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.