Martha McCollough


night erases
these geese
my guests
my little flock
the cats catch
at loose threads
stealth unpicks
a leaf a stripe
a knotted wreath
the tight rows
ravel into flags
madder and lake
fretting the weft
by thin light
of dish moon
nail moon
potato moon
rose curls to bud
spirals to the root
to a russet hip
king in the dirt
by sparrows
rows of sleepers
faint as ghosts
midnight renews
the pluck and tug
my unwork
my calendar
my wine dark
wave undone
a little ship
a black thread
wound on
a wooden spool


If caught in smoke
If trapped by fire
If forced to advance
      through flames

visualize the faces
      of the dead

flares at nightfall
burning through ice
flickering over water

the invisible hand
has plucked you
from the fire

though you
have not deserved it
nor to be dropped

a scorched leaf
at the stony margin where
cormorants hold up their wings

like shocked neighbors
      aghast at
      your catastrophes

the hand is
      indifferent to your fate

this sense
of an impending fist
some looming thing wishing to grind you
      to paste
      is pure projection but

be prepared to slip
soundless into water

to skim along
under the surface

breathing through a reed

each moment a lucid
pool in which to sink