A Fighting Chance (Written January 26, 2018)

A Fighting Chance

My whistle failed to elicit a response.
I tried again. A chickadee answered
from inside the forsythia bush.
A dozen pigeons, neatly lined up

On the top bar of the swing set,
stared at me in a calculated display
of indifference. They knew what
I was up to, and what they needed
to do, to get what they wanted.

On top of the house next door
another dozen waited, expectantly.
It was a thin whistle, which left them
guessing as to my wishes. Was I trying
to welcome them, or scare them off?

I re-shaped my mouth and tried again.
High in the spruce tree crows cawed
impatiently, angrily. From the window
of the upstairs bedroom my wife watched.
A blue jay, on a chair in the neighbor’s

Backyard, made a sound like a yodel,
melodious and seductive, before reverting
to the more familiar shrill cry, like a rusty
clothesline. A male pheasant, with its white
ring around the neck, hid in plain sight

Behind the japonica bush, sure
of its camouflage. If I moved slowly,
I hoped the bird would not fly away
in a thundering fright. I wanted
the pheasant, along with any starlings

And chickadees that might be nearby,
to have a fighting chance at the feed
(black sunflower seeds, wild bird mix,
peanuts in the shell, left over crusts
of bread broken into bite-sized pieces)

When I cast it, by the handful, across
the white plastic table by the back fence
and onto the ground, before the pigeons
descended en masse. Although, as my
wife had often reminded me, pigeons

Need to eat too, like all the other birds,
if we don’t want them to die. The cold
weather, in and of itself, will kill off
more than a few. Don’t be so stingy.

These Various Proofs (Written January 12, 2018)

These Various Proofs

She is at least grudgingly aware
that many of the things she used to do,
by herself, she can no longer do.
To get in the car and go visit

A friend, on the spur of the moment,
is a dream she abandoned years ago.
The ice on the path to the studio
makes getting there impossible,
and even when it is bare,

As with this early January thaw, she’s afraid
to go out, because she might lose her balance
and fall. From experience she knows well
that she might take a sudden dizzy spell,
and need a helping hand,

Which would rankle. Sometimes, for lunch,
she feels inspired to concoct a more complicated,
hearty soup, one better suited for chilly winter
weather, but before she can finish, with
so much cutting and slicing,

More often than not she runs out of steam and
gives up, in tears. It’s for me to finish the job,
or not. Later, after our rest, we like to get out,
into the fresh air, and if it is a nice day,
walk around the block,

Or down the street to where there is
a path along the river, which is always
a wonder to behold, at this time of year,
with its massive ice flows, which are like
the thoughts and images

That float through our unconscious, night
after night, when we are not paying attention.
But we get down to the river less often
these days, and then only with a walker,
which at first seemed to be

An admission of some sort of defeat, but now
seems perfectly okay. Simple, everyday
tasks, such as opening the milk carton,
with its stubborn pull-tab, she finds
difficult, even exasperating,

Because of the weakness in her fingers,
and her wrist. And yet, faced with these
various proofs of decline, and others
as telling, she feels no different,
she claims, than she felt

Fifty years ago, or sixty, when she came
into her prime. Life has been good to her,
despite the loses, the aches, and the pains,
and she wouldn’t change a thing.

What I Wanted To Say (Written January 5, 2018)

What I Wanted To Say

I tried to talk with her last night,
and then again this morning.
My words were weak, ineffectual,
like someone calling out a warning

After the storm has already past.
She knew more about the dangers
than I, but had reached a point
where she simply did not care.
I’ve had a good life, she’d say,

When pressed. I have no regrets.
I’m not afraid, don’t worry. She
liked to watch murder mysteries
because the format guaranteed
that the culprit would be found.

The fun was in trying to guess
who it was. None of the violence
was real. What I wanted to say
was simple enough. It’s essential
to keep moving, if only around

The house, from room to room.
Take another look at the art work
on the walls, or the tiny bottles
on the glass ledge in the window.
Step outside onto the back deck,

And watch the moon in the trees
as it rises for the night. Sometimes
bats swoop low, so quietly,
so darkly, you can barely see them.