A month after our daughter was born,
we planted a white dogwood. I didn’t know
the legend of the crucifixion wood.
I just liked the symmetry
of the four-petaled flowers, plump white crosses
with bright green pistils in the middle.
We delighted in how trunk and limbs
flourished, how the young, smooth
bark had a radiance even on the rainiest
of mornings. Our daughter grew, too, but
around the time of her own blossoming,
we sensed the start of a slow blight: a withering
glimpsed out of the corners of our eyes,
transient, unthinkable. When she began to droop,
we tried to clarify the slurred edges
of her poppy-addled speech, explain away
her pinprick pupils, excuse the sudden
rush of flush upon her pale and clammy skin.
We propped her up, sought advice
for how to treat the scourge, but the sickness
was as relentless as black mold
on foundation walls. When we found
we could no longer tolerate white or green
or anything that grew, we fled the garden,
traded the strangle of twisted roots for a place
amid concrete and steel. But still,
green blades push their way through cracks.
Clouds in the Sky
Lower yourself onto the cushion.
Feel your hips, your back resist
before they relax into position.
Observe the mind. See it twist
and twirl like a kite buffeted by wind—
each dip a regret, each rise
a memory you’d like to amend.
Recognize thought. Hear how it cries
promises of joy, elegies for despair.
Bow to all. You know only Here.
All else are fables constructed of air.
Watch a white feather
above a field of spring grass.
With each breath, clouds pass.
I’m in my lane, staying between the center line
and the rough gravel on the shoulder,
when Jack White bursts from the radio
screaming Jo-o-lene and I’m stabbed in the chest
by the spike of red rage and white pain:
I could never love again.
I hear Jack fall to his knees
like I did when they called to tell me
you’d ditched rehab and headed west
towards a tar-colored sun. Heroin’s
my Jolene and I’m pleading along with Jack:
don’t take my man, and I want to say
don’t take my daughter, but that would be
too much — I’d end up in a ditch —
so I yell man to keep myself going. It’s a pretense,
of course. Sometimes delusion is the only
road forward when you cannot compete.
Still, I have to spend the next few miles
recalculating the route to quiet summer meadows,
whole places emptied of red poppies, devoid
of the insistent cries of mourning doves.