Osip Mandelstam walks
through the Botanical Gardens
past cherries done blooming,
peeling poster kiosks.
The sky blanches white, gray,
cobalt behind branches
this side of sunlight.
The station, verdigris
under lamps that flicker and glow,
its glistening steel blue tracks
Atop the stairs, before descending,
is the time to stop, look back.
The park is almost mechanical, too.
We are sometimes steel, through and through.
Osip Mandelstam steps carefully over the earth
when it is springtime and blue buds lurk
throughout the Caucasus
and the Botanical Gardens,
waiting for a break in the soil.
All the flowering trees in bloom
cast their scented litter down
indicates the sun's position,
as a shade is silhouetted against blossoms.
A goldfinch will hop closest to Osip Mandelstam,absolutely still
in the grass bursting seed.
Osip Mandelstam at his most autumnal
walks most perceptibly
when trees shocked yellow, orange, bright and lacy red
rear against clear blue sky.
Spiders scurry then,
silk unskeining, their soundless movements
leaves blown down paths
of the Botanical Gardens,
greenhouse panes crazing.
Kids at Dusk
Cats use the sand as a litterbox, they say;
kids playing at the sand lot are too loud.
I've swung on the swings myself.
The swaying is improved by the music.
Though there are no hoops,
desperate teenagers pretend.
Under the volleyball net the ground is ground back to sand.
Before dinner, the Mothers' voices ring with the traffic,
sirens, the loudest kid, a fallen toddler,
a solo from someone's box.
Even "John" and "Bob" are two syllables.
In future, I hope they manage to dance
where only sitting is permitted,
continue to clink cutlery and drinks
over bland noodles and hot dogs
like starlight or satisfaction.
Prospect from a Boat
The water fades to many points along its curve.
Where color blends, the planet becomes mist.
Unceasing perspective fails to thrust this transport or me
into the elementary salt sea, cold and fishy.
Storm rains force the ocean white.
The churning motor holds me within its error margin.
Weather is no mirror. Sky has no hooks.
The boat presses progress,
improving upon hypothetical railings facing the bracing water,
fixed to the hull like barnacles, like tentacles, reaching.
Out back at the table in the dark,
having pulled together,
we remember the long day
with muscles work made,
babies conceived, new songs, how it was,
not how it was, bone-tired
weariness, sleep in stained clothes
where we fell,
time to drink warm dirty water,
chew dusty rice, too exhausted to taste,
compressed sunsets ending shifts,
freshest fruit eaten in the row,
in casks as we, backs or faces
to the mercifully warm fire, aching, mend.
– Catherine Daly