Bringing A Fir Straight Down

A fan-tail of black floats
above the knoll and the Wood’s
Boss puts on his orange muffler
helmet, clips climbing spikes
to his boots and tells me
he lives with ravens to clear
his mind, pulls his gloves
off to show me a walking stick
he’d carved 30 years ago in
the Smokies, says, Raven’s
will is my will and our wills
are to survive, cradles it
in his hand before he lets me
feel the worn-in sweat and
shine of a carved raven’s bill,
says, when he takes his long
walk-abouts in the woods from
‘Hafen’s Halla,’ his camp,
they follow before, behind,
beside, gliding through air.
When he comes to the abutment
looking out on the lake’s
exit river and points his
walking-stick over the precipice,
they cup-spread their wings
and tail-fans and land beside
him as now, when he reaches
the fir’s base and starts
to climb, that black-circling
gyres smaller and smaller
until sweeping low it lands,
croaks, and looks up at the
orange-helmeted Wood’s Boss
who has climbed with his
chain saw into the clear sky
to top the dead crowned tree.

What Sunday Means

Say that your three teen-age
kids have survived the cracked
years of the twentieth American
Century, that you were right
in cutting loose your husband
of the last decade and getting
ordained and finding a tiny
congregation down-east in Maine,
say that in this moment you’re
happy with your new love, that
you step in his steps on week-
old lake-ice where water still
pools as the ice creaks and
shimmers and you let that love
of yours lead on the Sunday
you have off because your kids
have flown three thousand miles
to their father in California
and a retired preacher is doing
the sermon, say you’re happy
stepping where he’s stepped
as he picks his way carefully
onto the frozen surface but,
when you step on the same crack
he’s stepped on and it creaks,
your gasp is the harbinger
of that panic-cry over all
your hedged bets and everything
you can’t control when the next
crack he steps on v-necks and
breaks so that his shoes and
pants sink and he’s swinging
the oar he’s carrying around
his head and down to the ice
in chest-high water and you’re
on your stomach pulling that
oar and him back up, realizing
it’s all luck, a blessing whose
grace slips towards you or
away because you can’t be sure
early-winter ice will hold long
enough for you both to reach shore.


Before Our Extinction

So what happened to the sequential
taking to flight of the loons
this autumn, this late November
when brown berries of mountain

ash turn red, turn outward in
migration to new life and loons
inward in the long straight take-
off of their lifting over winter

to Penobscot islands and the sea?
Not a sound on the lake where
before on still water they would
congregate in song preparing to fly.

They are not here and my fear they
will never return won’t go away,
even when a sudden flock of geese
recall the angled run-off flight

of bones heavier than air long
since evolved, not from some hollow-
boned ancestor of the late Mesozoic,
but from a blood-drummed and solid-

boned lizard whose wind-whistle
of flight haunts the air: they are
not here, are not, and who will
remember them when we are gone?