I Looked At Clouds
I looked at clouds her song conjuring
and couldn’t help but think of rain.
Not spring rains greening meadows.
I love the dove-gray rains of autumn
swaying corn and hay-bailed fields
with sighing reeds of sad harmonium.
Listen to the first and later versions
of Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell.
Something wonderful has happened
to the clear soprano. Its pristine tone
has been replaced with mist and fog
and the moody haze of Billie Holliday.
In autumn, nature’s gravely beautiful.
It doesn’t mince, gyrate, sidle or shake
its derriere like summer’s prima donnas.
It sounds a measured note of sadness
through every blossom that is fading.
And wisdom sings her meditative song
through artists who have lived enough
with time’s rebuff and loss’s chastening
to sense the inner aching architecture
of the world, creation’s groaning heart
with clarinets that, like a fiery chariot,
come suddenly to catch us up to heaven.
Charmed Was My Town
Charmed was my town,
Thermopylae, of fickle elves
when he crept in unnoticed
(it’s true that I dwell carelessly)
and took advantage of neglect
to gain a beachhead and then spread
with Plantain, Crab and all the rest
of these deep-rooting hordes.
He came with gold of dandelion,
Creeping buttercup and Lesser Celandine
while other of that vigorous crew:
Creeping Charlie, Slender Speedwell
Field Bindweed, Yarrow and Clover
in cavalries of yellow, white, blue
and infantries of purple hue
soon overwhelmed my wondering
until the healthy grass was gone.
Hoodwinked bees did not take sides
nor butterflies between the weeds and cultivars
for nectar’s all the same to them
regardless of the source.
Nor did the ants erect defensive mounds
or Black-eyed-Susan’s phalanx
guard the pass with golden shields
(they’re turning now to tarnished brass).
White grubs were complicit too
in only gnawing grass roots and not weeds.
So who could blame the child in me
of ignorance, wonder and naivety.
Perversity confounded these capricious selves.
They’re leaving by the scarlet bushes
where perhaps the leprechauns in autumn
cast off their fading clothes.
I watch them weeping as they go.
The Dragon Kings
The dragon kings
are here again in a red
rage intent on conquering.
Theirs is a splendid
onslaught bent on turning
what’s left of green in the oak
into leaf litter smoke.
This morning is alive
with the look of dragons.
Like bees above a hive
made active by the rising sun
they swoop and dive
relentless in assault until
little remains of chlorophyll.
Then like Fafnir they curl
around the treasure
of a vanquished world
meaning to stay forever.
I say, “go quickly now, unfurl
your proud wings. Away,
for nothing gold can stay.”
They never listen
and now it’s late November
when hoar frost glistens
on the moon-blanched timber.
Their limbs missing
all traces of the former glory
tell a sad story
like ours in many ways.
We admire the vain bravado
of a Don until our days
are ended and we have to go.
Dragon kings obey
no laws but their own need
and we are hatched from dragon seed.