A greyhound in a blue dog raincoat
Her brown mottled fur just emerging
while fragile paws inch along the grass.
Once the companions of Pharaohs
Now refugees of dog tracks where
hopped up on the latest drugs they
Run for their lives around a dirt loop.
I’ve seen you run, no handler, no coat
in an open field, unencumbered.
Moving at such speed, one can only
Watch, with mouth agape, and in one’s mind
run there along with you.
It’s a winter night
Cold and clear with
The smell of snow
And fireplace smoke.
The stars are witnessing
This oblivion below
As the wind stings my cheek
And my boots crack on the sidewalk.
They are waiting for me
At home, behind a wooden door
Where a clanging radiator and a blanket
Will keep us warm tonight.
We are our own constellation
Similar to billions and yet
Separate and special, alive yet
unsure of the purpose of our light.
If we are afraid of the dark
And the cold air that seeps in,
We will make it bright and warm,
So it is comfortable for a mammal.
There are no greater concerns
Than this, the universe or vast
World that stretches out beyond,
For now, stops here at our doorstep.
Give Up The Ghost
Maybe I’ll give up the ghost,
Stop in my tracks, let the past
Drop away like those large
orange-yellow maple leaves
from the highest reaching limbs
Down to the sodden, wet ground.
Cease the unrequited love
For the future, as it trails away
like a long math problem spanned
across an oak rimmed chalkboard,
Inanimate. It loves me not.
Let me be born here and now,
no nagging regret, no engraved
idea of who I am, no
longing for something I can’t see,
that disappearing point on
the fated, blue horizon.
Let me fail, an inept sadhu,
No swami to take me on
And show me the ropes.
Leave me with the wind blowing
Through these ancient white pines,
The needles rustling so
Quietly and yet so clear,
As I lie here below, on
A bed of their tiny leaves.
You can’t shrug off this feeling
and there is no pill. You could
search the cupboard like a fifteen
year old who swallows it all –
muscle relaxants, diuretics, antibiotics
in the hopes he’ll hit it lucky.
He won’t – and his turn at puking
Will teach him nothing.
Perhaps you are his tutor. Like the
doddering ancient woman in number 5E you
suspect pests and poison are seeping through the ceiling
or that there’s a slow leak in the wall
and the ceiling is beginning to sag.
You lie on the bed, looking up,
waiting for it to happen. She waits too.
It won’t. But the feeling will live on.
The chirping of children’s voices from
The schoolyard down the block sets
Your teeth on edge. You swallow hard
As if your saliva were an elixir.
It’s not. Uncapping the orange vial
the sweet chalky smell is like
embracing warm chrome. Now it
is empty and there is no pill. There
is no pill, there is no pill.
Half of A Siamese Twin
The twins didn’t really
look odd at all, sisters bound
by flesh, both of their beautiful
heads joined above their one
body that held them both.
How could the doctors not know,
that it wouldn’t work, that this
scalpel wasn’t what was needed,
that they couldn’t correct
what was already perfect?
It was in the twins’ blue eyes,
that this was enough, to be here
now, together, for however much
time, that all these efforts were
quite clumsy and savage.
They knew what the doctors
and their parents could not, that
life was more than this survival
and that a medical miracle can
only keep half of twin alive.
The white balloon moves
across the stormy sky
Like a fugitive, leaving
behind the cries of “Come Back”,
with a child clenching her teeth
and holding her mother’s hand
howling up at the sky,
abandoned by a lighter gas.
Lawn chairs are tipped over
from a hurried departure
as the rain approaches and
the birthday cake infusion
of sweet blue frosting and
spongy yellow cake has
given way to a Sunday
afternoon downpour panic.
The grass is matted and
in places looks like a herd
has made a communal bed
and chosen to spend the night.
The obsessive suburban sprinkler
ticks off the last moments before the storm,
what will soon hold a flash flood.
The balloon moves madly
across the sky swept by
this irritable wind, moving
higher and higher until
it is lost in gray rain clouds.
The child is now groggy
consoled by a replacement
that is tied to her stroller.
The mother moves quickly
down the sidewalk staring
into space, reviewing options
for dinner, wondering how long
it will be before she can sit,
how long until the rain
She catches a last glimpse
of the lost balloon and feels briefly
a wave of sadness and envy.
