Aweby Paul Nemser
There’s always water behind the trees.
Even when there is no water
or only an inch or two in channels, the sheen
brings up the background.
There’s no hope without a background.
An osprey wars on a hurricane of crows.
Behind them, clicks and shrieks of squirrels.
Behind the squirrels, pine vibrations,
dribbles of radio, round purple clouds
with many tongues like morning glories
at first light; a tourniquet failing, bleeding out
of the first and last and the exorbitant
solitude between. The wakeful
make their mistakes in the foreground.
They cannot see a hand or a rafter.
They trip on rakes and oars.
They look around for the nearer
ground as for a sloughed skin,
but the skins are still on the snake in the compost
and the snake waiting for chipmunks
under the side porch, and the snake that
tells them things and the snake
that keeps a nasty silence
near the footpaths where they’ve gone
for raspberries or chanterelles,
but they find a monument of empty shoes,
and laces curled like trails out of summer,
like desert fire, as if to say
“What’s the farthest from your mind?”
And it comes to them that atonement
was farthest—farther than any light
from a blast of shrapnel,
any lottery ticket, or basket of rabbits,
or deed to a neighboring island.
They needed to veer into the blue a pilot sees
at a blind turn into the sun.
They needed a vanishing point
where all the angles could be unfolded,
unfolded, stretched to disappear
behind the lettuce gardens, kayaks,
green grapelets on the arbor,
the scoopings, the diggings
where they might have slipped, the pits
where they might have fallen,
spun more upright now, sharp
against the brightness,
the cravings for a great blue
heron to leap the trees
when the trees themselves need
something to leap against.