew off

sir, she said, I know
where the tiny ones live
the people made out of sticks
how glad I would be to show you the way
a woman with her hair tied back
to keep it from tangling with things
saying prayers, a handful of gravel to count with
against Confusion and Stupidity and other beings
a spirit army poised against one breathing child
smoking a long cigarette, peeling off a crimson sock
to stroke her dirty instep
all the time talking
fragments of grief and injury

once a year the souls of former kings
and mighty ones were visible
she shivered "like a bird in the rain"
the singing of the sea spirit
and of the forsaken spirit at the edge of the village
they call up for dancing the fiery substance
the body's companion
and a thousand tricks and names as well
in the shadow of the orchard,
little praying mantis small and pampered
the old holy people, the king of the birds,
words that have a sweet taste
kings asleep on a green mountainside
the father is invisible inside the garden
inside the complicated body
stands a tree that is naked and white
(true body
and sweet principal world)

A Sleepy Town, One Black Marble

A sleepy town, one black marble hidden
in among the daffodils, the small birds crying
sharp edge of a cloud, the road appears and disappears.

Cloudy water in a blue glass in the kitchen.
A red ball in the leaves that longs to roll away,
an ancient tree, an evening dragon.
The birds are glad on their branches.

Drift of thought inside the church
of bones and vines, a small invisible sun
behind fat luminous clouds, a treasure in a buried eye
like this expensive private rain, their careful radiance
the secret music as the black comes down
the dogs join in, the lights go on
along these silver fences, faded persons
watch the moon, the earth lies quiet.

The birds begin a skinny Monday tune,
the clouds come close, they swell and furl
the man comes by to pick the trash
for a majesty unbleached or a tiny private empire
or rusty tools, old paper, insects in their armor
the last thin sweat of September
a small blue hand preserved in a jar.

Sometimes she walks around talking to bees.
The other day I saw her standing on the corner
with her arm around a crow, tiny angels
walking in the raggedy grass. Light through the blinds throws
shadow on the far wall.

In Passing

blue logic in the movements of birds
thoughts that are scarce and fantastic

a smear of dirty mountain on the long horizon
a smell of bitter smoke, an early chill

from a peeling sky, a shameful and beautiful light
a bird that never tires of its call

shadow on the page, gradations of
and on the old and naked sycamore, tiny flowers break

robins run and stand, a sideways glance
the grass for thickness and for all directions

graceful breezes go on through
it's Tuesday, just below the turn

aware in passing of this body
sticks and breath and secret rivers
blue like ordinary end of day

Clouds & Green Police

It's charity that ate the wolf, they say.
Last night a black sky ate the moon
and left a naked swimmer curled and frozen in the ice.
In summer horses dream of grass. Other times
a boy with a painted hand keeps the world shut,
light clings to every object, rifles stand along the wall and
smile, the dirt has writing on its face
describing the pleasure of light on a wall
and days where the sky is dry and thin. In summer
the trees are full of babies hanging down like fruit.
Inside the house, the cats are dancing on the
polished floor. In the evenings, robins move across
the grass hunting; they cross into the shadows and return
as if it were nothing, clouds and green police,
a village gone inside the river, a change from a dry night
to a careful patient motionless night

Here (and There)

(like Herod in his rage)
way back inside this icy sky
the stars no longer blur (the dirt itself
has had its fill of blood by now)
the mystery is shining up there calmly
the cars are clean by rain
water pools and holds without vibration another smaller sky
(they burn the fathers and the big boys first)
and when the cold arrives the skin pulls tight
the bones inside the hand articulate
as if each were about to leaf

a nurse on an elderly bicycle (seen from above)
her long white coat that flutters in the breeze she makes
(a sight for snipers and the devil roars for borderland
the dirty smoke from burning piles of meat is there
that gives him appetite)
in season, inside the raw glory of weeds
across an icy wall as strong as doubt
(a place that lives inside the glass
and handsome voices only)
where the river lies taut, preoccupied
a slow delicious moon lies trapped
green and oblong in the temporary surface
the wind is stirring in the grass
thin angels stand in double flowers
names of the slain are blue and blurred beneath their skin

