Once a year I pull the sour weeds
That threaten their names. The dates
That bracket like the gates of paradise
In which I disbelieve. Their bones prefigure the shape
Of destiny. That’s what I think.
The empty holes they stared from generously
At the only child they made. Holes they
Breathed from when air was their
Dimension. Teeth and jaw that clamped
On praise or chastisement. The morbid chants
Of childhood where the worms
Go in and out are cancelled by the comfort
Of how they must be stripped
Now of all corruption. That I can walk over
Their bodies is a proof that they existed,
That they are more than scattered ash,
Cast away. As if that could matter.
As if anyone could rise
To judgement. Everything I disbelieve remains
Below the frostline in the earth I love.
Each river makes a valley,
Sometimes with a plunge,
Elsewhere just a sloping
Of slow erosion the way parting
Can be easy, not the occasion
Of curses and thrown utensils.
What it means to live by a river’s
Philosophy is that floods are expected
And you accept that mud wall-to-wall
Will be scraped and shoveled. That toil
Is part of it. So why would you
Choose something preposterous
As drowning, just for a season of watching
Leaf boats whirl in the current.
It might have been love or something like it,
The consistency of its passage
From one dam to the next
Where it drops into the boil,
The mixmaster that takes you down
And holds you and holds you.
As a boy, my father picnicked
in the Devil’s Punch Bowl—
A hundred feet deep with trees whose canopies
Feathered the top. They would climb down
Amid giant ferns to seek the delicate
Maiden Hair where rich hammock soil and rains
Established a fairyland. They spread the cloths
To lunch on sandwiches, potato salad, pickles,
Then toiled wearily up the sides, gripping roots,
Lugging the ferns they would replant in pots.
At the summit, the horses waited patiently
To pull the wagons home.
Today, geologists are testing circumference,
Ordering evacuations. The earth is not solid.
Foundations cannot be trusted.
Imagine sleeping as the cavern
Beneath your bedroom gapes
And with a rush you descend
Into the heart of limestone,
The porous misadventure of