Policeman-car waits in the tall grass
between directions, coils thrumming
remains of a fresh kill nearby
mangled deer and crumpled hood
yellow lights signaling distress
attract its attention; purring, it
winds its way across the highway
flashing blue ears pricked:
authorized vehicles only…
Authorized vehicles only, on the next hill
a convocation of tractors,
low and still with silent riggings,
consider what becomes a free people
under the circumstances, when in the course…
one has a copy of Robert’s Rules on its dashboard.
They are still there when the policeman-car passes,
muttering deep within their grills,
but they are allowed.
Ducks – no, sparrows – no, ravens circle
no; vultures over the desert
(a scene like a kite-field on a good windy afternoon)
call to one another above the wreck
of a ship run aground, from which
survivor sailors stagger and stumble.
From the mast swings the captain,
hanged in the mutiny, drowned in effigy
he danced beneath the crow’s nest
(soon no more a figure of speech – he’ll feed the chicks)
but he laughed last:
before the mutineers got him he fixed the rudder,
spun the globe beneath his finger and sent them where it stopped,
loyal with disloyal.
Those now alive wade among the shimmering waves of silver heat,
each dragging a sea-chest manacled to his ankle,
a line for every point of the compass,
four wakes in the sand.
One dreams of strawberries,
another of rosewater beside a gilded mirror,
the third shades his brow from the sunset,
and sees its ruddy light stain his hands the color of raw flesh.
The fourth has already collapsed.
Birds, swooping down, do not care how the ship arrived.
Green hills, ruffled by the fingertips of a passing wind,
soon resume subsuming all the footfalls
that rhythm atop them into underground libraries,
cadence upon cadence, slow writers.
They will read to one another all that was,
when the long dark has come,
in exquisite polysyllabic undulations.
Perhaps some one of them will say, with satisfaction,
that such midwinter rituals had been their idea
from the start.