Saturday, October 2, 2010



Here is part of you

While you sleep —

The small shine

Of silver earrings


I bring them out water

They drink around the ice

Chains rap on the bucket

Shivering I wait

Looking up into the stars

What I see in their eyes

Plowing back to the house

After shaking their coats goodnight

Strength in my hands


The last of my noon hour

Black tin lunch pail

Sitting on a sap soaked maple stump

Woodchips nettled on my woolen socks

Finding the fruit cup she made for me

Clear cold glass in my oiled hand

Neat slices of strawberry and pear


She’s supposed to be land clearing

Heaping brush to burn in first snow

But the pale yellow ghost of tall

Summer grasses she sweeps down

Is instead caught in her hand

And placed that way in a kitchen vase

Showing a warmth to last us through winter


On the garden gate

Left here with me —

Shape of her hands


Down on the river

There is a small place

Where there is no sound

Nothing, and I know it well

And I have been told

And since found

That when climbing back

Loaded with water

At the top of the rise

If you half turn your head

The river will tilt into your ear


Here is the slowness

Of afternoon and sun

A farmhand bending to lift

A sleeve of ice

From a trough

In the pasture

The horse that stands still

The snow we’ve been waiting for


I swore if you laid

Your cheek, wind

Blown red as any

Soft maple leaf

Onto the pond,

And looked down through

The half-foot of

Ice, the rest was

Water flowing clear

Way back up to you —

The scales of depth

Catching your breath


There is the absolute way

Of doing it, and we have done it

Many times and again —

How I will come to you

How you will meet me

The early morning sun

Perfect on the bed, and

Stripes in the Mexican blanket

Like blood, the sea, yellow iris petals —

And it is a silly lovers ritual of ours,

I hug you and you hug me and step onto

My boots, and I walk you and me around the

Sunlit room, the sway of patchouli in your hair,

And your face smooth against my lips

Like the inside of your hands


Tonight, because her hand is in pain, the small finger

Swollen, yes, I’ll stir the

Batter, although she is better

And first taught me how

Something is done right.

And I came from behind

And smelled the skin of

Her neck, the long blonde

Hairs alive and the blouse

White and rough, tucked into

A thin summer skirt.

Winter, near Christmas,

3 feet of snow and her

Body moves across the

Cabin room with summer,

A clay bowl with

Colored stripes in her

Arms, the fresh heat

Of the flat iron stove.


By the river I found her —

Long and short feathers matted by weeks of rain,

A soft spotted down on her chest,

The whole body twisted in the crotch of an ironwood

This hawk hung and not a right way to die.

Nudged out with my axe handle it fell with no life,

Eyes gone and the rotting smell of blood and grease.

I cut the claws for the first time, others I’ve left —

One talon broken off and the muscular flex of skin

No different than a man’s, except for the ruggedness,

The pale yellow of it, but a companion to my own.

And the tail feathers — still a beautiful tan — pinned

Open for flight on rough pine boards inside our cabin,

I only buried some of her.


I’ve got to go pretty soon

So I’ll take my boots off

And shake out the snow,

Sit close to the fire you

Have built, then left for me.

I’m in no hurry until the sun comes up.

My snowshoes need new leather straps

But for now they’ll have to do,

Carry me to the woods where I work

Thinning out the half bowl of a hillside —

That’s what it looks like — and sometimes

I rest and watch it for what it is, with my

Wet gloves off, the clearness above me.

© Bob Arnold
from Where Rivers Meet
(Mad River Press)

photos © bob arnold