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.