The bells in the gold leaves
sound at first light. My bones tremble
with old yearning to leave
these thickets of dream
and this ancient house, cramped
with mementos and wish-crowded.
When green flares on the California foothills
and autumn paths beckon to be walked,
roads are eager and forgetful.
I follow these tender mornings in a dawn haze.
The leaves jingle against red bark.
I know something aslant of the breeze.
All things die like summer music.
I rise from a cottage in the mountains,
having died many times before
and risen to the sound of ringing,
to make my September departure.
I’m ready to leap onto any dark road
and take my place in a long line of pilgrims
to a hidden cave. A compass in my blood tugs.
The wind picks up a chant and I haste away,
hair combed by shadows.
The best journeys I know chase
the sound of loss with hope’s phoenix.
They become reckless with wheels rolling
over bridges, in arabesques and rhythms
made by clouds and roads
that captain restlessness
towards a final place.
I follow along a coast road
into a narrow reach of bliss.
There is no logic in it, but as I leave
night’s desert in the rearview,
my momentum gathers fearless
in the hour of last stars.
A wave carries all the broken shells
and dumps them clattering on the sand
as my heart rises in caged birds tossed free.
The hour is turning and the tide.
The ocean’s one verse breaks open the day
and I retreat empty-handed.
I have drunk much bitter spume,
and the tonic note of solitude
whisks in speed on my face
while I run in new shoes along an old trail,
heading into an unimaginable forest.
We grow older while the earth never does.
I understand this by watching the sea,
which has good reasons to rush,
having nowhere but itself to spill into.
It’s pent up on the planet,
and like a prisoner muscularly self-possessed.
The roads are full of wet wheels again.
The walkers hump the fog on their backs
and I hitch into a next season, thumb out,
not knowing how my driver might prove.
Today will be longer than yesterday by a moon’s edge.
All things revolve while I feel motionless,
summering a little longer as I can.
And here again is the sun,
who always makes me laugh in his golden hat.
The room I live in tunes up
even before I open my eyes.
Through the closed window beeps,
squeaks, and trills grow louder,
joined by the timpani of wheels
as they bump on cement seams.
The heater’s whoosh enters my pulse,
and I cup my hand to my ear
to magnify every motion of air.
The sizzle of my tendons straining
against the covers and a spatter of rain
dotting the panes become the notation
of my day’s concert.
I attend the music like a conductor,
from first birdsong to a peek
at an oak tree’s green leaves twisting
out of grooved tentacles.
I choose the silver flutes of house finches
and muster my skill to maestro
tires and whistles into a harmony
my air-braiding finger leads.
I elect office melodies,
adding a chickadee’s tumbled notes
to the jackhammers’ workday timpani
as it rumbles through the glass.
I grab that sound and wave in
the computer’s buzzes and alerts,
then signal the woodwind of a meeting
room hum and let the day croon to me.
Only when all the instruments
have played do I rest my baton
and let silence come
singing its utter solo.
Thank you, Hawk, for flapping
five times above my head.
For stopping my feet and breath
with your wings that brushed
the air so near my scalp
I heard your beak snap.
I wish you a good meal,
but I don’t want to watch
you pick at living meat
or feel you rushing me
down like the leaves
whispering onto noon lawns.
I know this sun-searing silence
is a kind of call and that I will
be yours one day. I accept
your circled blessing
on my head and surrender
but not quite yet. I’m not scoured
of all my wishes
nor helpless as a feather
falling up. Not yet ready
for the empty blue
or to be bone clean.