Shark Attack (Written January 30)

Shark Attack


The man took two quick strides

And dove into the water.

The boy’s screams grew weaker


As he flailed about, several times

Going under. The man swam between

The boy and the dark shadow.


The boy’s screams were high-pitched,

Like a girl’s. When the shadow

Moved closer, the man took


His knife from his belt, prepared

To strike. The boy hooked

The man’s arm and the man slapped


Him away, to keep himself free

To fight the shark. The boy flapped

His hands like a baby seal on ice.


Swim to the boat! he told the boy.

Swim to the boat! He said it twice,

As loud as he could. Something about


The man’s bulk and stance alerted

The animal to danger, and doubt

Crept into its calculating brain.


It no longer kept advancing

But turned, slowly, and finned away.

The green shallows were calm again.

Old Woman (Written January 29)

Old Woman


But she nodded her head anyway

And held out her frail hand

For me to shake.


She did not recognize me,

My voice, or my face,

Or my name.


I’d driven through the night,

When I heard the news,

To be by her side.


There were decisions

To be made, titles

To be assigned.


The way she looked at me,

She seemed resigned

To her fate.


There was something gentle

In her eyes, no hate,

Or even regret.


It was not she, but I

Who was in her debt,

For what she had given me.

Silent Tears (Written January 28)

Silent Tears


A once-good-looking woman

Who had gotten a little too heavy

And no longer attracted men


(Or women) the way she once did,

Who wore clothes a little too small,

And had her hair cut a little too short,


Crimped in the front (both sides),

Who liked a glass of port

At her mid-afternoon break,


When the day felt like forever,

Who had a laugh that was fake

And make-up that was thicker


Than thick, like day-old cake,

Who had once been the top pick,

But now was down on the list,


Like a horse no longer in contention,

Who knew she was barely missed,

And silently cried in her whiskey.

Her Own Voice (Written January 27)

Her Own Voice


As soon as she began to talk,

She could hear something different

In her own voice, something colder,


Almost hostile. She had no idea

It would end like this, in mutual

Recrimination. The last time


He’d called, they’d argued about

Money. All she wanted, she said,

Was for him to pay


His fair share. Before she could

Think of anything else to say,

He slammed the phone down.


Well, she thought, that’s pretty

Definite. What a clown!

Seeing is believing.


Not much doubt about it now,

It’s time to be leaving.

Why should she let any man


Drag her down, whatever

The reason? Why should she stand

For it? As for money,


She had her own, and it was

Enough. Let him go.

It was as if the voice


Was not even her own

But that of an older,

Wiser version of herself.

A Letter Home (Written January 26)

A Letter Home


We get out of bed at nine and Helen makes coffee.

We sit on the balcony, read the newspaper, and watch

The boats in the harbor. Around eleven we get dressed


And go down to the little café next to the hotel.

Sometimes we order lunch, sometimes breakfast.

Afterwards, we rest for an hour or two in the heat,


Then work in the studio, with the window wide open.

We go shopping or tour the galleries till we’re beat.

On clear days, late in the afternoon, around four,


We like to go swimming. The swimming,

By the way, is okay but not great, the harbor

More than a little polluted. We drink a lot


Before dinner, I admit, too much, I know,

But it feels all right, after a couple of shots.

In the old town there’s a restaurant we love,


Where the owner knows us and makes us feel

At home. There’s music, and the people move

And dance. A black man plays the piano.


We’ve talked with him a few times.

He’s from Newark. His name is Adriano.

He’s been here awhile and never wants to leave.

Time Flows In One Direction (Written January 25)

Time Flows In One Direction


Dizzy with effort and blind with sweat,

His temples pounding, his eyes swimming,

What if he falls and no one sees him?


Slow down, he tells himself, the ice

Will melt in time, but nothing frees him

From the need to get the job done.


A little more effort and the ice will crack,

Or will it? One day soon the sun

Will return but till then he must stay calm.


He dreams of the day when he will fly

South for a week and sit under a palm.

Time flows in one direction, and tends


To greater and greater disorganization.

He is not the man he once was. Why bend

To the job when the job has no end?


The flight is booked. His friends await

His arrival. It is solid ice, from snow

Followed by a thaw, then a deep freeze.

One True Sentence (Written January 24)

One True Sentence


The end of the summer came,

And the marsh grasses turned

Red and yellow and brown.


Hordes of returning students filled

The sleepy streets of the town.

Ned had been a student here


But quit after his freshman year,

To hitchhike across country,

With dreams of being a writer.


He moved around, shiftless,

Until he arrived at the doorstep

Of the one writer he most admired.


The writer, it turned out, to Ned’s good

Fortune, was looking for someone to hire,

To help him with a huge pile


Of letters he needed to answer. The master

Liked him because he made him smile.

Months went by but one night


Ned drank too much, as he often did,

And got into a fight

With a boy, and knocked him cold.


He fled, without leaving a note.

He put everything, his life, on hold,

Never able to find anything to match


His experience with the famous writer.

He married, had children, but left to catch

A ride back east, to the same college town


Where he had once studied. He lived

A recluse, finding it more and more difficult

To write, to get one true sentence down.

Things That Needed To Be Done (Written January 23)

Things That Needed To Be Done


The women did not let the men

Simply stand around. There were things

That needed to be done. The grapes


Needed to be rinsed. There were four

Bottles of wine behind the drapes.

The crackers and cheese would go


Better on two plates. One of Nancy’s

Paintings had been hung too low,

And needed a man to lift and hold.


Sally, on flute, having promised

A program that was lively and bold,

Needed a glass of whiskey, neat.


When everything was ready, the men

And the women took their seats,

Sally nodded, and the show began.

Honored (Written January 22)



To be honored after the fact

Is always too late.

Not to be honored at all


Is a worse fate.

But to be in thrall

To the idea, and to lust


After fame, is to dance

With the devil. Trust

and fellow feeling die


On the block. Hate

And jealousy vie

For pride of place.


Better to take

What comes your way

Without complaint.

Waiting for the Bus (Written January 21)

Waiting for the Bus


Around him, there was no station to speak of,

Just an abandoned gas pump, and a shack

That had once served as a clerk’s office.


The door was locked. He peered inside,

And saw racks and racks of junk food

That had been left behind. Candy bars,


Chewing gum, bags of chips, soft drinks,

And so on. Behind the shack and farther

Up the hill was a run-down motel, built out


In the woods. People drove their cars

Up a long dirt road. Voices shouted

Back and forth. He thought about


Walking up the hill, and asking about the bus.

Someone at the desk must know the route

And when it was due. But he worried


It might come while he was away,

And so he stayed. Time hurried

Him along, one hour, two hours.


Evening came, the sky darkened,

And still no sign of the bus. Rain showers

Began to fall. Had he made a mistake?


He was quite sure, this is where

They told him he should wait.

Regardless, he’d have to go back.