I scratch, in the black, the inner
aspect of my right thigh. Other
nights chest, back of hand, a shin,
blame the itch on chafed or dry
or sweat-salted skin, wrong
detergent, ghosts of mites, tactile
white noise amplified by lack
of light’s distraction. But I know
my itch rises from the spark-lit
under-night. I’m giant, other
lives, thousands, down inside
the big top my integument.
Tinder’s kindled out of sight,
gives off an irritant, hot flecks
singe the tent. I scratch. Annoyed
nails just aggravate. Who are those
camped igniters? They’ve gathered
sticks out of the trampled brush,
tend the embers, and the elders
tell the tales the young ones must
remember. Before hell swallowed
home. Mybody’s swaddled,
soft smooth cotton, no grit no straw
no itinerant’s coarse coat
no vagrant’s needle bed the cops don’t
search. Inside my flesh, this night
inside the night, this double dark
most private public park, fire lights
pairs of eyes, parched lips set prayers
aloft. The soul-smoke licks. I itch.
[“Night Itch” first appeared in Rise Up Review.]
Poem for My Country
Not far from my city, I walked under tall trees
by a river whose name soon escaped me.
Silty-green eddies, white froth dressing
the rocks, flat current over what I thought
must be the depths, a riffle dazzled
the shallows. I lost perspective
to the strobe of the wind-shaken maples’
foliage fringing the shore. Were they swallows
who sped and veered, who caught the living
dust of the hovering bug constellations?
A few splashes some yards upriver,
little eruptions of silver, what might be
a fish, I bent for a better look under
a branch, and saw on the edge up ahead
a kid spin a flat rock to skip, and it did.
What country is this? A moment in wonder,
no answer. The water coursed past
in and out of the bright and the dark, I heard
the elements’ vigorous frictions, dignified
groans of the cedars and firs, and imagined
the current grinding away at the stones.
What country is this? Perhaps it is known
to the singing boughs spread over the banks,
to the stones, or the invisible fish.
[“Poem for My Country” first appeared in The American Journal of Poetry.]