FIve POEMS

JudithBishop(1).jpg
 

Poem for a Little Girl

Once you were pregnant with the thought of her:
the warmth of the sun on your arms was her,
the pulse of a bird before your eyes was her.

And one day she appeared, where she was not before.
A bright seed; then suddenly, limbs, head, heart,
for life itself was curious to know who she would be.

Birth gave her to your arms, your eyes.
Light and air were mild. All of those who love
understand the way time moves in a daze of love.

But how her hands urged her to hold! Her legs, to run!
Language flew into her ear and she could speak!
Sun and wind were her friends. So you held her in her sleep.

And you held her small body when she stumbled into night:
for days the black river went plunging into night.
But in the place you’ve come to, there is only care.

She has woken, your love, in the house of your heart.
Oh, now she is laughing, saying Look! Ma! Pa!
I’m a bird – I’m sunlight – I am everywhere you are.

(published in Island magazine, issue 14, 2016)
 

from Control

To see, as the astronaut does,
the body of the earth
lying whole and resplendent
in its swathes and veils; to hold
the oceans and the forests in your gaze,
measuring their hue,
meaning density and depth,
here jotting in a whale, and here a bear;
to imagine the paths
currents forge around the earth,
persuasions exerted by cold on warm water,
and the similar antipathies
of saline and fresh;
to picture the magnetic fields surrounding the earth
as so many arrows in a flower of arcs;
the troposphere and stratosphere
like a child’s drawing of the sky in broad bands,
horizontal strokes for stratospheric winds
and swirly ones for tropospheric weather;
all things on earth accounted for
and all in their place;
but no sooner is the picture drawn
than the child wonders
how to change it.

(published in Arc Magazine/Cordite Poetry Review
Special Issue
(Canada/AU), October 2014)

 

Tunings

The thought of a leaf – unhitched,
unmoored, steered only by the air –

comes at a meeting in which the men describe
self-driven cars

as the imminent future,
directed, if at all, by the air of our voices.

Somewhere in the deserts
of America, they say, unmanned cars

already drive into valleys, tuned
to the whispering of satellites.

One of them jokes, Just a few
of their crash dummy passengers survive.

Out of the meeting and back to the leaf.
It had no dream of losing steerage of itself –

but was one day
relinquished by the tree.

(published in Aftermarks, Vagabond Press, 2012)

 

"The Chords of Snow Melting..."

The chords of snow melting are unheard, perhaps, by any but the bird,
attuned with all its body

to the sawings of a grass blade, or a seed falling from its flower head,
meaning danger, or future,

or the wind slowly gathering in force.
But see the snow -- how in melting, it clarifies.

A pitch, low or high, must be sung by water molecules uncoupling
small attractions, gaining force and mutual distance.

Restless one, I know.
The songs we're singing are as clear.

(published in Event, 2007)

 

Desert Wind

High, bright winter’s morning: the tenements’ tree-antlers
clatter on each corner and the stepping black spines are smooth
and glossy as mirages; framed, the scene shines as if transported

           to a desert,
and never (since this winter day will not end hereafter, having left
the field
of time) will the trees
flicker leaves again or carry broods of flowers; but still, as in a desert,
a random bird alights, hoarse-throated after days of luckless questing
for a moth or a spider that has cellared spring rains in its body,

          so honeying
the juices of itself; and when startled by a boy skating down the lane

          a moment,
she is swallowed by the wind, as a rasping draws nearer on the dirt

and turns articulate,
becomes the
shuck, shuck of a snake tasting engine oil and frost,
          as if astonished
how far it has gone across terrains, when last it knew, an iridescence
meant the felled wing of a hummingbird, and thus the sweetest
meat, but never such a black stench as pools below this metal corpse...
High, bright winter’s morning: the desert wind whistling
from the north,
radio static from the kitchen clarifying to the small maracas rattle

          of the sand,
briefly clambering with every wave of air: go, stop; go, stop; and then,

          a long silence—
(as if entire days have held their breath). Now comes a human voice:

          low, soft,
perhaps yours, rising like the yam tendril, which knows how to bind

          whatever’s still,
and for long enough to touch.

(published in Event, 2007)