Just before dark
a burst of chimney swifts
swoops and spins in the dying glow,
drawing the air taut with concentrated grace,
with the precision
of late and lucid thought.

The old hound that had slept
by the highway, hidden in tall grass,
and trotted anxiously back and forth
with pickups sucking an empty wake
through endless August air
looked straight into my eyes
asking hopefully, shyly
are you the one?

Taking him there, knowing the fate
of a betrayed old mangy dog
at the shelter,
I wept and after a fashion prayed
as for my father,
my lost dearest cat,
my murdered friend,
childhood acquaintances gone
one by one by war,
by motorcycle crash,
by inexplicable bubble
bursting in a newly-delivered mother’s brain.

The air does tremble
as it should.
How much will we put up with?
Where are we?—scurrying clumsily,
shuddering, too, at this frantic groping,
the desperation to merge,
a metallic taste, then
hollowness, alone.
Are you the one?

The middle of the day dazzles,
drenches us full in the face and blinds us.
Only sometimes deep at night
to grinding insects
or the creaking silence of profound cold,
or with the last tight-swelling glow of day
pressing hard against our chests,
we see
the air that separates us,
the illusion of distance,
the way back.


(Published in the chapbook Just Following the River)