Nuts are dropping from the shagbark hickories
on the quiet lane to Long Pond
husks splitting on the trees, in the very air,
ejected, raining like hailstones, in wind-pressed gusts
pale, clean, curved shells with rich-scented centers,
heart-shaped when you split them
the pines gild their cones with amber sap
but the hickory holds the taste of maple,
the buttery, autumnal sun.
Above the lane, on the hill, this wide wooden porch
a table--a glass vase of old lilies, exhaling their sweet last in rich, rotting vanilla,
you look up from the step and say, “look with eyes like gemstones”
I like to play your games.
I make my eyes clear as quartz, soft as moonstone
seeing first, a brown sweep of dying petals
then, just past them, the smooth curve of white-edged fingernail
laid against an oval earlobe
echoing a crescent eyelid, a fringe of lashes, downcast like the icon of a saint
a fine, high cheekbone, olive skin.
And the arc of a smile, striking my hickory heart
cracking its seams, widening the break with dispassionate kindness
like the neutral breeze that dries the milkweed in the swale
splits the crackling pods, fluffs the silken fibers, spun tight to the heartshaped seeds
gossamer once so strongly nested, hidden, in spiraled rows
torn apart, scattering aloft; and below, the empty pod
clattering on its stem
That maple across the lawn—I can know it so easily
sit at its roots, breathe in its intimate breath
lose my gaze in whorls of crimson and gold
rest against that rough, warm skin, fully embraced
embedded in its energy, silent, safe and strong.
You, though, are contained, self-sufficing, enclosed
you ask the questions but answer none
I would, in days before, have leant in, said, “stay with me,”
seeking, as always, that which does not exist
but, exhausted by failure (the precursor to wisdom)
I cannot rest on you for comfort, or breach
that shining, seamless wall, your tight-guarded self
And you--look around with gemstone eyes
just this once, tell me what you see
speak your mind, what moves you?
what caprice, what incisiveness of light?
one foot on the step below, bringing our faces level, tell me,
which of earth’s aromas unbind your spirit to the tender airs?
And your heart—can it be so unlike mine?
hidden, broken, ineluctable
wide open, deep flowing, it does not open to me
but its drumming gravity draws mine near
finding only empty air
a sepia-toned petal bleeding fragrant life
a hollowed hickory shell
that fluttering milkweed soul.