Moons in Water

by Jeff Rockwell

Cover photo by S. Mutt
54 pages, 2005

There's something going on
in the sky today
I'll never understand:
clouds appearing from nowhere,
noble workhorses grunting
and pushing things out of
their way,
the holy impatience of Jesus
awakened from His sleep
in the upward outback
into chaos at
eighty miles-per-hour.
Stoutly, shape is given
to no shape,
form to no form,
beads of hail
cobble together treasures
on the front porch.
Next, a moment of silence
so the landscape can abide
more melancholy
and a second wind,
the same wind
in fact
a pair of scissors
that threatens to cut
the cabin in two
the mother cat wanting in,
then out,
until the sun comes back
like an Old World laborer
from vacation
as if nothing had happened.
A rainbow shows its bottom
to the pond below,
lifetimes have
passed already
and then the thought
that trying
to predict
the outcome of anything
just might be an insult
to all the first-rate
storms within
These suddenly shimmering acres—
dead homestead in
the hidden meadow,
scraps of snow-beaten
ranch wood and ancient newspaper clippings—
are some father's voice,
a cowboy's
skeletal with a sore back
inconsolable heart
and not enough tools to heal them.
Most of the year
there's not enough
water to slip
your ankles into,
acres of loss
happened here every day.
But some fortuitous hand—
birth of a child, shooting star,
spring seeding finished on time—
showed up enough
to gentle the cold
revolving winds.
Everything learns something
from solitude,
besides the trip out of
this bowl of pine
and punch of storm
much of the year was
too much to fathom
in that time before jazz
and the bug-splattered windshield.
So some voices stayed,
no joy too large
no loss too small,
several generations later
cowboy hearts
in full gallop
take refuge in
barrooms of the
Western slope;
after skinning an elk
two men, boys really,
nursing cans of Coors
in the front seat
of a pickup,
plans for the future
jettisoned in the rush
of one
spring runoff.
The land cradled them,
cradles us
as best it can,
cancels whatever seems
to break
the spirit
given our grace to do so.
In this story
that only seems like
an accident
many men go their
whole lives, in spite of what you've heard,
without hurting anything
except themselves.
The San Juans only
look old
but are actually
some of the Earth's
newest muscles.
It takes a very long time
to learn even
a single thing
from solitude
and, then,
all at once.
One split second
after another
snow falls on
the perpetual flame
of promise,
the mind soaked in quietude
opens and doubts
the gift
and the heart
in which it is born.
So that's why they call
this green basket of space,
interrupted by nothing
except spirit
and spirit's interruptions,
a place of power,
Tara 's mandala.
During my breaks from prayer
I listen for them
all the birds
that perform here
in this valley
doing so acoustically
although their real work
is entirely electric
like little Lord's Prayers
vaulting beyond their beaks,
ancestors of these four corners
alive in their
songs in praise
of grain.
It seems fitting
that one of their
main instruments
is a humble red thing
inside a tender chest,
a nautilus of breath
such small ribcages
in place of
plump gourd
I focus on the space,
between their notes
and wonder,
what is it I am
listening to?
Other times, I try
to sing along
of course they fly away
my thoughts changing then
to something
I can better understand.