The Orange Blues
With a few words drawn from “Ghazal of Oranges,” by Jan-Henry Gray,
and all the oranges changed to blues.
I know well
the faraway scent of blues,
know the exact shade
of warning blue, am still
astonished by the strange fruits
in my wheelbarrow full of blues.
I have packed roomy
wicker baskets with blues,
or mostly blues—
this crop of blues,
Those days, months,
years, peeling blues …
I still love all the orange
blues: azure, indigo,
lapis lazuli, periwinkle, peacock,
midnight, Nile, electric,
Prussian, Wedgewood, navy,
But not cobalt, not
cyan or cerulean—I’m
done with cold.
And I’ve squeezed
every last drop of juice
out of steel and pewter.
Fistfuls of Green
Scrub pine—not a tree anyone wants
to plant, but a runty one, a scrapper
scrabbling out of miserable soil, windswept
coastal lands. The kind of tree that
even when young tends to be gnarled, if maybe
a little beautiful in moonlight. A paltry
shade maker. Pugilist. Porcupine. Thrusting
fistfuls of green into the needling wind.
A tree in which a starling preens his black.
Backbreaking work, to endure
in scrub lands—gripping the sandy earth, maybe
over a lifetime making the dirt a tad less poor.
Come spring, its seed cones have gone grey,
plain enough beauty for even the old Puritans,
that ancestral branch that tugs at my roots—
a faint guilt at the occasional scarlet-painted toes
or choice of wine over milk.
But if you are pine, you don’t grieve overmuch
about what can’t be helped—ancestors, bad soil,
whether you have the spine to be scrub—
you are here to impede the wind, you are here
to take your time.
It’s true—sometimes I’ve envied
other people’s poems, their burn,
their glow. And maybe I’m not alone.
But after seeing first images
from the Webb telescope—a single
rice grain of our universe!—
how to envy now? All those
whirling galaxies going back
and back and back. Astronomers
will argue which is oldest, closest
to the very beginning—the Big Bang,
that 13-point-something billion-year
expansion—a peacock’s tail
an origami’d telescope
unfolding on and on…
A poem can break your heart—
like one called “Tinder,”
about a bear whose paws
are charred in one of our
forest fires, a poem in which lines
flick on like stars—a sonnet line
by line igniting. A galaxy in a bear
crawling out of a fire,
a bear that must be put to death—
the black hole at the heart
of every life, maybe every
congregation of stars.
Now that we’ve looked through
that great golden eye floating
a million miles away,
now that we’ve seen—if this
universe were lit with only thousands,
or even billions, of stars,
how lonely that would seem.
O astronomers, O
other people’s poems, bring me
your galaxies, your black bears.