Among the mandolins, p.1
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       Among the Mandolins, p.1

           Charles Hibbard
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Among the Mandolins
Among the Mandolins

  Poems, 2012-2013

  Charles Hibbard

  Copyright 2014 Charles Hibbard

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  To Judith, Yarn-Bombing

  Left to right

  across the wan sunset

  sails one vast brocade

  unconcerned as time.

  Beyond the gray river

  of road is my wife,

  tagging the hem

  of a giant: the lone pine

  that waits out here forever

  anonymous as dusk.

  Like the rest of us

  she wants to dance

  like flame, yet endure,

  to breathe and burn

  but still appear

  in more than just

  one frame.

  Watching her, my own

  wish for this day is slim:

  that she and I stay

  both on this page,

  below the cooling clouds;

  on this road that points

  to a shroud of storm and snow

  draped above a ridge

  inscrutable as tomorrow.

  And so I take this picture

  or borrow it.

  Black Bunting

  The Black Bunting

  Passerina nera

  is not like other birds.

  Docile and kind

  it will perch on your hand

  and preen and fan its plumage

  for your admiring gaze.

  Therein you will see

  despite its name

  a fiery prismatic show,

  all the rainbow hues

  programmed for you alone

  by the bird’s grooming.

  But scrape it off your finger

  onto a branch and step back;

  now you have only black,

  black as any raven,

  a sparrow-shaped hole in the world.

  Pick it up again

  and carry it near

  and nearer. The agreeable bird

  continues its play;

  but now the colors evade

  your eyes, leaving only

  the gaps between them,

  the black gaps.

  Perhaps, then, arm’s length

  gives us the most,

  not too close,

  but not too far away.

  St. Luke’s ½ Home

  Above the little

  squirrel-scuttled roof

  of the old icehouse, the roar

  of wind in the treetops,

  and farther off the stumble

  of waves on the shore.

  In the small hours

  I went out to the night.

  Though I waited

  my eyes could not adjust.

  The stars were shuttered.

  There was no light

  and nothing to see.

  The darkness wrapped me

  in the smother of the whole

  universe. The wind rolled

  through invisible trees

  like a long train, the waves

  seemed closer, and not friendly.

  Something from an older forest

  crept up the back of my neck:

  anything, I felt, could be

  approaching through that black,

  and I had to retreat to

  the smaller darkness inside.

  In the morning

  against my fears

  and my hopes, I knew

  it had been only wind

  and waves. Sunlight

  owned the woods again.

  The Quality of Shadows

  I dreamed I was dreaming

  and in my dream woke up

  to find the sun throwing

  shadows on my wall,

  soft-edged, faintly trembling.

  My heart contracted

  with that silent oscillation,

  and I woke up.

  The shadows were still there,

  but now just jagged lines

  where tree limbs stopped the sun’s

  rectilinear rays. Common daylight

  blocked their glow from my mind.

  That dream was like touching

  the cheek of someone I loved,

  dead long ago. And I lay awake

  wondering if I should love anything

  that’s only of this world.

  Among the Mandolins

  The city street is overhung

  with tall trees and sunk in shade

  on even the highest summer days.

  On one corner the flower man

  in his lawnchair, murmuring

  to passersby; across the way

  the dark little music store.

  In its windows, cellos and bongos

  and banjos; a balalaika,

  a concertina, a zither, an oud,

  come and go like guest stars

  in improvised cadence.

  The owner, I suppose,

  was not always gray.

  We had dealings now and then,

  over several decades:

  a guitar, a few sets

  of silver strings that needed

  better hands than mine

  to make them talk and sing.

  He took my hopeful old

  tube amp to sell. But though

  he took my phone number too,

  he never called. I inquired

  again after a month or so;

  he counted out ten tens

  from his creaky cash drawer

  and handed them over. Would he

  ever have called me, or just let

  my hundred trickle away

  with his slow leak of debts,

  hoping somehow I’d forget?


