(to Eric Whitacre’s Cloudburst)

A young man’s choral
and symphonic works fill
the early hours before light comes
loud over the hill.
No ordinary music, this
as it palpitates the nerve endings,
spine, heart, for signs of life.
It is filled with longing.

Gradually, the tree at my window
fills with birds
of every sort, even those who do not
get on together, the territorial
pairs and their agitated cousins.
How to explain that, and to whom?
Who would listen to birds
who would not listen to bees,
or glacial sheering into the sea
or dolphins, baleen whales, drought, winds
heat and barrenness, terra de-forma.

My companions are deaf.
Acts of war distract us,
while we continue to feed the giant
machines that serve us and eat us
in the same ghastly breath.



(I don’t know Mr. Whitacre, or very much about his music, except the few pieces I have listened to, which I have a feeling are inadequate to fully appreciate him. I am greatly moved. That said, the birds happened and this poem happened, and trust he will not be offended, if reading. You may learn about him and listen to his work here, and I found he also has a blog, here, about his process.)


Snow and Ash

Late afternoon in winter
snow laying in the eddies
in which it fell
No one is going anywhere,
because the light’s failing
turns us back –
back on ourselves
these empty rooms, this cold hearth
where we might kneel
and blow gently into the ash
that may rise and fall and sail up
into the dark of the chimney
while below, under the charred log
and the iron grate,
the sole remaining ember lays buried
waiting for breath.


 “Little by little You approached, and bit by bit I went away.”

 – Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh






Closing In

Whorls of lichen on a branch
is my universe

the white breast of a junco resting there
is the range of my vision
an ice crystal, a solitary seed
a brown leaf caught

one red berry
one golden crowned kinglet
her small heart beating
past the stone and the swale.



We have winds from the ocean
a hurricane that has ripped up the coast
I wish I could smell it.
I am traveling there,
out of these unyielding granite bone-yards
where at any moment I expect to find a cache
of profound extinction.

I am watching the wind lift the boughs
in that way – that way
that is arousing
weather is arousing.

Soon I’ll be where the wind takes hold of you
where your breath and pulse
are subject to an untender mercy
I can hear it calling through my weeping.


Pbsweeney . Clearwater . 11.03.2007

Along the Ridge

Silence like this
fills the ears – it overflows
toward the ridge of the Trapezius
Another hour, and it slips
past Eustachian hollows
pools in a yawning stomach
a cooler drink than water’s slake.

When full enough of silence
buoyed and light
these Achilles look to touch the road
where dust and clay, the crumbled core
are eddied in the empty wake.

pbsweeney July 2007 Clearwater

On the Eve of the Equinox

First it was the deer who barked and chuffed
then the rattle of the flickers in the trees
and the dusk and the laughing coyote
talking to the owl
Meanwhile, the oaks pelted the house with acorns
and swaying, dropped a yard full of dead wood.

We found one pear today
on the ground and still hard
but with a fragrance that made us a promise
and as we passed it back and forth
and traded bright eyed looks
and inhaled such richness, such a beauty –
well, all our restless days of disquiet turned
left and slipped away.