His Task (Written November 29)

His Task

 

So he did it. It was difficult in the dark

And at some point he slipped and the sled

Broke free. Several hundred feet

 

Down the slope it hit a tree

And flipped. The body, in a sheet

of rough burlap, spilled onto the snow.

 

Blinded by tears, he did his best

To rebuild the sled, in the faint glow

Of a moon half hidden behind clouds.

 

He was his father’s son, and his task

Was a simple one, under the shroud

Of night, with all due care

 

And respect, to bring the body down

Out of the mountains, ahead of the bear

And the cougar, and lay it to rest.

My Age Is My Enemy (Written November 28)

My Age Is My Enemy

 

Moving on the mountains behind us,

The wild horses, numbering eight

Or ten, wary of humans,

 

Plunge deeper into the woods.

Night falls quickly, covering

The hillside and making

 

The descent more difficult for me

And my son. He pushes on,

Worried about the storm he hears

 

Coming up over the mountains. My age

Is my enemy, and all my fears

Are gathered in a runaway heartbeat,

 

Which thunders like those horses running

Up the mountain, into the woods, in the heat

Of the moment. But he, my son, is strong

 

And I believe in him. In sum, we saw

What we came to see, but stayed too long.

Darkness surrounds us, on every side.

Leaving Her (Written November 27)

Leaving Her

 

That is her way, and I wish

I were rid of her. The scales

Have tipped. What was a minor

 

Irritant now colors everything.

She always has to have the final

word, the more informed

 

Point of view. In any argument

She has to come out on top. Deformed

As her facts might be, she can admit

 

Nothing that might undermine

Her case. I can either submit

Or incur her wrath and her scorn.

 

It’s no good to search afterwards

And find I was right. She was born

To privilege, and learned at an early age

 

That what mattered was her opinion,

And that of her superiors. Mock sage,

She tries to convince me that what I know

 

Is worthless. Where we used to have a healthy

Exchange of ideas we now have a blow-by-blow,

Bloody boxing match where both of us stumble and fail.

Words With Power (Written November 26)

Words With Power

 

To continue a quotation, however trite it may be,

Engages the mind and proves to listeners

That the person in question is not such

 

A slouch as he sometimes seems to be.

“The venom clamours of a jealous woman” says much

In those few words, which are all of a sublime

 

And compacted nature, to be unpacked by

The poet, or by one who can see into the poet’s mind.

What follows, in other words, does not follow

 

Naturally. “Poison more deadly than a mad dog’s

tooth,” when firmly implanted in the hollow

Spaces of the brain, is not a trope

 

That anyone would willingly let go of, when it becomes

A matter of life and death. Words, given sufficient rope,

Become more powerful than any number of pictures.

The Good News (Written November 25)

The Good News

 

And I am tired. For the past few hours

I haven’t been able to sleep at all.

I’d like to email a few friends

 

And tell them the news, but it’s still

Too early. I know what I’ll send,

But it’s not really that urgent.

 

I’ll sit on it awhile, and think about

The words I’ll use, like a detergent

To wash away all the grime

 

That’s accumulated around my

Persona recently. That’s no crime,

Is it? Put my best face forward,

 

And all that. Everyone does it,

In this modern age. Full steam toward

The far shore, where I will be famous

 

Once and for all! Won’t they be surprised

When they hear! The lamest

Excuse I can think of will no longer

 

Suffice. I can see the first light

In the window, becoming stronger,

So now there’s no reason to stall.

Claudia And I (Written November 24)

Claudia and I

 

Claudia and I were left alone

In the office. The wind blew

The last of the oak leaves

 

Past the window. Her reputation,

To the effect that she weaves

A good tale that it’s usually best

 

Not to believe, colored

Everything she said. From its nest

A mourning dove called to its double.

 

The late afternoon sun broke

Through the clouds. The trouble

Was to know when she lied

 

And when she told the truth.

An hour passed, and the light died.

I told her I was sorry,

 

I didn’t believe her story.

It didn’t ring true. Don’t worry,

She said, it doesn’t matter

 

What you think. This

Angered me, and I scattered

A few things on the floor.

 

She was unruffled

And showed me the door.

Dark thoughts swallowed me.

What’s the Attraction? (Written November 23)

What’s the Attraction?

 

It isn’t the most glorious job

And it doesn’t pay very well,

So what’s the attraction?

 

You sit up front, waiting

For someone with traction

To start the wheels of the day

 

And the wheels of commerce.

If they are pleased and want to pay

Full price, all the better. All

 

You ask is enough at the end

Of the month to forestall

The landlord at the door.

 

He has no mercy and

No understanding. The poor

Man! While you surround

 

Yourself with all the riches

In the world, he ties himself

To the bottom line.

Through the Fog (Written November 22)

Through the Fog

 

No one, among these old people,

Would remember their use. Why

Should they? Even if you wrote

 

The words on a slip of paper, glued

The paper to the object, and let it float

In their blurred vision like a pin

 

On the bosom of a dress, what good would it do?

You’d have to give up after a while and begin

To see them, more simply, as human beings,

 

Some lovable, some not, who have lost

Their way. You’d go traveling with them, leaning

Into the wind, with your sails billowing, through

 

The fog, all the way to the other shore, caring

Very little if they arrive at a bleaker view

Of what’s to come, because at least you tried.

Mirror, Mirror (Written November 21)

Mirror, Mirror

 

The mirror where he’s caught himself,

A small, thin, round mirror that’s been

Taped to the front of the fridge, amid

 

A profusion of postcards, photos,

Newspaper clippings, emails, kids’

Drawings, grocery lists, and wads

 

Of gum, the mirror into which he

Looks reveals a face that is at odds

With everything around him,

 

A face that is pale, unsmiling, deeply

Lined, unforgiving, bound within

The body of an old man

 

Whose hopes have been dashed,

And who is ready to give way,

Like shreds of paper in a bin.

Their Life (Written November 20)

Their Life

 

Everything wanted to stand for their life,

But couldn’t. The Little Prince, for example,

Though he loved his time on earth, has to return

 

To his own planet, to look after his sheep

And his precious rose. He does not spurn

His new friends, far from it. The thing

 

That is important, he says, is the thing

Not seen. Likewise, several factors bring

Alaska Jim to the great city of Mahagonny,

 

To wit, the prospect of money, whiskey,

And women. Jenny, in her agony,

Is truer than Jim, or anyone, deserves.

 

Jim is a heel, but what gets him

Hanged in the end (and it serves

Him right!) is that he has no

 

Money, the unforgiveable sin

In Mahagonny. Lost, with low

Self-esteem, he takes a room

 

In old Prague, with his wife down the hall.

But it’s overrun with bugs. Gloom

And doom, and a sense of dread, define

 

Them as a couple, for years to come. He

Is a bug himself, and loathsome. Whine,

Whine, whine, all the time. But nothing

 

Really hits the mark. Their life is their life,

And can’t be represented by anything

But what they have lived, which is ample.