Earth rotates on its axis faster in September than in March.

–Chicago Standard News

Past the mute brace of stone owls

tethered wide-eyed to the nave roof

of Saint Thomas, along the boulevard

between blocks of night, streetlights

spill gold onto clusters of oaks;

bare branches sway as if caught

in ecstasy, the dance of wind; limbs

bend north toward the empty pier.

Beyond the shoreline, nothing, as lake

and sky dim in deepening gray. What

sacred way is this where trees blaze

like swords of angels?

When I reach

your door, I want to say, “There,

and there, Ralph, see how the mall

still wears Italian lights icicles

from moonswept tides.” Instead,

I follow you to a round wooden table,

two yellow chairs, a bayberry votive

we do not burn

where I tell you

how I lived all February

with my father’s dark-skinned ghost

who read my journals, counted my poems,

studied his features on my face

when he thought I slept, warm

in the pale arms of my room;

how one morning the year after he

died, my mother and I, unafraid

in the clear sun of her kitchen, watched

as a woodpecker chiseled in the elm

near the window; the scarlet down

of his head patch kindled into flame.

My cupped hands open, but free no dreams

to give you before Earth speeds up

and whirls us to opposite poles

where stars hang upside-down. As I

rise to leave, you kiss both cheeks.

Outside, a rush of cries”talons, beaks,

a scatter of wings in a cold gust

as a storm rips cloudbanks. A gull

flies over us, feathers arched as they

yield to air currents, gliding on pain.

I think of O’Keeffe’s crow skimming

snow-covered hills, casting no shadow

with vast black wings.