Low Tide (Written June 22, 2018)

Low Tide

The tide is out by the time we get there.
Rocks
line the riverbed, along both sides.
The banks of mud are almost vertical,

Where the water has washed away
all resistance,
in its rush to the sea, and only the grass,
on top of the mud, holds firm. In the middle,
where there is still some standing water,

It is no deeper than two or three feet.
Leviathan,
sea monster, lies with its belly cut open,
the same way a snake, a python,
must be cut open when it swallows

A human being whole, and becomes
so heavy,
so tied down, it cannot save itself
from a slow death. Cut open, turned
inside out, the belly of the river

Displays the intestines, sculpted
by the sea
as it sucks the water to itself,
leaving an emptiness, as the heart
feels empty when hope slips away,

Betrayed by gravity. The seagulls,
the herons,
the eagles too, what is there for them
to do, but wait for the tide to turn.

Everywhere He Goes (Written June 15, 2018)

Everywhere He Goes

She’s on the steps behind us,
smiling,
with her eyes shut tight
because of the late-afternoon sun.

It’s a genuinely happy
smile,
on the occasion of my son’s
visit, his second already
this year. He’s seen enough

To realize it’s not possible for us
to visit him,
so he visits us, as often as he can,
as he passes through our town,
on his way to his cabin in the woods,

Where he likes to let his dog,
Sarge,
run free. Everywhere he goes
Sarge goes with him, in the car,
on the airplane, to the office. He’s

So attached to him, he follows him
up the stairs
to the bathroom. In the picture we are
relaxed, standing at the curb, posing
for the camera, all smiles, with Sarge

Sitting at attention. I’m so glad
my son
is doing well, and visits more often,
and we get a chance to know him better.

The Bumblebee (Written June 8, 2018)

The Bumblebee

I see a bumblebee
flying
around the house,
from room to room,

From flower to flower,
searching
for something it cannot find,
some way out, or failing that,
some food, some pollen,

To survive, until a door
opens,
or a window, for escape.
The flowers we’ve gathered,
a different sort for each room,

Do not give the bee what it wants,
wilting,
fading, losing their petals,
losing even the sweet smell
they promised of spring.

The tulips in the kitchen,
fresh
from the garden, already
show some roughness around
the edges. The lilacs in the sun porch,

Cut yesterday, have lost their luster,
overnight.
The carnations in the livingroom,
on the coffee table, are more black
than red, and should be tossed.

The chrysanthemums in the diningroom,
set
in the middle of the round table,
look to be holding their own,
a brilliant yellow-gold color,

With dark green leaves interspersed.
Buzzing
around the mums, and over them,
the unhappy bee does not seem to think
there’s anything worth stopping for.

More and more slowly it flies,
running
itself down. If I cannot capture it,
it will settle somewhere and die.

Ode to Neighbors (Written June 1, 2018)

Ode to Neighbors

She walks to the bottom of the street,
scans
the neighboring yards, front and back,
looks to see if there is not someone

She could call to, engage in small
talk,
and speak her mind. For too long
she’s been confined to the house,
with nothing much to do,

Other than watch television, read,
sleep,
and maybe, on occasion, make supper.
It’s hard to muster the energy
to get out of the house,

In her condition, but once she sets
foot
on the street, there’s a lightness to her step
that she seldom experiences
when she’s cooped up in the house.

The street, however, has gone through many
changes
in recent months, and several of the people
she was once close to are no longer
with us. Eric, next door, lost his house

When he stopped paying his bills, now it stands
empty,
largely neglected by the new, absentee
owner. Lucille, our neighbor to the south, toward
the river, has moved to an old people’s home,

Which was not unexpected, at her age. The property
now belongs
to her son, who rents to his son and daughter-in-law,
whom we hardly ever see. Roger and Roberta,
in the next house down, enjoy a lively conversation,

Whenever it happens, and if Elaine is lucky, she will
find them
at the door, though these days they spend
most of their time on the back deck,
in a screened-in area, free of mosquitoes.

Paul, across the street, always has a friendly
word,
in the midst of his worries about his wife,
who has fallen ill. Lucy, who used to live
next to Paul, one house up from the river,

Sold everything and moved into an apartment,
tired
from years of taking care of the property on her own,
though she’s still fit as a fiddle and able to handle
anything she sets her mind to. John and Maggie,

In the brick house across from us, are the best
neighbors
we could ask for, they keep an eye on us,
if we’re in trouble, they are ready to help
when we call on them and even when

We don’t. Though fewer than before,
the neighbors
that remain, the ones we know, make us
want to stay here, in our little big house.

Ode to Laughter (Written May 25, 2018)

Ode to Laughter

Comical interlude, she said.
Laugh now,
while there’s still something left
to laugh about. We used to think

That things could not get
much worse,
but now we know better.
We can laugh or weep,
but laughter is more cathartic.

Laughter does not deny reality,
like fantasy,
but makes it into something
more human, and therefore
more tolerable, like clean water.

Laughter points to one conclusion:
whatever is is,
the past is nothing like what
it used to be, and the future
is anyone’s guess.

Laughter lurks in alleyways
scrounging
its next meal, in dark corners,
in dumpsters that promise surprise
after surprise, like poetry.

Laughter lasts longer than lies,
which age badly,
like wine from an inferior grape.
Laughter tells the truth, madly.

