NOTE IN A BOTTLE
The softened sound of lighter traffic
beaches on attention
in the now and then just barely
a wave pattern,
water seems nowhere
for miles around except this
sound to the city
afternoon summer weekend,
the napping breaths music this surf.
Sea glass and the elegant simplifications
of shell topography reduced through waves,
the city picks off this beach as
frosted panels, spiral stairs,
the streamline of surfaces;
the wrecked are fitted back,
the breakers quieted, the washed bone
cycle of deaths is the sound
of a cold and sweet seasonal fruit bitten.
The sands of the mind, Natasha says,
by the reach and withdraw
rhythm of the ocean there is
to be learned; this weft through time
drops me here in this pattern
to live the city as lone
survivor of this wreck
to the softened sounds of lighter traffic.
The sand mind ‘s run out the emptied
glass of the hour not refilled unturned,
a thirst but not to live
a thirst but not to live up to
rings the brim to a silence at such resignations
abandoning all that was lived to liquidation
for another life,
of the self rather than suicide, than getting run over
like that Pittsburgh boy from “Paul’s Case” run over
on the tracks of the Main Line through New Jersey
where he threw himself in Willa Cather’s story —
every geography has its genius
for death: bridges, high speed freeways, scenic leaps
in front of trains are commuter Jersey’s;
Maine, you drink yourself to death.
Those who walk from the beach
into the surf sound confused
with lightened traffic
in their minds’ last grains of sand from the hour
what of them?
They live between not to live and not to live
up to here this afternoon
They put the jump ahead of themselves
the ledge already gone over somewhere up
ahead off their hands for the moment
Then where are they not even gone wrong
—from the beginning. or wrong for never having
a right way to go. nor even a way.
of all the stars in these skies — nowhere.
vnot even the faintest answer, but said.
—to be nowhere.
In the sound
of its least of traffic from a balcony
on the fifteenth floor,
as they realize the soles of their feet are wet,
the locus genii washes in
over their ankles
and they turn to step through the door any number
of doors into an empty apartment,
hear echo wave to wave all their steps for
—we can’t know how long
and ankle deep
as a place. a stand on this ocean.
What washes slowly out
from under you a slower sinking.
He looks like he lifts
long strands of dripping algae
with a stick
when the bird who walks
on lily pads lifts his feet the fan of twigs
the structure for the rafts he makes of leaves
to walk on water
at the aviary.
I carry laundry
from the kettle at the camp
or spaghetti from the pot
to the plate equivalent of lily pads floating
on the picnic table mats if there aren’t any
of those kinds of birds
on the river
I can fill in for that
geometry. And when my brother finally talked
after coming back
from the fighting, he had seen
a head on a stick from both armies; it was a while
before we could do things we used to together
like even grill steaks.
I would have waited longer
on his explanation for that
But now we talk go to the aviary, fishing, the zoo.
Sit drawing in the dirt with sticks
The area around the aviary
in the park insists on meeting you
as the inside of the building with its sound
walking up to you to escort you through
the door gently nothing but bodiless calls
of birds beside you in that way you can’t see.
You can’t see them inside immediately,
you see their green rooms of elegant foliage,
staged water, and light in movement before you see
them moving the leaves leaving one for another;
the room waves as if their wings brought up the wind
moving or you’ve entered a room already dancing.
One of the rooms has a quiet not from silence
but of a sound so low you can’t tell how long
it goes on as if waiting is part of it,
and you can’t see where the long breathed or bowed
note is coming from inside or out again calling in,
it makes you take a seat while you wait to place it.
They fly free around you, so it could even be
just that feeling of escort as you entered
just behind you or one call of them all that surrounds you,
such a far away song so close the leaves
on the plant beside your bench move the far away song
steps around the planter, the bird had been there all along
with me I’d seen nothing fly up to where I sat,
the song came sparingly and barely audible then
I was telling you about my brother finally talking
about it long after he’d come back from the war.
The peppery smell of eucalyptus burning
in the jungle says you’re coming up on people
like sweat says people or pee does the specie
name in its info clear in the smell as in
the subway tunnels of New York or its alleys,
startles you with its welcome reassurance
after days away from civilization home
if only to different peoples’ woven huts
the surprised staring wave between strangers
and that clear identifier of asking
for water and it given then in return
your shared strip from a piece of sugar cane to say
we drink eat— a graffiti pretty much the same
as our faces say so— we are you don’t kill us.