  He must have scratched out

  a kind of shelter from the store

  because he made it all the way

  to the end right there

  among the mandolins.

  I wonder about him when

  I pass the dark window,

  where today stands a photo

  of a mustachioed young

  dark-eyed handsome man

  with a tiny, knowing smile.

  Below the picture, two dates

  barely parted by a dash.

  Beside it a beige kitten dozes

  on hindquarters and prissy paws,

  wrapped in his tapered tail,

  and half opens slanted yellow eyes

  to gaze at me as I pause

  in the leaf-shadow, thinking about

  a hundred bucks; then closes

  them again, no more disturbed

  by my contemplation or

  the new silence behind him

  than is a sleeping gull by

  the rise and fall of the tides.


  Nature drew us

  together, you and I

  for her own ends

  and may someday

  tear us apart

  for more of the same.

  Nature made us, but

  Nature didn’t make us

  everything we are,

  you and I.

  Some of this is ours.


  One fugitive crab

  scraping his way

  up the sidewalk

  of Hyde Street hill, fleeing

  the eateries by the bay

  on tattered claws.

  Though his myopic eyes

  are filmed with dust,

  he does not pause.

  For his presumption

p; he’ll be left behind;

  while back at the wharf

  his humbler mates

  (or just more resigned)

  are raptured up,

  straight from the pot

  to the gleaming plates.

  End of the Month

  It rises before the sun

  in the dawn pre-blue

  between silent black palms,

  this shallow curve, smooth

  and slight beyond perfection,

  with freshly sharpened points.

  Though tomorrow it will be new

  can we really call this old?


  The point is not

  that every moment

  some person or planet

  somewhere dies.

  The point is

  that every moment

  dies, everywhere,

  and takes a world with it.

  Red Flowering Gum

  Not one of the majestic ones

  this red flowering gum;

  only a street tree,

  but happy to be

  prying up the sidewalk;

  and very broad, all one

  wide green mouth

  gobbling the long rays

  of the rising sun.

  Lundy Canyon

  Under my hat is a waterfall

  a clear tannic pond

  beaver dam gone

  to weathered kindling

  afternoon wind

  sprinkled with swallows

  glittering aspens

  looming rockface.

  When I open my eyes

  sunlight filters through the fabric

  to this nap I can take

  with me wherever

  I may be headed.


  She leans

  in the doorway of a bar

  her hair somewhere between

  red and blond

  soft-voiced on her cell

  gentle inward press

  of her arms fills

  the V of her blue blouse

  invoking that other embrace

  of the someone out there

  as she gazes down the airwaves

  soft-eyed to where

  he assures her

  he loves her

  and maybe someday will.

  Theseus et al.

  How we hate and love

  all those who make

  a career of transgression:

  take what they want

  and toss the husks,

  sail around sacking the banks

  and cities of the world,

  hardly done boning one girl

  before they move on

  to the next, and always float

  like sour cream to the top

  or somehow nose out

  the musky heart of every maze.

  Yes, we love their

  carefree grasping; and hate,

  because the horrid ends

  we dream for them

  to compensate for their sins

  are no worse than our own.

  Before Us

  Precambrian afternoon

  one trillion and one.

  sun water wind. sun


  Screams forever fly

  like shavings torn off

  the spinning world;

  we plug our ears. But why

  this worship of pain?

  Common as gravity,

  if God exists then

  it’s no worse than it should be

  just negative calories

  to keep us all lean

  and hungry for the needle’s eye.


  Sadly (in my mind

  at least) the plum blossoms

  are already past their prime –

  blown away, discarded by sparrows,

  driven down by rain.

  But here are the new leaves

  backlit red by the sun;

  they’ll carry the trees

  through summer to fall.

  And meanwhile the cranes

  are growing like grass!

  airlifting beams and pouring concrete

  to raise the next crop of glass

  ruins on Market Street.

