Refractive Errors


March birch: whose rags               appear at first as roses,

at least in my loose vision             where brain often arrives

before eye and so                            makes trash or groceries

of a sleeping infant                         clutched to a cyclist’s chest,

reads grackle or rat                         in a black plastic bag pirouetting

(how I wish I could bring wind                     to the back of me like that).


Easier to imagine than to see                        and so I tie a knot

at the place where I once grew                     There skin refuses

to be smooth                          The birch’s once-fat band of summer

peels in a single spiral                       from the body, the way doubt

untwists from faith’s tight grip                    a hypnotizing curve

until I find I’ve driven                       down, around a mountain


Until whatever’s caught                    in the prison of my vision

could be either my love                     or my love ending

Or some new animal                            that counts on the seasons

to change it                                               Or my own flesh

out walking its ghost                           Forgive me, at first pass

I didn’t recognize myself                 I mistook the places


I’m coming apart           for a froth of viburnum

This too happens often           approaching my body at dusk

I sometimes see only that tree              on the Schuylkill banks

who, it’s true, bends something            like I do

both away from and toward                   its face reflected in the river

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