1. Prelude

Someone breathed into my ear
The vapor of the dead
It woke me up, I was asleep
It circled round my head

It all comes back inchoate
The meaning has no base
I never learned to love someone
The way I did that place

2. The Estate

Down past the River Road
In the lowest hollow
I took the path along the row
No stranger dared to follow

The wide lawn was overgrown
The eaves were bowed and brown
The window showed that every room
Was bare and white as bone

Above the pool, a mirrored gaze
I saw her ivied face
Her empty eyes, cold, recessed
Have watched this wasted place

Where dying bloom and creeping vine
Strangle and adorn
The place that built inside of me
A soul, a ghost, a home

The field has breath, the pond a voice
I’ve known since I was small
They told me then to leave this place
Or stay and lose it all

3. The Barn

“You who live outside of life,
you’re not alone, not yet”

In the barn, the ghost, the girl
When I came home from school
She sat upon the hayloft stairs
In a dress of layered tulle

Half-hidden from the shadows
Her body turned away
Her little gloves, pale and clenched
Over her little face

It was as if she took my hand
It was as if she knew
The earth held only part of her
And I should know it too

I’d seen the man out in the field
Immersed in dancing flames
A barn had once burned down out there
Long before we came

The land stretched wide beyond the house
Who knows what lay beneath
What other men were lying there
And would show themselves to me

It was as if he took my hand
It was as if he knew
The earth held only part of him
And I should know it too

It was as if they caught my ear
It was as if their breath
Would say, would sing
The dance of life continues after death

4. The Guest

She left our house in the dead of night
My sister went to find her
We didn’t know why she left
She’d fled as fast as fire

All this time I was asleep
While my sister chased her down
I picture them out in the woods
On the other side of town

It turns out she was lost and caught
Deep within her dreams
Which guided her out of our house
Like Joan called from her wheel

But no glory there awaited her
No god where she was found
On a patch of snow in a lonely copse
On the frozen moonlit ground


5. The Slaughterhouse

The house of stone
With a concrete floor
A ring stuck at its center

Stood up the hill
From the spring-fed pond
We’d skate on every winter

In the past these family farms
Slaughtered all their stock
I’d seen it once at another farm
And I never will forget

The ring was used
To hold them still
The nose ring in the ring

The pond was there
To drag them down
Dead but still bleeding

Why hadn’t they torn it down
When the farms no longer thrived?
Beneath our blades a reef of beasts
Lay lowing under ice


6. The Girl

The woods behind that sprawling farm
Above that ranging home
Was somewhere no one ever went
Unless to be alone

The wrens would sing, the grouse would fly
A fox a flash of red
A peaceful place of moss and flowers
In an untouched woven bed

Who was that girl that entered there
Who crossed that thorny turf?
She brought with her just rope and will
To end her time on earth

We didn’t know her face or name
Just rendered in our minds
But the birds would sing the strangest song
As we rode by on our bikes

7. The Swan

Do you know
The swan in the swamp?
Do you remember
How she screamed?

A truck backed up
Beyond the road
Where she lay alone

The twilight had just
That hour that fools
The eye

The night before
I’d seen her there
A girl of snow
And ice

The whitened wings
As the wheels
Destroyed her bed

The ivory neck
Like a finger
For its band

She lay there quiet
Against the grass
A splayed and shattered

Of red and white
Green and gold,

8. The Witch

I saw the witch out in the woods
As we sang around the fire
Stooped and white, curled and dry
A bone enrobed in briar

No one else had seen her there
No one saw her face
Which stared at me, fixedly
Grim and unafraid

I left them all to sing their songs
By the fire’s dying glow
The woods and field enclosing camp
Like hands around a throat

Back at home I lay awake
Safe behind my door
Listening for her muted steps
In the shadowed yard below

And though the time has passed
I still see her in those trees
The world is now those darkened woods
The days her eyes on me

I was so young, had barely lived
But I recognized the fear
Was what lay waiting, out of view
In all our older years

9. The River

On the banks
The wash so brown
The shadows blue
They’re black

I saw the form
Astride the loam
Splayed out upon
Its back

A bear, a dog
A bed, a log
A child’s eyes
Are pure

Until the hands
Of the missing man
Were clear against
The dew

The river’s flow
A blackened bow
That tied around
Our town

Had sapped his life
Like a lantern’s light

10. The Speakers

“I’m sorry,” said the blade,
Poised above the hare,
“The life you have inside of you
is only yours to share.”

“In some ways,” said the night,
as it blotted out the day,
“The fact that you will soon return
makes your death a sadder thing.”

“I hear you,” said the hay,
the soured, dusty straw,
“You are the holy, crying child
the world believes is gone.”

“Leave it,” said the leaf,
“The edge of me turns brown,
I die and rise invisibly
Like the ghosts you won’t allow.”

11. The Orchard

The trees held bells
The chimes the blooms
Each fruit a tongue
To taste the bruise

The bending bough
Upended how
We’d try to steal
What it allowed

This was our greed
And was its gift
We raised the thing
That died to give

12. The Song

No Go No
The throat of the bird would sing
Don’t you hear it too?
The field was echoing

No So Low
The flying, slicing wing.
It says that there is beauty
Inside your suffering

Go Go Go
The feathered head will turn
And look away, though now the song
Will live inside your room

13. The Past

The meadow lost its golden hue
The trees let go their leaves
The air grew colder, cleaner, blue
Pale as centuries

Someone breathed into my ear
The vapor of the dead
It woke me up, I was asleep
It circled round my head

It all comes back inchoate
The meaning has no base
I never learned to love someone
The way I did that place