November 2000

Roger Mitchell


Roger Mitchell is the author of six books of poetry, most recently, The Word for Everything (BkMk Press of UMKC, 1996), and Braid (Figures, 1997), as well as a work of non-fiction, Clear Pond: The Reconstruction of a Life (Syracuse University Press, 1991). He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.
Love Song, In Phoebe    Click to hear in real audio

Little cloudlets frozen in their leap across the sky,
wind shushing in the trees.
The blue jays shriek and the chickadees, agreeing,
add an extra note to their song.
No one ever told me how sugary
the milkweed blossom smells.
I got to find out for myself.
It was only yesterday I saw my first Wood Nymph
and knew it. Dark bitter chocolate,
its flight the shape of wandering avidity.
I hear a goldfinch go by,
and, looking up, I tell myself I see it.
Why not? Who can it hurt?
The bluebird hawks above the newcut grass.
Maybe I should take the side of the beetle this time,
but the bluebird won't let me.
The pair of bluebirds. Do they feel
this undershove, this balloon of giddiness? Do they
walk up and down the road for sixty years
believing in bliss, bliss that is only an inch away?
I think I may have got across that inch, at last,
about fifteen minutes ago.
I was looking at the maple tree
and listening to a cow bawling in the distance.
I thought, two bluebirds, together,
in the same tree for three seconds.
Nothing happened exactly,
but I could feel my mind slipping,
slipping out of its old harness.
It's a beautiful harness, really. It has such thick,
leathery, mule-bedraggled straps.
But I took it off anyway, or maybe it just slipped off
when I wasn't looking,
and I sat there sipping wind out of a bush
and hearing the first phoebe in weeks
say meadow my meadow.
In Phoebe, of course.



The Way Two Horses Stand    Click to hear in real audio

The way two horses stand next to one another in a field,
and we are going into the village in a car to have lunch
with old friends at the deli, and the sun and the wind
are helping one another slowly up a difficult stairway.

The way the fox crossing the field lowers its head and squints
as though swimming underwater through a stream of small bugs,
the kind that only that morning found there was a world
and have only till evening to solve the mysterious silence.

The way the eastern phoebe in the nest above the door holds
fiercely to the hatching of her five white eggs, round as peas,
and though we come and go, wondering whether it matters
if stars collide, guarding its muddy purchase on the possible.

The way the clouds amble along whispering among themselves.
The way, the daily way, we have of deciphering what they're saying.
The way sky darkens before rain, and the rain hesitantly
steps down into the grass, as though into freshly drawn bathwater.



Roger Mitchell: Poetry
Copyright 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 14The Cortland Review