Blueish City

in your empty palace there
a spider in a high sweet corner dreams
there's a lady with a thorn in there
in a rusty bucket old baseballs soaking in milk there
the storm clouds come right up to the window there
to look inside

they tell stories of vertical truth there
and that San Diego jism has a yellow sheen
last year they burned in stately ritual
the gigantic body of Santa Claus
on a pile of silvery birches
now his shadow flying past brings no more icy dreams

the bicycle man scatters pigeons with his rectangular radio
people are faster there than they really need to be
and people who wear headphones there
don't realize they are singing out loud
near the place where last Thursday the local women
saw an angel throw his silver shoes
into the black and blue ocean

in spite of the tiger's red hard-on
the bright green wound of the bachelor
shadows gather there (naturally) underneath the chair
the butterfly unrolls his tongue in a field of indigo
and there are lilies in the sea, I understand
that's so expensive to approach and tastes so bitter
like a blue Ethiopian weed


in bent down glory in a breathing world
where lines and curves are scattering
there stands a tree with birds and nakedness
a useful eye, a little fire at a distance
like something learned in a dry school
when the spine talks back to the chair
the last of the breeze goes sailing away
a church in one hand, sly creation in the other
ladies try to hold big sleepy husbands
exhausted leaves are scattered in the grass
the undersides of clouds could be a stiff and random answer
or just diligence or just another porkchop sky

they say one corner of the bird will turn to words
a conversation disappears across a blurry sky
these are places where the curving moon
is visible all day, where cities drone and snarl
and strange pale gentlemen are floating in big jars
yet another fierce arrangement of the wise

stillness and patience, clouds and sirens
small machines go roaring in the dark
a fornication or a riddle told in Greek
of wise and foolish animals and laws
the frightened girl is changed to a seahorse
a piece is torn from the unwilling moon
just big enough to make a child
who sits alone in a naked place
where giants green and blustering
think their slow thoughts and sigh in their beds of dirt

What the Sleeper Understands

In the news an arm is bare, a car
is full of dirt, a face is in the road
unraveling, the narrow lightning with a tinge of green
is helping it along, and stubborn flowers
come rising from a blue discarded blouse

that one musician goes on still
although the dark is getting skinny now
and now the pupil almost fills the glowing space
pleased and alarmed like a baby alone on a roaring bus
and on the street, a strong pretender walking
and objects from a different time: their awkwardness
is pleasing now, the grime inhabits every crease, for shadow
for justice in the burning room, in delicate September
when there's a pistol in the dirt, aged and mute
in a new contagion of order, a bad addiction to rain
in a close place, in a thin river,
where the flood took all the walls away

stay close and eat your whispers, that was her advice
in the warm dirt, the small things move for pleasure
imaginary odor of a long tall room
a locust singing near the yellow sandwich
the dean examined his trousers unhappily

one warm arm, one blue arm
delighted speech of the bee
the redhaired priest began to shout: wakefulness
the theme, the street does not imagine ways
of refusing the rain or the clear disorder
the moon holds up a glowing hand before its face
the skin reacts to a subtle movement of the wind
or the insidious nature of grace, and
do we understand that way of moving? he said,
does a sleeper understand sleep?

The History of the World

First, unusual forms of rain: Pliny says when Ascilius and
Procius were consuls it rained milk once, and blood once, and
many times it rained flesh. Or: they vanish away,
the white cities, among the western mountains lives
a very strong thief. Or: a secret devotion come August, and
long disappearance of life comes after, and shade, and rusted
gates, and broken sidewalks with writing
and a cistern where the water keeps something bitter and good
or inside the disallowed and black old used up leathery word
with cotton or cane, a little money, tarpaper lonesome houses
and a few big old ugly suncrazy flowers leaning over
as if to read the dirt. Or: she's on the old way back
with the story of the devil and his ugly dog
and the one where the snake learns to whistle
but trades away his most precious talent in exchange.
She'd be just about visible by now, and she'd
start in right away with the story: hasta ahora, hermano...
brother, up to now you know I been pretty sad
but this I know: we are not boxes of anything
or insects asleep on faded red magazines. There's a witch
asleep inside your eye, each one, and a city asleep
inside her mouth. Inside that city, rainsoaked houses
of sailors and perfumed widows, streets that come back
on themselves, aimless barking of shivering dogs,
a light in a window here or there, someone coming closer
to the last thin moment of breath. There's a train
on its way to that city, a man in the baggage car
recently dead, in his pocket, a seahorse and a papery bird.
We move in the year of our shyness 1889
south of Bridget Falls where the solitary rider is lost
and glad to be lost and the dead man has carried the usual
secret world. Now the images stream from his chest like
butterflies in clouds in Cham or Lhus or Mizra'im.
His trees and his miniature armies in wild plantations
and his talk in wanderings of the fields. He spoke (by their
wings and fluttering) of the equivocal nature of all human
things, of the two directions of the soul, of the seeds of
rocket and mustard, he spoke about the process
and motion of the heart of the world. It's not so easy
to become unbroken. The witch will often back away
from slippery walls of flesh. She prefers the heads, where
it's dry, to be a shadow-lesson there or a kind of nothing.

