Dream of the Homeplace
The oaks regrown, cornfields stretching to woods,
hickory standing, unstruck by lightning.
Slam of the screen door, climb to the attic,
bare feet parting dust like fish part water.
Boxes spill, his pole and rusted tackle,
her wedding dress ghost floats by the window.
A dull slapping sound, wake against a boat,
as a storm picks up, and I periscope
out of the house. Laundry flaps on the line.
Silver slashes of sudden summer rain
stroke their way up the hill, bending the stalks
row by row, and my hair has grown wispy
and wild, lifting, swaying in the currents
like seaweed, petrichor rising, rushing
across the meadow, a benediction.
My long gown wraps me like a winding sheet,
my beard white and thick as Methuselah’s,
glinting with bits caught there like shiny lures
in a tangled fisherman’s line, dangling,
a seed pod, an old key, a golden charm.
When I wake up, the homeplace is still gone.
The garden is still cemented over.
There is nothing there now but roads and shops,
bleached bone sidewalks, a dense townhouse forest.
No watery breezes through high trees there,
no orioles weaving a teardrop nest,
no fireflies swim in darkening green there,
no drops on the sill now, no dear ones, no door.
Everything is gone now, but the dry
wind of memory, against which I lean.
in a vernal pool
Arch your neck back
to the greening tips
Lift waxy veils
Adjust your vision
to the flowers
their glowing light
Visualize a star in your heart made of blue light,
the therapist says. Not the gold stars stamped
across the stapled graphs of my childhood.
Not the bright yellow stars that I drew
above the green hill and red house.
I imagine one more like a stargazer lily,
the way it might open slowly and linger
in air, as whispers between lovers
some early morning. Or maybe it compares
to the spare stars of winter, elegant pinpoints,
a slow waltz of soldiers and ladies above snow.
In summer, stars are swimming in cream,
smeared across blue velvet and blurry
as hopscotch chalk after a long day of play.
They kept me up as a child, awake
for hide and seek, swinging through the yard.
I didn’t know then about stars being born,
or dying, imploding, going supernova,
or falling into categories like tubes
of paint: giant red, blue dwarf, double yellow.
Stars were friends then, guardians, someone to hear
my confessions. Sometimes hands shine like stars
against the glass, waving hello, farewell,
a code of transition: you are leaving,
I am staying, take me with you, this is goodbye.
Breathe into the star and make it grow brighter.
It glows like the signal we’ve come to an end.
In the universe of Hollywood,
a star like Audrey Hepburn waves to a star
like Fred Astaire, and I cry too, strings tugging
my puppet tears, stardust softening her face,
cheeks glistening like the star on Glenda’s wand
drawing circles around the scene. A pretty joke
don’t you see, to mistake the reflection
in someone’s eyes for something else,
an entire galaxy of love, true
as the speed of light, when it’s only
a dropperful of atoms bouncing back,
no more meaning than sunshine
on an apple. There is no echo
of some farther star, lodged like mine
in such dark matter. No, my cookie-cutter.
You must be the bright and shining horse
I hitch my broken wagon to. Yes, my starfish,
star of wonder and wish-I-might, you’ll have to do.
…from the reflection of this light the air all around will be coloured
as we see it to be, as the sun shines upon its parts… ~Epicurus of Samos
Even though we both stand on the porch and trace
the double curve over the valley, we don’t
see the same rainbows. Waves of light pass through
drops of water and break open along a single line of sight.
Tree swallows swoop over the meadow, and two rabbits
step onto the lawn from the tall grass. The first bow
bends across a plane of air. Then the second appears,
then disappears, now on this side, now on that,
a magician’s trick of red to violet, violet
to red, now you see it, now you don’t.
The deeper blue between the two is a trap door
holding in the light, which enters but can’t return,
Alexander’s Dark Band. He explained it first
in the year 200. Imagine taking time to stop
and ponder rain. Some accident of light, the optics
of possibility and limit. Something breaks each of us open
eventually, try as we might. It’s not easy
to reveal our own surprising set of parts.
The way a page in a book cracks open the world’s colours.
Or the first time I met your face, shining like an old friend
stepping off a train, igniting a thundercloud
in my chest. A double rainbow is gift enough.
Soon the rain and clouds move away to the east.
Centuries later, Felix Billet saw nineteen bows
in his light chamber. If our eyes were able, he said,
we would find the sky filled with arcs, arcs crossing
wider arcs, almost into infinity. A rose of rainbows,
he called it. Perhaps when one body passes through
another, it leaves a trail in the sky of memory,
like the shadow of the mountain walking across the valley,
the familiar space which tracks between us,
the swallows on the birdhouse, the rabbits
grazing in tandem. The rainbow is not located
in the sky. It travels in waves to our eyes.