Charles Wright: Six Poems from Buffalo Yoga


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January II

A cold draft blows steadily from a crack in the window jamb.
It's good for the soul.
For some reason, I think of monuments in the high desert,
                                                            and what dissembles them.

We're all born with a one-way ticket, of course,
Thus do we take our deaths up on our shoulders and walk and walk,
Trying to get back.

We'd like to move as the water moves.
We'd like to cover the earth
                                        the way the wind covers the earth.
We'd like to burn our way there, like fire.

It's not in the cards.
Uncertainty harbors us like winter mist
                                                 the further we go, the deeper it gets.
Sundown now, and wind from the northwest.

The month is abandoned.
                                   Volvos go wandering to and fro
Like lost polar bears. The landscape is simple and brown.
The future's behind us, panting, lolling its black tongue.


Nostalgia III

Sun-sliding morning. The doors of the world stand open,
The one up and the one down.
                                       Twice-blessed by their golden handles,
We try them both, but they don't open, not yet, they don't open.

Wind from the west as usual,
                                       harp-limbs of bare trees
In southwest corner of things.
The music of memory has its own pitch,
                                                       which not everyone hear.

Cloud-gondolas floating in with the east-moving wind-waters,
Black-hulled and gilt-edged,
                                white on white up above, smooth pole.
Later, the sunset, flamingo, great bird of passage.

Dry autumn and dry winter, dry spring.
The nights drift over us,
                                    spun toward the iron Atlantic.
Memory's mantras hum like electric lights in their slow flow.

Bits, and small bits, and pieces of things.
Memory has its own affections,
                                            bleak, unappointed rounds,
High beams in the dark driveway, no one behind the wheel.


Little Apocalypse

The butterfly's out on noon patrol,
                                          dragoning down to the rapt flower heads.
The ground shudders beneath the ant's hoof.
Under cover of sunlight, the dung beetle bores through his summer dreams.
High up, in another world,
                                 the clouds assemble and mumble their messages.
Sedate, avaricious life,

The earthworm huddled in darkness,
                                                       the robin, great warrior, above,
Reworking across the shattered graves of his fathers.
The grass, in its green time, bows to whatever moves it.
Afternoon's ready to shove its spade
                                                     deep in the dirt,
Coffins and sugar bones awash in the sudden sun.

Inside the basements of the world,
                                                     the clear-out's begun,
Lightning around the thunder-throat of the underearth,
A drop of fire and a drop of fire,
Bright bandages of fog
                                 starting to comfort the aftermath.
Then, from the black horizon, four horses heave up, flash on their faces.



This floating life, no anchor at either end, just white
Back here and white there.
An old memory of my mother when she was young
Ruffs like an egret and settles back.

The winds peruse us, the clouds roll and offer their offices.
We try to avoid all this, and sidestep our itches.
Like winter landscapes,
We huddle inside our own signatures,
                                                      not yet alive, not yet dead.

The twilight years,
                            lone boatman on the night-blackened lake,
J-stroke and j-stroke, no end in sight,
One speck of return in my bad eye,
I breathe the mist off the dark waters, fragrance of what's-to-come.

Winter begins unnoticed.
The way between half-empty and half-full
                                   begins where you begin forgetting the words,
And put down your pen.
The way to whatever matters begins after that.


Little Apokatastasis

South of the stunned Rivanna, shadowless winter afternoon,
Light halfway on, clouds low-slung with rain-to-come
                                                                         stretched on the sky.

Window-watching, tangled branches across the lost highway, I
Suddenly see hundreds of headlights,
                                                    everyone coming home.


La Dolceamara Vita

Autumn is over. The winter rains
Have settled like feathers from wild geese
                                                               deep in the trees.

I start my afternoon rote walk, the wet-step and weekend one,
Up Locust Avenue and back down.

The cold-eaten, sap-sunken gold of the maple leaves
Takes in the light and grows big,

The church chimes like empty villages,
                                                        ruin-riddled, far away
Where nobody goes.

The dogwood is redder now than summer's chokecherry,
Sunset sheen like old wax on the steps into the sky,

Rainwater gone, drifting under the streets while nobody notic
I reach the hospital and turn back.

Behind me, day darkens, in front of me darker still.
If I had it all to do over again, I'd pull the light

Toward me and start to gleam,
                                          and then not gleam, the way the lea,
The dying leaves, and the cold flowers.



Charles Wright's new book is Buffalo Yoga.   Mr. Wright, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award, teaches at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.