Splitting the WormWe scuttle to a stop at the lake edge,
at the fat plop of a frog’s retreat
we always barely fail to see. Here
we’re ankled in spawn grown bolder:
earth crumbling aside instead of down,
each chunk of dirt legged and speckled.
And now unsteadied by this ground
gone pulsing we freeze at the thought:
What creatures have we trampled
in our careless tumble to the water?
Three geese skim by, unconvinced.
A buck regrets us. And these rejections
are just the ones we see. What blistering
systoles we impose with each heel
pressed down on the underworld.
The blind worms suffer our weight,
scorn the light. An arrowhead of sear
on my arm, a divot of flesh in my wrist,
and here the mosquitoes learn nothing
from my flailing. I try to understand
the world’s single body here in the scrum
of the shore. Something surfaces
as if from a mirror, and I don’t recognize it.
Becca, even here, I can’t deny
my separateness. Sink, love, less than half
of our shared flesh, into the lake that raised
you. Submerge into your roots. I’ll stay here,
sceptic lighthouse, itchy at the border.
To wake from a crowded dream alone
is sweeter than the bee’s
delicate legs, sweeter
than paper, than the maple
weeping through the coattails
to the house wren’s staccato
song: He wants a mate,
drab little bird, so he
sings a promise of home
mostly to the wrong
audience: me. He cracks
the shell of sleep as if
the world were daily hatched.
And I declare to the wall
his desperate, lonely song
Sweet as my son
panting into a globe
of dandelion seeds, believing
his regular breath
can set them to flight.
He holds tight the wonder
of tiny feathers drifting
away from his lips,
the sudden transformation
to unremarkable stump
and stem in his fist.
He’s bright-eyed and thoughtless
of where the seeds will fall
and what will grow there.
But now he is away,
the wren is past the window,
I’ve scraped the pulp
of sleep from my eyes,
and it is spring. The light
passes through each new-torn
leaf. The bearded irises
look sexual and alien.
They huddle together,
sprouts of forgotten bulbs.
They don’t remind us
of us, their heads
devout with color, jostled
indirectly toward the sun.
What remind us of us
are the thin holes in the skin
of the day, separating
each thread of grass,
each twig just a twig,
not yet part of a nest.
From the space inside
each iris, the stamen
lifts its grains of pollen,
their solitude and potential
unconsidered, and when
the bee translates them
to a neighbor, this meeting
is an accident: So familiar,
to be brought together
by something else’s hunger.
We step on barren stones while between
them the cracks teem with small living.
A game we play: Who can leave the world
most undisturbed. The water says be
like water, leave the slowest fingerprint,
but we can barely hear it over the falls.
The pebbles blunt their edges on our heels.
We are sediment. Two accidental statues,
me and my son, poor models for a better man.
What counts as life in the slush and wash around us?
The star moss wept somehow against my ankle,
and I seem now more of this place than I was.
Undivorced from stem and root. Untroubled
as a stalagmite under a generous sun. I bend
beside my son, balance stone upon stone.
The moss remains, luminous and still.
We make a home for it, and it survives.