John Casteen

Desire Lines

Jive-ass little epiphanies. Nystagmic dawn-fire.
Scamper and frolic of the forest in spring; pale
sunrise settles in a mud-rimmed dish of rain, pale
christly spatter of wild dogwood, cruciform, mid-April.
At my footfall, two doe canter creekward, slanting down
and cross-hill, unhurrying. You got to treat people
like they treat themselves, got to bring a gun
to a knife fight. Even your friends don’t like you.
Before you, the turgid, purple-rimmed swollen head
of ladyslipper. Meaning craters. Just beyond view,
up the tight trail, a blue ghost makes signs to you
with its slender hands. They wave and twist, wringing.
Laurels bask. A snow-snapped pine lies radiant across
its swooning couch. Deeper than secret. Deeper than
what underlies desire lines: wish, want, curiosity,
purpose. They ask the right amount of the body;
no aimlessness, no misprision. Just elegance,
structure. Plain as a forthright path, an assay, a nerve.


John Casteen