Before the Earth Froze (Written October 27, 2017)

Before the Earth Froze

Who can say when the tracks were made?
Some time before the earth froze, weeks,
months, or even years ago. The size
and depth of the impressions suggest

A heavy-set woman; not young.
The straight line of movement indicates
purpose; nothing haphazard. Until
almost the end, when the forest becomes
thicker and darker, and she loses

Her way, and lurches from side to side.
Perhaps, in the dark, she feared the animals
that she had heard so much about,
the wolves and the coyotes,
the snakes and the boars,

Or perhaps she simply grew tired
and would have liked to lie down,
rest a moment, and listen
to the birds in the trees
and the rustling of the leaves.

Did I know her? I thought I did,
because I loved her. But love is never
enough. She was alone, in her mind,
and had no reason to hope
it might be otherwise.

She had played along, as true as anyone,
but the end, she knew, was near,
when the wind and the rain would come
and wash away all remembrance.

Overextended (Written October 20, 2017)

Overextended

She sighs and straightens her back.
She’s taken on too much, again.
For more than an hour now
she’s been chopping, slicing, mixing,

Measuring, sifting, and stirring,
focused on what needs to be done,
rather than what she can do with some
semblance of enjoyment. The contraption
for peeling and coring apples malfunctions,

Digging too deep, cutting away too much
of the white, juicy flesh. The zucchini,
which had seemed so firm on the outside,
two mornings ago when she bought it,
is soft and mushy inside. The onion

Keeps slipping from her grasp
as she chops. The gas makes her eyes
water and sting. What else can go wrong,
she asks herself, when she cuts her finger,
in a careless moment. But she is not ready

To call for help. Once she makes up her mind
there’s very little that will get her to admit
defeat. She cleans the cut, stanches the wound,
and looks forward to sitting down at table,
when she’ll be able to present the hoped-for dish

To her guest, see the look of gratitude in his eyes,
and feel she’s done the best that she could,
which in the past, as she remembers it,
was all that anyone every wanted.

The Forest in Ruins (Written October 13, 2017)

The Forest in Ruins

I’ve found the card that she sent me
last Christmas, with a short note.
She was feeling much better, she said,
and hoped to be home in a few days.

A week at most. I wrote back,
though I knew it might not get there
in time. I told her about a dream
I’d had a couple of nights before,
in which she and I, along with ten others,

All from the same town, though strangers
to each other, were being led through
a tropical rain forest, where the foliage
was so thick, so lush, that not even the sun
could get through. The trees had dark green,

Oval-shaped leaves as big as elephant paws,
and red flowers of an intensity I had never
seen before. Parrots, perched high in the trees,
called to us in a language we could almost
understand. We let the others go ahead,

While we fell back, held by the beauty
all around us. At a fork in the road we turned
left instead of right, as the others had done.
We wanted to be alone. A few hundred yards
brought us to where a wall had been built,

Made of old wooden beams, to block the way.
Yellow police tape warned us to stay out.
But as there was no one to stop us, we skirted
the wall, through the thorny underbrush,
we were so curious to see what was

On the other side, like children who,
blindfolded, try to guess what will be revealed.
What we found, though, was a forest in ruins,
the trees stripped of their leaves,
many limbs ripped off and scattered

Everywhere, at odd angles to each other,
some standing almost straight up, impaled
in the earth by the force of the wind.
The animals had all fled or been killed.
Squirrel monkeys lay curled on the ground,

As if waiting to be born. Parrots
had been blown from their perches
and killed. Flies buzzed around the bodies.
There seemed to be no end to the devastation.
We turned and followed the path back,

The way we had come in. The sun beat down
very hard on our heads. The least spark, we knew,
could set everything on fire. It seemed we would never
get to the place where we had begun.

The Word (Written October 6, 2017)

The Word

Be patient, he reminds himself.
Patient. Give her a chance,
she’s trying as hard as she can,
though the word she’s looking for

Stubbornly refuses to reveal itself,
digging ever deeper into its
hiding place, the way some fish
dig ever deeper into the dirt
at the bottom of the sea.

Sometimes, when all else fails,
they drive to the mall,
which used to annoy him
but now, through her eyes,
he sees as a chance to get out,

Meet people, and feel again
that life is good, no matter
what she believes or doesn’t believe.
Life is more than she was
prepared to settle for,

More than television,
more than mystery novels,
more than long hours
lying in bed, or sitting
at the kitchen table, brooding.

If she doesn’t speak her mind,
nobody will know what she thinks
or what she feels. To find
the word, let it go.

Her Own Way (Written September 29, 2017)

Her Own Way

Her coat streaked with rain,
her shoes caked in mud,
her hair plastered to her skull,
where has she been,

And why has she come back?
She wanted to be left alone,
to make her own way,
her own mistakes,
and not always play

By somebody else’s rules,
which, in any case, never made
much sense, to her mind,
though she went along with them,
until now, so as not

To create a stir. Blend in,
she told herself. Remain calm.
What she really wanted
was to disappear into the woodwork,
the way a grasshopper, sensing danger,

Will disappear into the weeds,
or a bird, in a split second,
will dart into the trees.
The distance between here and there
is the distance between life and death.

I’m lost, she moans,
and will not listen to reason.
To argue with her
is to commit treason.