From a quarter mile away,
the notes of the nearest neighbor’s bamboo
wind chime arrive from time to time.
Never the tock of the clapper, only the soft,
otherworldly bells. Swollen sharp and fallen flat,
they are five notes become a chord and a key
for which there is no signature
that would not diminish their music.
As for the next other neighbor downwind,
I wonder if he hears them at all,
or hears them along with the wind harp
I made from an old cracked-back guitar,
hung from the spar of a long-dead pine
on the leeward side of the house.
The nests the birds have built in it
over the years, once its E and B strings broke
and offered entrance to its body, have muted it,
and its bottom-heavy chords bong
only when its hip strikes the trunk.
But such breezes as there are tonight
would only blow across its sound hole,
making a soft, intermittent, bassoony moan
we cannot hear, being upwind. As for that neighbor,
he has aligned across his porch rail
a rank of wine bottles the same wind must lip.
Each holds a slightly different level of water,
and downwind of us all, at the pond
where the animals come to drink,
their ears honed to the least of sounds,
the deer must have listened in silence, and the coyotes,
in the stained glass light of the rising moon,
now enter the tabernacle, singing.
Robert Wrigley teaches at the University of Idaho. Penguin will publish his ninth book, Anatomy of Melancholy & Other Poems, in April 2013. In March, Bloodaxe Books will publish The Church of Omnivorous Light: Selected Poems in the UK. He lives in the woods with his wife, the writer Kim Barnes.