The progress of sunlight along the wall
may be read as a sign the wind is rising; 
it might be the glow of a burning house.

In the depths of philosophy’s cave,
the shades whom Plato locked in must have seen 
movements like these, so lovely. 

The frenzied ballet of the birds suggests
they’re announcing a storm, the first squall 
of this summer so little like summer.

Heavy clouds jostle and bump along
a horizon suddenly solid as concrete,
then space fills up with a thick rain.


It all has to fit into twelve lines—a lesser sonnet—
all that’s depicted at every instant inside the cave
dug out by Plato for the chaining up of those

whom he deemed to be dupes of illusion. But in his 
system’s sphere, the soul struggling to be free
had to swap for a stale whiteness, all pleasing things:

these wind-harrowed trees, the play of sun and shadow,
that pink-and-brown bird alighting on a wire. 
So I shall settle for the paradise of what I see: 

I trace this rectangle of twelve lines and 
make of it a window through which to observe
all that appears, and that happens once only. 


The sky behind’s a canvas loomed from mist 
and storm. The nearer view, of housefronts 
in brick and stone, offers plain flat tints of

red, brown and grey, as in Breughel.
Beyond the rooftops we look down over, a slender
pointed steeple stands out against the light,

all depth lost. A fine rain, hardly more than
a dust of droplets, quivers in the air, while 
colours, saturated, exude subtle seepages.

A man in a khaki raincoat, looking tiny
when seen from the sixth floor, walks 
along a hoarding plastered with posters.


File folders, open books, a notebook,
some pencils, a diskette, an eraser,
a notepad, an ashtray, a pencil sharpener,

a paper knife, a computer, a ballpoint pen,
a packet of cigarettes, a ruler, a cup;
the sun splashes this jumbled arrangement

with patches of light, and its movement from right
to left marks the passage of happy hours.
Any table covered with objects randomly assembled 

is a still life that could be painted or described.
Towards ten o’clock, a line of shadow will pass
across the dictionary, which contains all poems. 


The crow swoops and dips, wings outspread 
under the misty sky. There have to be clouds, 
between two seasons, before he’ll appear. 

He hangs in the air, seems to fall back,
catches himself and alights at the top of a maple,
where he sways, slowly and majestically.

The world around is made all of wind and cold, 
out of the immense conch shell of space, the whole 
laid out below, where he deigns to look down. 

He inspects the horizon, of which he takes 
possession with loud caws, then flies off 
into the thickening mist, and is gone.


As soon as we step out, the cold stings. 
The street seems hardened or tightened.
Space recedes in shrunken perspectives.

Instinct impels us, or habit, to pull in our heads,
and hunch our shoulders, to gather ourselves
together and offer less hold to the glacial air.

We hear nothing but the crunch of our footsteps.
An occasional car passes, underscoring 
the perfect silence we’re listening to.

Hard to explain what we’re doing outdoors
in this weather, at this hour, absolutely outdoors,
and there’s no one to ask the question.


In the vastness of a hospital parking lot (this is indeed what 
the moon would be like, were we on it, quintessential suburb,
suburb of the earth), a crow alights on a lamppost

and loudly salutes the ten-thirty sunlight in its multiple 
reflections on the hoods, the bumpers and the chrome.
Near the emergency entrance, ambulance attendants

smoke and gossip in the chilly air. They survey 
the steppe of cars that they’ve seen so often. 
A few patients shepherded by family, old people

or walking like old people, shuffle very slowly away 
under the monumental sky. An ambulance wheels in,
lights whirling and flashing. The crow flies off.


You’ve got to tear up these drafts you’ve copied,
which are nothing now but the sum of the errors
and approximations that you’ve tried to correct,

although it’s not without pleasure that you view the design
of crossings out, arrows, circlings, additions, scrawls 
of blue or red or black ink, plus some underlinings 

you don’t remember making. For what purpose 
do you study your mind’s mess here, the random 
chance that you tried to win—in vain, don’t you see?

You were hoping for one true word that’s neither here,
nor in those clean copies you slide into a folder and— 
in their place—the just-about of what you could do. 


I have built up a monument as fragile as the grass,
as unstable as the daylight, as fleeting as the air, and
as fluid as the rain we see running in the streets.

I’ve consigned it to paper that will dry, and 
which may burn, or be splotched by moisture 
with a bloom of pink, or green, or grey mildew, 

and give off a pungent earthy odour. I’ve worked 
in the transient substance of a tongue that will
cease to be spoken, sooner or later, or be pronounced

some other way, forming other words to convey
other thoughts. I’ve pledged it to the oblivion certain 
to enfold all that this day bathes in its sweetness.