Is it a smiling misery
for you too? Though you
can now reach the rungs on the ladder.
There is a true victory in your smile
until you lose focus and find it
hard to not lose footing
and dangle like a stricken chimp.
The ice cream truck
with its eerie siren song
is truly a recess call – perhaps its time
off for good behavior? When I
don’t avert my eyes, the faulty
connection made with haggard or adoring
parents, sends me quickly to your side
or leaves me limping
to one of the paint chipped benches.
My voice becomes shrill or gruff
When I call you – I have detached
somehow as well and in a quiet panic
I usher you outside the playground gate,
Tightly holding your hand, walking
Fast, if only to make it across the street
before the light has changed.
We’re jumping into the ocean
after sweeping away the seagrass and kelp.
We hold hands as we fall into the water.
The cold shocks us to scramble out
But we want to go in again.
How many times have I leapt from this dock?
Yet there’s always nervous anticipation
like what I can see in my daughter’s eyes.
But as she climbs the ladder out, there’s that exhilaration
with a part of the ocean now flowing in her blood.
Out beyond the islands, coming around Mount Desert
Alone on the boat crashing through small swells,
I feel that same anxiety and thrill.
Still innocent, still believing anything is possible,
that fear and joy are closer than we thought.
Sometimes it’s the meadow, there in July
With Indian Paintbrush and Black-eyed Susans,
Some raspberries in the tangled, prickly bush
Next to warm grass, freshly dried from the dew
Smelling like hay, only now escaping the shadow
Of the spruce, pines and firs, as a wind gathers
Deep within the woods, the air moving through
the trunks and branches, a phantom one can hear
before feeling it’s rush on your face, arriving with
the heated smell of balsam fir, moss and mulch.
Sometimes it’s the meadow, when you retrace the only
Steps you’ve known, to the patch of bunchberries
by the old stone wall, to the clearing created
from a hundred blow downs, where when you
walk back to the dirt road, you’ll need to push
your way through a swath of small wet firs
that will wash you clean through and leave
you laughing, as a deer fly circles your head.
Early morning 2 am or so
my kitchen window draft
brings with it the smell of toast
I imagine someone standing
in their kitchen (not unlike me)
leaning on a counter, perhaps
having had too much to drink
dropping white toast into the Sunbeam
waiting patiently, eyes sporadically closing
until the slowly browned bread pops up
covering it sloppily with butter (or oleo).
Now seated at a formica table, he or she
eats the toast, eyes fixed on the pattern
in the linoleum by the foot of the fridge.
I imagine it is now time for bed – perhaps a drink
of water or a blank look into the cupboard
hoping that groceries (maybe ginger snaps)
have appeared on their own.
And then a shuffle down a small hall
and without ceremony, a gentle fall
into bed where the ceiling fascinates
briefly, until the last clothes are peeled off
and sleep comes in slow, even waves.
April 17, 2003
I see your gravestone, perhaps partly
still graced with snow. The long
winter is nearly over, yet the trees
are still bare and the cold
is here in the air and ground.
This is how it has felt, and how else
could it feel, but cold and empty.
Perhaps now there is a glimpse of sun.
Even in this cold you can feel it
fall upon your face, as a reminder.
Where have you been this last year?
And where have we been without you?
We are both in new terrain.
Unlocked from time and space,
did you float through the Milky Way
or did you alight to a gentle sleep,
like a foal lying on straw and hay.
It was your daughter’s birthday
the morning you died – a mark you’d
never wish to make, yet a poetic
departure for a man of few words.
Your gift to her, to us, was a lesson in dying.
But maybe you’d say now, “enough of that”.
Think of me, but don’t mourn.
Maybe with a twikle in your eye
You might say, “Can you feel that sun?”
Pausing with a chuckle you’d add,
” It’s got quite a message” .
King of the Beasts
The newspapers failed to report on
what had possessed the man
Who scaled the fence at the zoo
In order to lounge with the lions.
No puzzlement at the nature of the feat,
only that he was unharmed, omitting
that on a sunny spring afternoon,
he lay with the king of the beasts.