Five Nocturnes


Coyote barks and howls wake up the moon
Who runs his fingers through the trees (like harp
Strings plucked), arpeggios settle to the ground
And silver fragments scatter through my window.


Moon-set happened hours ago.
The woods are dark with shades of black,
And all I sense are sounds: The wind
And tree tops lost in conversation,
Between the surge of voices, drops,
Condensing from the fog, let loose
from leaves above and flatten with
A chorus of pops, and somewhere branches
Snap from passing feet and fur.


The snow is falling, and though it's night
The whiteness glows, like paper ash
Blown up the flue that settles on
The ground, but more diffuse, as if
The light of a thousand coldly burning
Stars were rolled out flat.


The rhythm of the waves upon this shore,
Unbroken breakers, mark out time in grains
Of sand produced or tossed between the line
Of land and ocean. Fog blocks out the light
Of stars and moon and makes reality
Composed of sound. A foghorn sings the bass,
Waves percussion, to the melody
Of bells from distant buoys; The mixing of
The ancient song with modern counterpoint.


Standing on a boat at night,
The ocean at my feet,
The waning moon my only light,
The water lives and breathes.
One hundred thousand fish or more slide past
And light the ocean's tiny fires,
Glowing embers dance the waves,
A seal glides beneath the massive swarm
And herds it upward with a brilliant flash.

Bryan Ness