Suddenly, Herons was published in 1985 by The Writers Resource Center in Toledo, OH. It was a cooperative effort with two other poets from the Center, Mary Ann Napoleone, now deceased, and Martin Willetts, Jr. There were a limited number of copies printed. It had no formal distribution network, but was sold and shared at readings and with friends. Suddenly, Herons, my portion of the complete book, is reproduced here in its entirety.
Herons are as incongruous as giraffes,
but their beaks,
you better watch out for their beaks.
I find a heron
stashed in her lingerie,
marked for delivery
in my name.
Who would guess
when it comes
like a baby in the mail
the one or two
cute little breathless daggers
glistening beneath her dress.
Falling into an outfielder's stride
I'm happier with the heron's
other side, the white one
like a kiss.
my dear sweet herons,
I've lost my lips to herons.
AFTER STUMBLING THROUGH FUNERALS
I SIT DOWN AND WRITE FOR MY FRIENDS
A family man loosens his tie;
he goes alone a long way down
a path of increments in suffering,
till he's lost in a forest of pain.
The new corpse sheds his bedclothes,
walks the forest in darkness
and rain, waiting for a signal
from the dead. Inside himself
he wants to be welcome, wants
a window and a blanket of his own.
You've come alone, a long way through
a forest of suffering, to a place
where the path thins and disappears
in brush. Panicked, you spin on your heel,
returning, and fall instead,
through a long hole lined with your pain.
Do not be afraid.
The net we've woven for you,
in darkness as rich as the earth,
is wound from humus and flowers.
When you're ready, you will rise
on your own sweet cord, perfect as ether,
perfect as summer gourds, perfect
as the fresh-made scents of bread
or the trellis of a cardinal's first song.
Come this way alone, your own way through
a forest that is only suffering.
Find the place where the path thins
and disappears in brush.
When the gray wolf climbs toward you,
do not be afraid. He's the guide, tenderfoot.
He shares the way to our camp.
We're here. We're waiiting.
Some of us are acting like trees.
VISITING MIDDLE BASS ISLAND
for the Kubicka's and Cass
Rising from a fair night's rest
with a two-year old
tearing dreams between us,
butting our chins in his sleep,
I plant my feet on the floorboards.
This morning I'll hook the first
big bass, I whisper, disbelieving.
Sunlight dances off the cove
and the room's cornflowered walls,
echoing a cheerful domesticity
disgusting without sleep.
The first beer before nine-thirty breaks
the promise I made to my wife.
The seond and third only drive
the wedge between us deeper.
But exile's what I need right now--
a spat, some confidence in the fact
that I'll be alone for awhile.
All to gain some snot-slick fish
and an hour to unplug my brain.
When the first one hits,
breaking surface in deadly air,
I dance a quick-step over stones,
delighted with my change in luck.
Working the fish, allowing it range enough
to think it can get away, I pull this--
my happiness, red-eyed, from a dark hole
green to the bottom of the lake's throat.
GETTING OVER THE DISTANCE
When you were born, I put off writing
thinking I was too excited,
too close to the subject, and that
was wrong. When other "writing friends"
had children and delivered
their crafted joy, I felt pressured
and guilty, and that was wrong.
When, after three years, still
I had nothing, had given up
teaching for a wasteland with a view,
had burned a barrel of brain cells drinking,
papering the wailing wall with excuse,
I strapped myself in and lectured--
I'd never be fit for dog lime or writing,
and that was almost right.
But now I have something for you,
something I think feels right:
last night in a dream, you and I
were alone on a sandstone tower.
Locked in dreaming customs, you slip
through feathery guard cables
and begin falling. This time, resolute,
I leap over them after you,
wanting you to turn your face up
to see me, see that I am on the way,
that things will be okay
THE DREAM MAP TO HEAVEN
Waking from a deep sleep,
Deep past the white frost of death,
I remember the rag of map
Pinched between finger and thumb.
Gone in early spring, before even
The crocus, I see the crisp stars
Snap into right formation. Dependable
As gravity, the map notes the light
Arterial way. In life, I studied breathing,
Tides, the steady patterns of blood
Among the organs. So what system
Am I seeing now, passing
Like a red cell through this
Body of love, light, and motion?
SKY-BLUE THE BADASS DREAMS A SONG
--for Dallas Weibe
None of Newton's walking fish
understand the charges,
passed from a black Ford
and my father
to the smooth plastic wheel in my hands.
Speeding into evening stillness,
I pull my denim collar higher,
cruising like a goshawk
through the glass-edged mountains
of Kansas. Stiff as air
the powers I share with the pedal
have changed me.
Maize waves a yellow hand.
