In the Backyard City Garden*

We talk of paintings, spaces,
   yearnings toward simplicity
In the quiet backyard city air;

Someone looks up, there is one:
A painting so strict in form,
Caught in time
That conversations are forgotten.

And not because it’s nature,
It’s nature, and it’s not.

The sky is nature, most assuredly,
A blue-black blot of ink
Sprinkled with webbing clouds.
But the rectilinear brown-bricked
Buildings leading the vision up to
   the sky
Are man, purely man:
   hard, technological, brilliant,
And beautiful.

Caught between the rootedness
   and rusting
Of the buildings
And the raked serenity
   of sky
There was a tree, or – say,
   the canopy
Of a tree seen from the underside,
The bottom of the top of a tree –
One many-fingered mustard-green
   shimmer of Ailanthus leaves.
Quaking as Aspens are said to quake.
(You know how when you hold
   yourself so rigid
That you tremble?)

So there it was, part nature
   and part man,
All beautiful; a picture,
A moment caught and, caught,

And eerie, too.
For when I looked again,
Between the building and the tree
   there was a fixed star,
With that stressful sky
   suspended around its
Blinking energy.
As in a painting where – even
   when we capture process
We kill it –
The clouds had stopped.

*Unpublished; copyright 2007.