Quite Summer or Exactly Fall
The black gum are thick by the river here.
Their greasy fruits split open on the rocks
and blister, or get half-buried in muck.
Red leaves and stems clot on the water
like the killed floor of an owlery. This time of year
the river must be all berries at the bottom,
a mat of ripe fruit staining
the crayfish and caddisflies, fragrant
and wine-black, wending downstream.
Still something is winking down there
on the armored bed, like tea lights, the bright mud snails
getting their fill. I think that’s what
you’re proudest of — the overabundance.
How things go where they’re least needed,
gum roots wearing out the bank soil
and moss chewing away at stone.
Not that you put me here to have opinions.
This morning I watched a vole peeling straws
from the water, sizing the strands, not trying
to be content, exactly, but troubling the same.
People pick if they like living in the world.
Sometimes when the wind shifts under the trees
all their branches heave up together,
as if from the weight of a heron taking wing.
I guess you’d say I’m slow to judgment.
It’s hard to change and breaks the heart
to stay the same. I have not forgotten
whatever I have, you let me have.
I have not forgiven.
Nocturne with Tick Bite
Sleepless tonight: no fever dreams, but a deer
testing the chain link outside, the fence clanking
around the night-steeped tomatoes. Warm rain
still sliding off trees and down the gutters,
a black drip in the beakers of night. Scores
of crickets, desperate in lust, in their last
weeks on Earth, trill in the lawn like white noise
from the moon’s radio. Taillights crawl
up a neighbor’s drive, which in my sleep mind
are lights of a minor city lighting its cairns
or torches in a burial procession, washed across time.
Sound of wires rustling, the deer’s head
butting the fence, an opening it thought, where the chain
meets the grass. Its need an animal in the animal,
white breath pouring through the links.
In the kitchen the fridge burns ice in the corner,
brown bottles of plant extracts and vitamins
lined up like a religion by the window, beneath a set
of steel measuring spoons dandled from a hook.
Last night I’d burned some hairy thing alive,
in a ring of stones that turned glossy and black.
I remember its teeth, and the mouths
that parted for them under shags of white-tipped fur.
Smoke collapsed against the sky. It was in a village
where no one expected the creature to die,
but they watched, with their backs to the cold —
either its blood was not red, or it did not bleed.
Now it’s autumn, the color of stone. The brain fog
touching me like a bright light cast on glass,
everything beyond stretched, clouded. The ache
of Lyme in the joints, the body asserting itself.
Then steam beading my skin, passing a kettle
between burners, two taps of a spoon against the sink.
By now the deer has given up on the garden
and gone to the salt lick, carving at that mound of light
with strange violence, with its side teeth, the way
nature keeps its wildness in check by pruning.
It’s said they have no thoughts, the animals.
Somewhere in the night are the rails it runs on,
the earth’s buried spine. Ticks in the grass and salt
glowing like Mercury, smell of cloves and linden
as I empty hot water through a strainer. Pills
crushed and dissolved, and porch lights that break on rain
funneled in random patterns down the windows.
Inhabited, you fight just to be a mind.
You’re waiting for something, a signal flare in the dark,
electricity shifting from den to kitchen and back,
and your body at the end of a long journey by foot.
Outside, eyeless moths are peeling off lanterns
to span the night’s wires, crisscrossing in the dusk,
strung between fires someone tends and is devoted to.
Sleepless, gathering the white tinder of the will.
Prepared to burn fuel all night and wake intelligent.
Aaron Krol grew up in Baltimore and now lives in Boston, where he received his MFA from Emerson College. His poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in 32 Poems, the Kenyon Review Online, and Painted Bride Quarterly, among others.