ERIC PANKEY

 

Anniversaries

Where it narrows, the tidal creek runs fast, then it fans out wide beyond its
final turn, runnels
Branching, tangling, and where it meets the incoming water, the half-hearted
waves of the Sound,
It ripples and splashes, and when the wave withdraws, it spreads thin over the
gravel of crushed shells—
The black sheen of mussels, the oyster's flat white, the oyster's luster—
And sometimes when I wake I look out and watch you out there, alone, at home
amid the changes.



Grain by grain the sand gathers at the base of the dune grass, salt rose, and
beach peas.
At low tide, in the sandy marl, a thousand snails leave behind an indecipherable
and thus holy scripture.
For seventeen years, we have returned and watched the swans and cygnets wind
down the tidal creek.
Followed the shadow of the cedar, the osprey's ellipse out and back, the
carnival spotlights trace the sky.
At the base of the dune grass, salt rose, and beach pea, grain by grain the sand
gathers.

                             Sheer in the shallows, and above the provinces of the depths, warped,
bluish, opaque,
The water is itself a surface of mimicries, a wayward body, a vatic, cataracted
eye
That sees the fractures, the gloaming, the nuanced stillness of the egret, the
silt storm
The green crab retreats into, the dredged channel, the raw estuarial interface
of spring and salt,
The sky as it drags and dumps its rain all along the Post Road, then inland.
__

                             We heard the mockingbird as it bobbed on a tassel of marsh grass.
Out beyond the haze of the heather— foil scraps, ribbon, a ring— a nest of
misplaced things.
In the afternoon, we made love then napped and woke to the wind-change, to the
tide-turn.
At night, the water rehearsed its declensions. We learned by rote its grammar,
its lexicon.
In hearing the mockingbird (the swallow-of, the gull-of, the wren-of ) we heard
the mockingbird.


A Token Or Two


To hedge his bets, he would build a temple to the unknown god— the one
unworshipped all those years,
The one whom he had not even imagined, perhaps a jealous one, a wrathful one,
one left in the cold
Inadvertently.
                             If the brevity of a human life is, as the Psalmist says,
a handbreadth
And if he knew how easily his own hand had turned over in anger, frustration,
and vengeance,
It was not too soon to break ground, to clear the forest, to sink the pilings,
to build first the outer wall.



I never would have expected to see the damp, green hay begin to smolder, to
consume itself,
Flames, at first, green, more smoke than flames, as if an ink of soot, oil, and
gum of balsam,
Burn as it inscribed the rolled bales into its ledger, not as an image, but as
an inventory,
Stock against the future, and then the paper itself is char.

The herd, unperturbed, stood
Bunched together chewing the late spring grass, chewing the chewed, until the
dog brought them in.



He built the outer wall from a ruined Corinthian colonnade and filled in the
gaps with coral and rubies.
A narthex of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle. A nave of emerald, agate, and
amethyst. And through the gate
Of a single pearl,
                             an altar of sapphire, diamond, jasper and beryl
onyx.
He prepared the altar with offerings of macerated musk, civet, and butter, a
sheaf of barley,
A token or two he had managed to steal, when all the gods were nameless, from a
magpie's nest.



I am kin to the crow, cousin to the fire, which tells you even less than I
previously let on.
I and he are not the same, but like the fire and crow are bound by a tangle
of blood,
Or so I say, preferring to see design in the random, preferring to design the
random,
As my father must have, retelling a story as if we had never heard it.

He forgets himself,
And the one ruined crop becomes the fall of a dynasty, and thus he is cast out,
a prince without a land.