Burnt Umber -For my father

Listen up, child, because I’m warning you.
Down south, there are mosquitoes—not
normal mosquitoes. These are as big as motorcycles
and twice as fast, and they will carry you off
if you’re not careful.

Don’t laugh. I’m serious!
They’ve been known to
carry small children away. They have wings,
noisy wings that sound like chainsaws
and if you listen, you can hear them flying around
looking for children.

When they find you,
they swoop down like small helicopters,
and before you even realize it
they’ll have you! They lift you up into the sky,
and then suck you dry almost instantly.

Those giant children-sucking mosquitoes
will suck every last drop of moisture out of you.
You’ll be dead before you hit the ground,
and then you’ll look like a dried-out-leaf,
the color of burnt umber, falling out
of the clear-blue-sky, blowing in the wind—
you’ll be lucky if anyone ever finds you.

As a matter of fact, that color that you will be,
burnt umber, is why they call them
Umber Mosquitoes.
Don’t laugh. I’ve seen ‘em!
They had one, stuffed,
at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago,
and it had a big gold plaque that read,
“Umber Mosquito that killed 700 children
and then died of indigestion.”

Nobody’s Horse

Near the low end of the meadow
there is a yellow horse. It lives
there—between the meadow and the pond.
It lives on someone’s land,
because everything is claimed,
but I know not whose.

It is, perhaps, the most beautiful
horse I will ever see,
and yet it is blind.
It knows nothing of beauty.

It is nobody’s horse, and even if it did
belong to anyone, this horse,
with its opaque eyes, might never know it.
Even the priceless thoroughbreds
may be unaware.

Underground Taxa

Beneath the cracked earth
of the desert, lay frogs.
They are dead, like seeds are dead,
until water brings them to life.

They have been found
inside rocks—mummified
inside crystal geode coffins.

Others wake up—the way
coma patients wake up.

For all I know, they could be
millions of years old—
Jurassic rock frogs.

They are out there, out in the desert,
just laying there like clods of earth,
until they are reborn,
and then they do what frogs do.
They hop away and eat things.

Flash Flood in Bridgman

On the edge of Bridgman
there are no sirens—no fanfare
when the river vomits in-
to the gulley, flooding the farm-
land, delivering odds and ends
from the river.

On the Rolling Acres, a shopping cart,
deposited with the receding waters,
is missing the wheels. Dead horses
bloat beside flat fish, staring
at the sun with opaque eyes.

Only two days later, flowers
open to the singing birds.
A brown barn begins to crackle,
cleaning itself—color shining
where mud falls away in sheets.
Only the meadow’s low end, still
a tiny pond jammed with turtles—
remains new.

My Father’s Woods

Walking through my father’s woods
I am reminded of the Eden
of nature, of the sinless creatures
high and low, they neither sow nor
reap, nor gather into barns, but
they are nourished there.

Walking through my father’s woods
I am read by blind saplings,
reaching out to read my face.
They are the turnstiles of the forest,
spreading out their arms to count
the parishioners called to prayer—
and their bent fingers resemble
The Creation of Adam. When I pass
they point to where the sinner went.
They are frail church ushers,
standing watch—but unable
to enforce piety.

Walking through my father’s woods
I see the sun shining through
the noble towers, creating
shadows that conceal the emerald
ash borer’s slow progression.
The soggy-black earth yields easily
beneath my feet, succumbing to the weight
of so much pressure, leaving dispirited
vestibules behind—vessels slowly filling
with muddy-sacred water.

In my father’s woods I am surrounded
by a bewildered audience, keenly aware—
wondering what to make of me
and my clumsy trudging about. It is judgment
day for me. I become a crescendo,
the moment before the denouement
when the music stops and the audience suspends,
silently waiting for God knows what
to happen next—and if I become still,
like the statue of Saint Finan—
a seven minute cemented interlude,
I can hear them, like angels, discussing me from the balcony,
and scribbling “Nephilim” in the Book of Jubilees.