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.