  But the cranes are still once

  night falls. Then the new moon

  grazes slowly eastward,

  fattening as always

  this time of the month.


  Bit of the world’s stuffing

  balled into a twitchy knot

  walking my windowsill

  black hood black eyes

  tail flashing scared

  white streaks as it

  flees absurdly from me

  panicked by nothing

  more than a bigger knot

  of the same stuff.

  Construction Boom

  The Arco station

  went down in a day.

  Avid backhoes

  gnaw its bones

  and churn the gray

  powder of its bed.

  From corners

  of metal jaws

  the old soil streams,

  tired of all its turnings:

  vanished biome,

  floor of cave,

  meadow and lawn,

  home, store,

  church, grave.


  If a gypsy soul,

  yours is only one

  like all of ours

  a wandering

  ship on a dark sea

  with patches of sun.

  No romance about it.

  Chill solstice

  of your form

  in this dim room

  still; my sister

  cast off, sail out

  and into the mystic.

  The Commons

  They don’t bother to help out

  with building or repair

  but the pigeons flare their wings

  and settle on the fountain’s brink

  like landlords, to splash and drink

  while below in the warming air

  the gleaming traffic spins

  its endless roundabout.

  So Little Depends on Red

  A red wheelbarrow

  is like any sunset:

  a handy place

  to hook a string

  whose other end

  could be tied to anything –

  a white chicken

  a black blizzard

  a puff of dust.

  But keep your eye on the string.

  Softening faces

  graying hair

  a wedding ring,

  who cares?

  Everything hangs

  on the ringing space

  that joins your glance

  to mine. There

  are the colors I trust.

  The Greatest Comeback in Sports History

  A downpour of sun

  the dark bay blue

  held by brown hills

  west wind through

  headlands steadies at noon

  and nearly lost in the flooded sky

  half a ghost moon

  approaches the blank horizon

  Radio Road

  Toward the sewage pond

  on level landfill, tricycle streets

  and shading trees,

  the rows of new houses

  in homely plumage sleep

  beneath a blue blue sky.

  The pond pure green

  with those houses’ waste

  is a banquet for the ducks,

  the godwit and teal,

  and striding avocets neat

  in their autumn suits.

  A few dabbling butts

  praise heaven; or, replete,

  the birds merely stand or lie

  or float on the fertile bloom

  of the leisure afternoon.

  Morning New Moon

  I’ve seen this set

plenty of times before

  this white, black, and orange:

  the newest of moons

  drawing color up

  into the latest dawn.

  Stagecraft! Painted canvas

  backed by a cloth of stars.

  Behind it only dark and dust,

  and silent draped wings.

  Worn floorboards

  converge on a brick wall.

  And behind that?

  you may well ask.

  There I suppose a foreign moon

  might be leading the dawn

  up into some other sky.

  Three Dreams

  After our fight

  the tie between us pulled

  even tighter by dismay

  I had three dreams of you

  one after the other.

  Each one ended with your smile

  before I woke up

  to this other world.

  Between dreams

  you were inches away

  but invisible.

  It was night.

  Public Space

  Waiting by the library door

  for the gate to go up

  a not very bookish crowd

  faded coats and dirty pants

  dusty sneakers and caps askew

  smokers and talkers and silent

  loners chewing their furies

  one or two females wary

  shapeless and still.

  Above us hidden in the green globes

  of leaves the rowdy blackbirds

  whistle and shoot the breeze.

  Up with the gate!

  The flock flutters in

  first to the damp latrines

  later maybe to peck over

  the magazines and books

  the cans of recycled words.

  Another noisy branch

  littered with surplus birds.

  A Gust of Wind

  A gust of wind

  through drying leaves

  in long fall light

  as on the edge of the world

  the moon climbs with kindly smile...

  here once again

  is the point of life

  slowly piercing the skin

  the careless knife probing

  for whatever happens

  to remain in my heart.

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