Lilacs near the farmyard's porch swing
shake their bald heads after me.
Smoke from a frame house climbs
The moon, a burning crescent,
rises like an empty nest--
over mother washing white things out
and uncle figuring taxes,
over headlights fanned past Parker's crossroad,
over the whole damn pork butt of Nowheresville, Kansas,
powdering its cheeks with the moonlight.
A VIEW FROM THE INTERSTATE,
A LESSON IN SELF-DEFENSE
the whine of four tires' resistance,
the rush of an iron block through air.
Ahead in the black
refineries burn air orange.
In the razed palace of Toledo,
harbor for grain ships and brick pods, empty,
the moon shines into a basket.
Erie washes, and then washes
a black web of beach roots from the sand.
Asleep with his head on a horse's skull,
the beast of east Toledo dreams
a mountain of little glass combs.
Under eaves lined with ash
and the first sounds of rain,
children, falling in their sleep,
turn themselves into rosebushes.
BROODING OVER A GRINDSTONE
A forty, the belly lingers on.
The ballet keeps getting flabby,
movement more sluggish and morose.
On the sofa, with her pillow
tucked like Jesus in her arms,
the wife dozes;
the tv bats a vacant eye.
Better Homes & Gardens climb
racks on the bathroom floor.
This morning I remember your dream,
the one where you are floundering
like a fish in a pit of moths.
We are struggling under deepening
domestic waters, friend, our moon, an angry fist
stuck white in a river's swollen mouth.
In my own dreams, I keep returning
to a long, smooth, eve-darkened pond,
lined with low-singing reeds.
Their song is too sweet for my knees
to stop shaking, too sweet for the lapping sound
curling around my genitals, ribcage, then chest.
I know my entering well, have rehearsed
this descent before. What I find I'm less
familiar with, is each new breath
darkening the stage of morning.
The blood moves like bears,
smooth, great bears on a fall horizon,
a sunset wandering off behind them.
On the way to a cave,
or a grove packed high with snow,
heat for the artery goes blue.
Prepared for winter, the heart
is less ferocious. Fear and transformation
tick only where the brain unfolds.
Crossing over, into sleep sound as earth,
the chemicals of light snap their luggage closed,
and head for weathered, gray boats
that will carry them, quietly, into the fog.
the belly of a room
loops through her ears
like inert tongue.
When she steps
the glint kindles
thinking in cicadas
their green arms
ready for dance.
Give them fresh scents
of linen, hibiscus, or wire
and off they go
buzzsaws big as
How little it takes
to get them high
the red boy in a t-shirt,
his clattering vertebrae,
or just my scribbling here
in a blue cloth chair--
the first voice
green and rising...
SONG FOR THE JOINER'S WEDDING
--for Larry and Gay Beck
In the dim-lit morning before wedding,
his fingers trace mountains on a rosewood map.
He mutters around his cutting shop, thinking,
sounding ideas in flat grain rivers
of walnut, mahogany, and spruce.
On the oak he taps lightly, in the fir
his sweet saw sings. When the finished woodchild
rises, its rib is the joiner's dream.
You can't know the tree this well
and not know what love a woman gives,
what's strong, what's delicate, what's good.
I see him now sitting thoughtfully,
holding a reflection in wood.
LOVE POEM IN THREE PARTS
In the green light
sifting through draperies,
the delicate line of your nipple
bobs over me.
I am fish
and rush the bait.
What could be the answer
to this simple joy
rides on air.
My hand floats out.
It drifts to your hip
ranging over your head,
I'm a nimbus cloud
above the mountains.
THE OLIVE NYMPH
This morning in her gauze chemise
she is reflective,
the jonquil in her hair
Familiar with the taste
of salt, she knows
how it makes the green ones
sweaty, the black ones sweet.
How when the sun is warm
bees kiss droplets
shining to them
from the workers' tan backs.
Her name floats up;
her window frames her.
It's for the men, their hands
cupped under ripening fruit,
she slips a shoulder
dark and perfect through
stands a minute bare,
and dances for her bath.
THE HOME RUN
LIke the child freeing up
the terror in a small white moth,
loosing it from his hands,
there is a moment at center-swing
when the bat is solemn,
and the ball streaks off--
screaming the hard wood's praise.
THE FUNCTION OF POETS
Magritte is such a sass.
He pooh-poohs in the window
and laughs when we turn away.
"Ah Magritte," we say,
"Stop all this foolish
petting of combs, and apples
goofing up the room." Magritte
only chuckles and hands us a fish.
On the way to the door
we are escorted by a train.
"Oh Ho!" we say, "Magritte
and his imagination."
On the third day, after they
crucified their Lord,
Magritte was there with a handle.