They say it’s like turning a battleship.

They say they’re making progress:

the vast bulk of iron against the swell

that rises and rises and against the wind

that never, ever, for a moment, lets up.

All hands are doing what sailors do–

–turning cranks, watching dials,

running to and fro.  It was more obvious

when the ships were under sail,

when it had to do with lowering and raising,

with ropes and anchors and chains.

Like turning a battleship, they say.

Something that big, pounding along in a fixed direction,

thousands of tons afloat

inflexible, ungraceful, lumbering, loud,

not like, say, whales,

who turn their enormity

graceful and swiftly, who breach and sing and whisper and fly–

and porpoises–

and kayaks, currochs, dugouts,

sailboards and surfboards

skimming and slipping the surface–

and leaves in autumn–

russet from the ash trees, red from the maple,

brown from the oak–

and golden birch leaves–

how they blow light and high, following

every whisp

of wind–

and ravens somersaulting–and hawks–

and little birds

flipping so easy above the corn–

and snowflakes and snowboarders and

children on swings and monkey-bars–

and ballerinas, gymnasts,


parachutists, politicians,   bass guitarists–

and all those World Cup footballers

turning on a dime.

I wrote this in 2006. An experiement, since wordpress doesn’t let me use my own formats. Here’s a screenshot of the poem–the words aren’t too legible, I think, but this shows the shape of it.

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 6.38.57 AM

a tiny gazetteer

a tiny gazetteer



Ostrowy, Poland.

Broken bannister painted brown. 


Somewhere in Quebec:

Three-eighths mystery.


Albany, Vermont 

Two sons, their separate ways.


Charlotte, Vermont.

Nothing but the garden.


Cleveland, Ohio.

Live geese in a basket;

Bavarian china on layaway.


Stowe, Vermont.

Pasture ghosts.

The wrath of trees.


Portland, Maine.

The freedom of the uniform.


New Guinea.

Crash and shatter.


Newport, Vermont.

Not dancing at the Inaugural Ball.


St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

First light.

First fear.


St. Albans, Vermont.

One lonely field.


Essex Junction, Vermont.

How the stars came out.


Burlington, Vermont.

The bottom of Lake Champlain.


Essex Junction, Vermont.

Walking a different way.


Johnson, Vermont.

One butterfly with stunted wings


Castleton, Vermont


The mantle falls.


Keelogues, Ireland.

Cemetery filled

with familiar names.


Warsaw, Poland.

Three tables.


New Haven, Vermont.

White oak.

Deep blue clay.


April 10, 2014





Someone had to make many cookies, the young woman agreed,

so the old woman went to her house at the appointed hour but

Father said she’d gone dancing after the oven was warm

and all the raisins carefully measured and the nuts prepared.

So the old woman packed to go with her bowl of dough

under her arm–easier to bake at home where the harp is–

and her old boyfriend swished from the closet,  garbed like Oscar Wilde.

You can’t count on the young, he said, and she pointed

to a chipmunk on the windowsill.  I don’t know how they get in

but someone has to feed them, so they tossed some raisins

and fine chopped walnuts all across the windy room.

February 23, 2003




It doesn’t take much of a ritual;

but you do need a definite ending:

a monogrammed handkerchief bound to a bough

of the gingko tree you started from seed,

for example. A four-leafed clover dropped

into the brook where you used to go fish.

A coffee mug, a wine glass, or perhaps

a porcelain vase smashed against a stone

on the edge of the forest. You’ve made all

the usual gestures of course:  the clothes

and books tossed, letters burned. But still, you need

one more small and private thing to seal that

door. (The German Requiem played loud,

and all alone, you cry and sing.)








She is a shadow on the grass. She

is a shadow cast by a star so plain

it bears a simple name. She is a figure

on a ground so vast that even she

can not see herself. Mosses grow under

the grasses. Stars behind the sun. Shadows

follow on, between the eastern mountains

and the field all green and yellow. And each

pebble burns its shadow, and each broken

sparrow on the road’s cold shoulder. And why

would anyone be afraid to die

against this curve of space, this ground of time?

Her breath streams a shadow through still airs.

Passing planets pull dark shadows from their stars.