The Private Life of Debris                                                                              —David Axelrod

We sat shoulder to shoulder in the forest, 
brushing away debris—
the cast-offs, the derelict and bereft

clinging to the concave caps and false gills
of chanterelles we picked in day-long
twilight pooled under spruce and fir.

The refuse piled up between us
on that flat stone—yellow cottonwood leaves,
red maple, ninebark, threads of horsehair

lichen, pine needles, and kinnikinnick,
desiccated whortleberries, and spider mites.

That solitude was all I wished to abide by
and live inside of with her, 
that moment aglow with October sun,

the mud frozen in the trail packhorses
passed along overburdened
and wary, their driver unaware of us

sitting nearby, under the trees.
And the quiet just beyond the moment—

a slow accretion of slough drifting down
from the canopy over 10,000 years to settle
into our hair, onto our clothes, and our lives,

as negligible as any,
whether we deserve them or not, 
and for the time being only.

We carried our bounty home, our baskets
heavy the whole way, passing over
the surface of things, unnoticed,

into sunlight and out.


Lieutenant Glahn

It's a vast room, the north. 

We can hear the steel teeth
of the woodcutter's saw
rake across the kerf
on the opposite shore.

It's mid-September
and spiderlings have begun to climb
into the poplar crowns,
kiting miles across water.
And she is dozing in the sun
beside the boat we dragged
up the beach, our baskets of mushrooms
in the bow,

the time to gather-in
at its close…
but not the wonder of it

curling through us still,
the edge of forests mantled
in lichen and moss, the wilderness
posing its old question:

Is this afternoon
the same as one a thousand years ago,

That's not possible,
that's just god-longing, a taut rope
always trying to unknot itself. 

A joy more lasting than we are
dwells here always
and feeds us its butter and rice
today only—a day of light air

and scent of balsam.


In Long Twilights

Winter's rooms have filled again
with the gnarled shapes
the flaws window glass adds
to the spectrum of blue.
And she glides from one room
to the next, lighting
candle wells. The wicks
burn the length of respite.

I brought a cobble up the trail
from the river and handed it over
to her 40 years ago,
who hefted it in her hand.
Sometimes late in the day
that smooth stone begins to shine
like black ice,
and I think runes might rise

from its core—Roar, too, 
once held this small bird
to his chest
—and there it is, 
that bleakness

drawing us to itself, 
meager dawn or early dark, 
December and barn lights
straying over the old snow,

the granite crags above
farmsteads lost
in low clouds
full of tomorrow's new.


David Axelrod

David Axelrod is the editor of Sensational Nightingales: The Collected Poetry of Walter Pavlich, forthcoming from Lynx House Press. His new collection of poems, The Open Hand, is forthcoming from Lost Horse Press. Other work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in About Place, American Poetry Journal, Cape Rock, CrazyHorse, The Hopper, and Miramar, among others.

ISSN 2472-338X
© 2017