What Once Was (Written May 18, 2018)

What Once Was

She is far too sociable
a woman
not to chafe at the limits
her condition imposes on her.

What she wants is to get out
more often,
see friends, talk and laugh,
forget her troubles. Gossip
a little, tell stories. Inside,

Everything is always the same,
so old hat,
nothing much to stir the emotions
except the occasional phone call
connecting her to the outside world,

Reminding her she is still alive,
still kicking.
With the coming of spring, she likes
to walk to the bottom of the street
and on warm days along the path

By the river, where the tide rises
and falls,
rises and falls, twice a day,
the way her spirits, the longing
in her to be part of things,

Rises and falls, rises and falls,
like clockwork,
and where fireflies used to light up
the marshland, dark with sea water,
and where birds used to make

Their nests, before the road
ruined it all,
scattering hapless creatures to the wind,
a sad reminder of what once was.

Standing Here at the Cutting Board (Written May 11, 2018)

Standing Here at the Cutting Board

I picked up the knife she had dropped,
a long knife,
a quite ordinary kitchen knife but sharp,
good for slicing bread, carving roasts,

Cutting cucumbers, and chopping onions,
an all-purpose knife,
but heavy, especially in hands that were
shaky to begin with. Sharper than
the steak knives that too often

Did not slice or cut at all but tore,
they were so dull.
There were tears in her eyes and not just
from the onions. A cut like the one
she’d given herself doesn’t hurt at first,

But in a while begins to throb
and to ache,
and the blood keeps coming,
from under the too-thin, too-narrow
bandage, which is not sufficient.

Why do I go on living, she wanted to know,
looking at me.
Here I am, standing here at the cutting board,
like a dummy, with not enough strength
to open a jar of pickles. Why do I bother,

I don’t even like pickles. Slicing off
the tip of my finger
was not an accident, but a wish to draw
blood, to feel something, anything,
after days and weeks of feeling nothing,

Unable to climb out of the hole I’m in,
the pit.
You try your best, I know,
but sometimes it is not enough.

Ode to Bodies (Written May 4, 2018)

Ode to Bodies

Bodies caught in a glacier after a fall,
or buried
under tons of snow in an avalanche,
or drowned in a northern lake

After a boating mishap, or locked
in a freezer
to hide the evidence of a crime,
keep the look of life-in-death
for years, with rosy cheeks,

Clear skin, and bright eyes, until
one day
the glacier shifts, the snow
melts, the lake runs dry,
and someone opens the freezer

And what chance has concealed,
or evil intent,
is revealed. Bodies felled
in an instant, by a heart attack,
or a blow to the head,

Taken by surprise, remain
intact,
their faces showing, perhaps,
a puzzlement, or a growing sense
of something large, pressing down on them.

Bodies that die peaceful deaths,
free of pain,
asleep in their beds, surrounded,
if only in a dream, by those they love,
are most to be envied. Bodies

That have been tampered with,
mutilated,
tortured, shot, or in any way
disrespected, making fear
or dread the last emotion

They will ever feel, are most
to be pitied.
There is nothing to be said of them,
other than to lament their fate.

She Continues (Written April 27, 2018)

She Continues

In spite of these many obstacles,
such as poor memory,
failing eyesight, shortness of breath,
chronic weakness in the legs, dizziness

Brought on by a diuretic given to counter
the shortness of breath,
bowels that are sometimes overactive,
sometimes locked in place for days
on end, with no relief in sight,

In spite of all this, she continues,
every morning,
to get up, write in her journal,
meditate, stretch, jot down
her agenda for the day, get dressed,

Make her way, slowly, down the stairs,
holding tight
to the railing and the newly installed
“grip” – in case her head swims
and her body wants to fall.

She continues to find reasons
to go on living,
foremost being concern for her family
and what sort of legacy she might leave
if she were to do away with herself.

She continues to want to get out
and do things,
meet a friend for a cup of coffee,
go to a movie, take in a play,
drive somewhere to watch the sunset.

She continues to enjoy the outdoors,
sitting on the back deck,
watching the tulips come up,
the allium, and the scilla. She continues.

It’s All Right (Written April 20, 2018)

It’s All Right

A cry rises from the bedroom at the top of the stairs,
then a thud.
The house seems to shudder, then become
settled again, the way a ship, when it hits a rock

Underwater, or a long-forgotten sunken treasure,
or debris
from a previous shipwreck, will wobble
a moment, before regaining its balance
and moving on. It may be damaged, but not

Fatally, it’s hoped. More than likely it’s nothing
to worry about,
and there’s no need to tell anybody, no need
to broadcast the news, which would only cause
unnecessary panic, adding to the loss of life,

When the ship finally does sink, as it must,
in time.
Think of all the passengers, in the ship’s hold,
asleep, unaware of the unfolding catastrophe.
Why wake them with cries for help,

When there’s nothing they can do,
in the end,
but watch as fate works its way out?
A trip to emergency might be in order,
and then again it might not be.

Once the house shakes and shudders, even though
it steadies again,
it will never be the same. Something has happened
and the beams and the walls will not forget.
She may die in her sleep, or while meditating,

Or while taking a shower, or coming down the stairs.
She may faint
or have a stroke, she may die tomorrow,
but it’s all right, she says, she’s ready.