The neighbors’ tabby cat sleeps on my patio table,
while a procession of clouds crosses the sun, blink of shadow, then light.
From the harbor, the crack of a gunshot—
the start of the weekly sailboat races out of Marblehead.
The newspaper lies on the counter, pages flipped by ghost fingers
on the breeze from the open window.
I stand at the sink, cutting the pale-pink skin off a chicken, twisting the legs and wings.
The cat wakes, stretches in the sun.
What is its name?
What does the neighbor girl call at night?
Still in Two Places
When I left for Japan
this corner of New England was tender and green
lilacs just coming into bloom.
Here, today, by this farm pond
that spreads out behind an old stone dam,
dragonflies dart and grapple,
the click of their clashing wings
loud in the still air.
In Tokyo, people moved like enormous schools of fish
voices and music blared from tinny speakers in doorways.
Here, even the old dog who greeted me in the driveway
has gone away.
A frog plops into the water and I think of Basho’s poem
and the pond at Hakusan Shrine, even there music
wailing from a roofed box set on a rock, or maybe prayers.
On the other side of this pond
sun and shade shift under maples and pines.
A long black snake cruises in curves across the water,
sliding over lily pads.
Tokyo seemed lifeless somehow, endless rows
of tall buildings packed against each other
like frost pushing up from frozen ground.
I spy a heron under a buttonbush in a wide-legged stance.
It gives an annoyed shrug of its shoulders
raises its great wings, lifts off leaving me alone
with the shush of water
slipping over the dam that holds the pond
and falling to the rocks below.
The Other Coast
If you stay in a place long enough
it tells you things.
I’ve learned the language of sky and wind
to expect lightning when clouds pile up
and bear down like a mountain of slate
fair weather if they roll by
puffy and round as sheep.
I know to harvest my tomatoes
when the attic vent whirls
and electric wires whistle.
While a south wind only brings
mud-salt smell of eelgrass
and another summer day.
Bold sparrows peck neat triangles
into my sweet ripe pears
and deer do their stealthy raids
rising on their back legs to branches
in the gray light before sunrise.
Here, I don’t know what it means
to wake to clouds like a light gray blanket
from horizon to horizon, the harbor
reflecting that same gray
rippling in a steady south breeze.
Even the seaweed that lies slick and green
on the rocks at low tide
has a sharp new scent.
The deer, more curious than wary,
stop and give me a good looking-over.
But the small brown sparrows
chitter and dive into thickets
like they’ve seen the Devil.
What does it mean when the wind dies here
and the harbor goes smooth as an empty plate?
Hours before sunset, yet it feels so quiet, like everyone
even the deer, have bedded down together for the night.