for A. J.
I cannot sing but I can listen—
the voice of notes reaching and stretching,
testing the muscles of what sound can be,
should be if we were only ear, only hearing
clear and transcending the clamor of city streets’
rough malodorous push and shove, the traffic
of life’s be there-should have been-yesterday-
tomorrow morning,… but if the night
were the warmest cave, the primal blanket
to layer and comfort our tired feet, to feed
a flame of shadow and light together,
then pure, yes, pure tone would be the echo
and resonance, the neverending claim to live
in the lasting growl and coo of her voice
as “My Funny Valentine” fades and never disappears,
as the final note possesses Sarah Vaughan, possesses us,
documents the sound we should define as pain,
as regret, as love and loss, as human.
Midnight Rainbows from Devil’s Kitchen
for R. G. J.
The lantern dims and sputters the little light
we need to wait in the dark for the lines
to pull, release, pull, and—taut at last—
set the hook and play the catch around
the other four lines waiting, their purpose
to weigh the night in against our careful
measurements and patience. A constellation
of baitfish scatter like some new universe’s
primordial moment, the crappie and shad
bumping the nearest poles slink into green
shadows beyond us, and now the headlight
floating in its foam ring illuminates the flash
and run of this twenty inches of muscle
straining against its life’s breath burning
up the blood. We’ll net and ice the fish
soon, cut the length and spill out what’s in
back to dark shelf of oxygen layered cold
below us in the table of the lake, but now
the splash and dash, the leap of color
our eyes can only hope to prism holds
us here until the limit, and brings us back.
And There Is Many a Good Thing
I went back to Dagger Point Trail
after she moved to Baton Rouge.
A plaque at the point says the sea
takes back five inches a year,
but the sand and shells, the same
live oak still crowned the hills.
I remembered the redtail tearing the rabbit
on the path before us,
wings half-spread, eyes
like sunlight. Linda stooped for a stone,
but a finger to my lips
and a short nod stopped her.
We sat in the dust until the hawk finished.
She drew circles within circles,
leaving only room for a point, like a target.
She laughed when I said she was working against
infinity, and asked me if I thought the rabbit
was the beginning or end of the cycle.
I said, Neither, and Both.
At the top of the hill
live oak thinned and we saw buzzards
descending on what little the hawk
had left. A collared lizard
stretched on a stone.
It scampered into shade as I stepped toward it.
Tilting the canteen, she splashed water
into her mouth and over her face.
She shook drops from her hair
and arched her head back,
eyes closed, smiling at the sky
like she’d broken surface after diving deep.
All poems copyright © Jon Tribble 2017