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.