Monday, April 17, 2017

still life


"Sweatshirt weather" it's called
on a morning like this
when the air is between seasons,
unsure of itself,

and I like to walk
down by the creek bed
through the woods behind my house,
a meandering tramp through wet compost,

over winter's silent deadfall,
spring with just a grip
on the slowly greening edges
of things.

A rotting branch I break
across the knee of my jeans is now
a walking-stick over slick stones
shining with dew

and stinking of wet, wormy soil.
I love mornings like this,
the sun peeking through bare branches,
thin fingerbone shadows

playing on the ground around me,
the air rich with ammonia
and the beginning of life,
the sound of the creek

fed with flowing floodwaters
from the nearby river.
It is nice to recall that there is still life
again after so much death.

I breathe it in
and remind myself that
after so much gray winter
this world can still be good.

And that is when I hear it first,
the crisp crackle of a flag,
a flutter in the faint morning breeze,
delicate, with the whispered

trickle of water behind it.
Until I see what I hear:
a plastic, white shopping bag caught
in the upper boughs of a tree.

The bag ruffles
and then settles
for only a second or two,
enough to stop my early-morning walk

and stand in place in the April mud,
just to be still, and watch, and listen
as the bag fills with a gulp of air
and then again falls slack,

like some ghostly, synthetic lung,
a pale, breathing bellows,
a blank, displaced kite,
some symbol of flown surrender.

And I notice--my boots mud-striped,
a dessicated splinter of branch
firmly clutched in my hands--
that this random composition

of brown tree and white, plastic bag,
this awkward embrace of opposites,
this unaesthetic arrangement of no value at all,
this ugly scene

of which no painter would dare waste a canvas
and no poet would dare waste a page,
even this, this thing which should not be
but is,

is somehow beautiful.

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