Betula alleghaniensis, Yellow Birch
On the island they call it the mainland. They call it America. They call it the shore. They call it many things.
They say you go across the water
and you go back to America.
Some can’t leave sight of the water. It makes them nervous.
The water draws some back from as far away as New Mexico.
The summer comes and traffic builds up along the coast. People come in their cars to a place less densely populated,
where they can breathe again,
and see the water.
There is a certain amount of human pysche
that isn’t as resilient as we all would like it to be.
They’ll tell you some history
or about their family
or how things here are all stacked atop another thing.
They say about why there are rock walls in the woods all over New England
because it was land that couldn’t be controlled,
so they let the trees grow back, and the walls fall over.
They call it the mainland, or America—from here you can see it—
From Mullen’s Head you can see Isle Au Haut, and duck camp.
You can see out past shoals and Islesboro to Mt Desert Island.
From a rocky top flows a stream on this island in spring
Past a boulder and a yellow birch
There it was they left a pile of bones
And a pile of stones
A standing pile shored up by rocks
With rocks stacked atop
And lower on the shore
I see red eye of a loon,
Back of a black white checkermark pattern, divedown
In this body of water
that flows between lands.
Today I woke up and looked out the window at the sky.
I had that little feeling I sometimes get,
that told me I had access to that certain place inside of me
that I can draw from from time to time.
I guess it is a place that is filled up with little moments,
Eventually those coalesce into something that wants to take root in the world.
The writing I make on paper, for example,
comes from the movement of my hands.
And the movement is translated into sense by language.
And others read this language and think something of it.
The first log I load
bursts into flame heated up
by the embers of the log before, glowing on the floor
of the wood fired boiler.
I load another, then ten more
until the stack reaches a little over
midway heaped to the top of the chamber.
And as I load I think
lighting other logs
passing the flame
up through the pile, to ones on top
layers burning layers
‘til they all burn away.
Scent of snow-cold
covers everything up.
Then twig fires in the deep woods
red light keeping warm making tea
orange light walking away
I am just staying me
even when nothing else helps
to be that way.
From the hill above
I can see an iced over bog
and dry golden grass
frozen in clear water.
The cold wind
An empty field
Geese going over
Woodpeckers in the woods
no one is here
A body moves
through the seasons.
A mind moves
through the body.
out from stovepipe.
White birch branches
burning in there.
Sitting in here
heat moves up through pipes
to keep my body warm
Heat is life
coming back from something—
a log burning
the light it stored.
The first glimpse of spring, the rain
the snow that melts
The shore of this island
is often covered in small stones.
They are many-colored and shaped.
They wandered here, like me, from somewhere else.
They were polished clean in their wandering—rounded, and softened.
Some make dips in the sand around themselves when the water pulls away.
And others sink deeper in.
Body of Land
as I walk along the beach
that the sea forms to the land
and that the land shapes the sea.
as I go along the breaks—
is it the sea forming the land
and the land being shaped
by the sea?
I think to myself
as I walk along the rocks
and sand between broken boulders, and stones
old bones! like my own hard foot-bones—
leaving prints in the soft sand—
that a body shapes to the land,
while a land shapes the body.
My notebook and pen
Rest on an old desk by a window
On a far island, away from what I knew
a line from long ago.
Dropping it into the sea, watching it sink
into black depths.
Paying out the thread
hand by hand
hope it won’t
Thinking forward and back,
thinking about now, also: not thinking.
Doing nothing, waiting for spring.
Stoking the boiler, weeding and writing, eating.
Maintaining that thread.
Maybe it was on the day the greenhouses opened
when the sun made it too hot inside
that we had gone down to the blueberry barren to prune.
I guess it was the first day that felt like something had changed.
That morning I’d watched the light hit a new part of the wall.
Down under the blueberries,
pruning them with dull shears.
Laying on my back
looking at deep blue sky between the branches.
Cutting out what doesn’t need to be there
Leaving only what’s left
Three petals fell off the begonia
as I swept through the room.
I listen to a podcast about Bear’s Ears
an insect droning behind Jonah Yellowman’s voice
but still snow here.
of the sunsets
I don’t know what
to write anymore.
I’ll write a beginning that feels like an ending
Pretty much like every moment