Miss Joy's Gone South

Miss Joy's gone south
to warm her private bones
and find a standard rain
with three or seven variations
the locals put their objects out
the ones from dreams: a serious and grimy
thimble, a smiling piggybank,
a yellow teacup with a Chinese crack
to catch a few big drops that smell like sky
they wait inside the doorway of a turquoise house
or a pink house that's also lavender and yellow
smoking cigarettes and singing just a little
if someone starts a tune, something also
in the memory of weeds, tall and country-awkward
along with a jealous breeze, two thousand crows
a massive afternoon, the garden breathing
heavily and slowly, like a gangster long retired
in the midst, a bird upon a pole
with a tune that's broken but useable and a black little eye

Letter Home

lost in a weed-covered city
asleep in a house of souls
in green days and silence,
precision of birds
waiting for rain, for a door
somewhere inside to open

a moon for hunting animals
slides into leftward clouds
a bee inspects a scarlet bicycle,
then lands to eat some salt from the handgrips
imported monsters stand at a naked window
and look out, the moth evades the sparrow
with beautiful random turns and falls
the large thin god of dew
lies fast asleep across the grass
birds make a little upward curve
as they approach a branch
lights come on in houses,
blue comes into the sky

Crossing the Sea of Kansas

A day's blue rain, small angels gather in the trees,
a piece of tin flies off the barn, a cold spring moon
in an old sky, starlings fly down to grab straw
for their nests, honey clings to the edge of a knife,
money asleep in a wallet in a dusty part of town,
spectacles and poisons in the window of the narrow store,
jars of triangular seeds, smiles at odd angles reflected,
slow movements of clouds as they cross the Sea of Kansas
like chairs in the river, vertical and nonchalant.
The sailors insist they smell lilacs,
one man's arm is green with names of girls and cities
and a picture of the devil dancing with a smiling pig.
If there's more than one child in the womb they say
they'll fight with each other and kiss through their time.
Alone you come in curved and blind, they say
you drift like a cloud, you bring your distance with you.


the cat attacks the sulky billfold
and above, the clouds are eloquent

the cricket sneaks along the baseboard
in a delicate confusion, looking for a thing
mislaid, like a freedom

or a calculation, like the sweetness
of remembered movements
to a window lady in a dirty gown

at seven, greedy bees
hang backward from the hyssop
then the houses throw a shadow back and forth
darkness comes down from the trees

when everything has done, a naked moon comes out
to stand and say the epilogue
smiling in its beard

Of a Man in the Road

Faces move away in a boat made of paper
inside the beautiful curves of the storm
and then there's a moon in a luminous mood
in a black place, a moon for workers and
travelers, a remedy for grief. There the weeds
grow old and crack, they let the secret
of their stubbornness come out invisibly,
to crows and a secret moon that hides
in the curve of the song and in the man
in the road with his poor torn hand
held up to show. Behind him his house made
of cedar, the one the sun had dried and
grayed, traditions of dryness and transparency
here, handmade walls that move a little out of true
gently and slowly and tunes that wander
like a big-eyed staggering child. The one
he likes the best is called "the moon is a poor
kind of wife, dog lettuce and pinhead grass
at the edge of her music, cool sound of the
ringing phone in an empty house, a silky
thought goes walking on between bare trees and sky."

William Slaughter, Editor
Department of English & Foreign Languages
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, Florida 32224-2645


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Contents | Mudlark No. 17