The mantis turns on you here. Live like a sheep, die like a sheep. Dogs fail to understand the past tense and the wealthy quail hunters are coming out of the mountain. You have a pink thread stuck to your left arm. Let that be a sign to lay your threadbare burden down and choose another. Even the mole, blind, striving in darkness, loves Spring. Has there been a pavilion yet? A plateau? How we objectify grief and wrangle loss. How we wave at the knife-maker’s widow and hurry. I open the blinds. All fear is the fear of death. What we have is all we have. Waltzing his gear through the library lobby, the elevator repairman seems at peace with his universe. Freshly ground peppercorns smell a bit like cow manure. The secrets to happiness: water and air. The mineral bridge dissolves seconds after it is born. The neighborhood on a Sunday reeks of bread and flowers. Greetings of the day: a minivan with five strange antennae attached, robins nesting in gutters, the sound of a tennis ball being hit against a brick wall amplified through a subwoofer. Amen is an omen. It’s not yet over, this season of a lost traveler’s letters home echoing among the stones.
Cottonwoods: still green somehow where the flooding, freezing river runs under the bridge and into the gorge. My bicycle turned into a car as I crossed. Perdurance: a wind that maps an emptied world over and over. Found a sparrow trapped in the garage, bouncing wall to wall and always to the window, just as terrified of this reality as me. I am always into impermanence—I am the flea’s armor. I want a fucking fireplace. The trail of compassion leads to the lake’s floor. There, the world dares you to hold your breath and you must accept. I’ve got the candlefish blues. Razorbills: as soon as I am settled with the landscape, flush, it’s time to leave. The innkeeper emerges to lead a prayer over breakfast. You and I, we kick each other under the table. Outside the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York, a son of god lights a cigarette and strolls into dry trees, a genius of grasses. Coquina: cloudy wedge of sky where the railroad vanishes. Crows crossing gravel. Piglets clasped to the mother sow’s enormous teats. A woman struggles to separate two dogs in a fight. Alien grapes perfume the dusk.
It’s too hot to die. Words written in blue. She looks down at the garishly painted skeleton and compares her own body (shoulder, internal, “idiots”) and entwines her arms then holds palms out to ceiling and squints. The moon on a vine. A moon on the vine. Some of it is underlined. And some of it is not. Ecstatic. A part of home: animal-headed buddha probably dog, maybe a skinny bear, paws crossed over gathered robes. A part of home: draw all the moments together and you’ve sung Aimee Mann lyrics for years in your red, white and green office. The swamps get crueler, jasper-flecked bones rocking back a century and then forth—people among the reeds are a flash of laughter and sweat. One drops a glove at the edge and it disintegrates over a moment or two. They kill ducks and geese and eat them. Any pellets they find are kept in a small wooden jar that sounds like a snake and slows me. The sky inside is just as slow to change. A cloud unglues and stretches into the future. We have decided that this is a place that includes both of us, as if it hadn’t been obvious.
Somewhere on the dial of feeling, the self loses sight of itself, takes the mysteries as pure—the root drills up into the face. Is it an error to think that if a small bird is wounded, a larger bird will make a meal of it? Nah, it’s nothing. Really, it’s nothing. When I move, I stop myself—when I stop myself, I move. Impossible not to see the high pines lining up to block anything night wishes to posit. What gets through: the salamander’s blue-white skirt of tropic flame—a sober thought that overtakes the dawn. Don’t harm a thing unless truly you mean to kill it. You okay, Mr. Sea? Dinner: two yellow potatoes sliced, roasted with olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic powder; thirty crappie fillets dusted with yellow curry powder, more salt, more pepper; butter-fried among heirloom white onions (called “ringmaster”), a store-bought jalapeño, a lone shallot, and shitake caps (a glaring mistake); sriracha on everything; a bottle of proseco, the top bound with twine to keep the cork secure. The night outside purple with snow.
F. Daniel Rzicznek is the author of two poetry collections, Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press, 2009) and Neck of the World (Utah State University Press, 2007), as well as three chapbooks, Nag Champa in the Rain (Orange Monkey Publishing, 2014), Vine River Hermitage (Cooper Dillon Books, 2011), and Cloud Tablets (Kent State University Press, 2006). Also coeditor (with Gary L. McDowell) of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press, 2010), Rzicznek teaches writing at Bowling Green State University.