LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 33, No.2 - Summer 1987
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
Copyright © 1987 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
The boats rock clustered offshore,
cuffed by a cold spray of light
that begins nowhere and sluices
toward piers stiff as old veins
of grass in the hard chirr
of green water. The fishermen
have left on a rising wind,
from low tide and harbor flats
rankled by birds scything crabs
among the grey rocks, clearing
the tideline from the sand
as the sea retreats to Nantucket.
The wind is up and waves
flake the open tangle of kelp
and eelgrass beneath our feet.
We find our way across the damp sags
on this point of rock,
cutting low past the seawall
gaffed by winter on the edge
of this April morning, in silence
inexhaustible as water slipping
across the sand like shadows
of birds cast by a moon tacked
hard and white on the horizon.
The boats hover like gulls
half out to sea, tacking against
a sky shaken loose of clouds
and mottling with the wind
as it lifts to nets of light
that seine the water.
Under the surface, in the small
grey recesses of the birdless wall,
the dim grid of the season unlocks
in a voice that echoes like
a breaking wave swept to a sudden
formless blend of sky and sea.
Circles spread on the sand
as spring jabs the coast, foaming
with the tide through weeds
along the crest of the wall,
leaching salts that wrinkle
the damp places under the shoreline
stones and burrowing outward
in a familiar mix to tidal pools
hardening to sun. We huddle
in the wet sand below, traced
by a wicker of light and washed
by the cold absolution of water.
The boats fade with a shiver of wind
into the streaks of the eastern sky.
On shore this Easter morning,
above the line of thin-stemmed grasses
weaving slowly to the flicker of buds
on frail stalks, a knot of clawed tracks
of something born in the tidal marsh
leads to the darkened edge of the wall,
pausing here and there then spreading
unstoppable in all directions
like the hard snap of shadow
to sudden light that comes by water.
In a midwinter night of air
muffled hard as wire
and shadows spined across
the bowed back of the moon,
he dreamed of a woman
rising from the dark water,
half-snake slither uncurling
below her delicate head,
mouth whispering his name,
open and feeding. He dreamed
of what she had become, daughter
and wife, in the green crest
of water as it looped around him
in coils like midwinter light
hunching chill over flesh
and bone, of skin and the dry
rubbing coddle of scales bristled
stiff in the wind, the face
nuzzling in darkness, the knowing
tongue and teeth at his throat.
Sleep together in a cleft of rock,
faces touching, hands wound
in darkness where the dream
unfolds its last uncertain hour
in vein, nerve and bone
and shadows surge deeper
into night, savoring the pale
spinning and slow shame
of light that sinks
into darkening water,
the hushed coiling
of bellies and mouths
into rings of cold stone.
Nothing else remains
to be carried away.
No rasp of skin or husk
of blood, no shaft of light
to crop the wind, no sound
or breath to scatter the silence
writhing by the sea.
THE METAPHYSICS OF WOLVES
The old woman rides the wolf
through the grained scarlets
of the sinking sky.
Wind licks her face,
thrust to a clouded howl,
and her blind eyes rest
on nothing, tongue stretched
in a scratching lurch
to the dark and shearing
blood of night.
No protection, nothing
to keep the blur of wind
from tearing at our bones.
We cross packs of ice
hard and dark as a clot
of blood, backs arched
to knives of fear: ahead
a ragged line of skittered
shadows hunches fanged
in the cut of the field.
Slices of shadow stalk
the sun, withering
in a fraying light
that pulps the weeds to dust.
We leap with the wolves
through the driven grass,
tethered jaws stretched
tight as wire, and string
them up like hunted birds
on the crisp and shredded air.
Bones, wolf bones, shafts
of fire sparking
in the soil, steaming
in the hard beaten rain,
the long sift of ash
coiled in the darkening rain,
the swift bones sawing
through the soil, burned
to white stone in the quickened
pump of silting rain.
Morning chars the green
and pitted sky,
crumbling to white spines
that crackle like broken glass
under the skin of the red moon.
These things are fibered
vapor: the wolves still stir
in the boneyard, cusped between
their frozen dead and wailing
low in the wind and flame.
TWO SEASONS IN THE ORCHARD
So little remains at the center of things
as day settles into a corner
of the sky letting go of its colors:
a small enclosing darkness filled
with uncertain shapes, a pale light
that unexpectedly brushes the water,
a sudden memory of thin clouds
scudding east in the late summer night
and the look in your eyes when a vein
of blue skimmed the pond
and I touched you for the first time,
damp with the cool smells of apples
in this sweet orchard grass.
That memory comes and goes with a slant
of light the color of dry leaves
that holds the afternoon like
a meditative hand before sheeting to dusk.
Its shadows simmer soft as the greyness
that clings to the edges of water.
This night, low clouds pass across
the pond with the nesting birds,
weaving their grizzled hues along
the horizon, and the cadence of the season
floats blank and troubled on a rising wind.
Time drifts like water on drying glass
and leaf by leaf the trees chip
themselves to winter. Light falls
to carved shadows delicate as the air
before sunset, fixing to perfect lines
on the water. Night comes in clouds
tangled as soft roots that loosen
above appletrees rubbed to autumn
and late flowers hiss and bloom
unexpectedly in the dark.
These are the risks we are born into,
possibilities that flutter
to uncertainty in the night air
like birds lifting from the weeds
in sudden flight and spilling
to broken circles across the dimming sky.
The moon rises sheer and grey
as a shiver of recognition
and the image of your face pressed
in the grass beneath these trees
washes through the brown weeds around me
with the sound of wings, scattering
into the distance like brittle leaves
or dust caught in a chill confusion of wind.
Tonight, as the air changes
and the light around
the dogwood fades
like the folding of old leaves,
I watch you press your face
against the window and touch
the cool glass while
evening bends the deepening
shadows of the yard.
The years repeat themselves
in the perfect silence
of that simple gesture,
gentle as the soft scrape
of wild iris across the grass
in early summer, and in the
knowing lines of your face,
the clarity of coming night
in a frame of pale hands.