October's smoke-sweet drift sweeps off and floats
this crisp last day before the clocks wind back
while ear-small bones of light catch in the throat,
and sun motes shiver through each shifting crack
the tree-line's made. Soft hillsides bruise. Again
you'll go away wherever work—no, life
must take you. So, an hour gained is gone,
and we remain, just kicking stiff gold leaves
which riddle every step on stones we graze.
Slabs drizzle into gauze of sludge: a standstill
where any path might cross a hidden grave.
A buck with ivy tangled in its antlers
starts up then darts into the woods. The deer
bounds over broken scrollwork, wood-rot's glut
of moldered scurf. I squint—a day, a year—
and each impression pulses as I shut
my eyes. Then blink. Each ice-tipped blade is parsed,
starched grass that meadows all the flesh I've read
where mouthdark shadows heal up rigid scars.
As flowers turn to fodder for the weeds,
the weeds by further wastes become obscured
as graveyards perish into green preserves
where animals may wander blind, assured
no other presence ventures to disturb
the foot-worn passages their hungers trace.
A turning point-torn cloudbanks meld and baffle.
Snow simplifies the brake's bare ground. We gaze
one empty minute on these lives' spent gravel,
and wish to hold each other, but we walk
alone instead, to browse each mark and crux.
We crush stiff crusts of frost through snapped-off stalks,
the fractured sounds of which now freeze the buck.
I have neglected you for several weeks,
tight-lipped or blunt with knowing you'll soon leave
while I must stay here buried in my work.
The deer's eyes gentle, then shine undeceived.
Backlit, his head ignites, a ten-point blaze
as if a candelabra. And the wild
fields leap with snowfall, though my touch betrays
each crystal. No, we won't be reconciled.
William Cordeiro has work published or forthcoming in AGNI, The Cincinnati Review, Frontier Poetry, The Offing, The Threepenny Review, THRUSH Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. Will's forthcoming collection, Trap Street, won the 2019 Able Muse Book Award. Will co-edits Eggtooth Editions and teaches in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University.