I can’t take my eyes off Stanley Kunitz’s elbows.
I stare at them for the longest time on the back cover
before I open his last book, The Wild Braid.
Pale knobs, splashed with light, bent by the weight
of an aluminum bucket in each hand. Right hand
grips a walking stick not even touching ground
for hundred year old legs. I can’t take my eyes
off Stanley Kunitz’s elbows. They make me want
to weep. Their hinge of humerus, ulna and radius.
Joints gawky as the limbs of herons. His white head
rides at shoulder height. Shoulders wrinkle in folds
of burnt orange t-shirt. Ferns laden with spores
line the gravel path. A rose buds behind his back.
It’s then I decide to focus on the backs of things.
On what has not been groomed, expected
or assumed, each glimpse a going closer,
a looking under. Stella d’oro petals thinned
by near frost, trying their best at fall blooms.
The backs of maple leaves beaded with rain
the way black velvet might display fire opals.
Celadon and raw umber instead of
blazing reds and oranges.
Later that morning I begin taking close-ups
of the backs of flowers. Stanley Kunitz’s elbows
materialize as Japanese anemones, one single bloom
bent forward on a thin stem, flanked lower down
by a single bump of bud on either side.
How such tenderness of bone and bud spills
like late fall light, gesturing behind us
<while we’re doing something else>
to all the wild beneaths.