Sleep, My Love (Written November 17, 2017)

Sleep, My Love

I shake her knee
but she just stares back at me.
Don’t go to sleep yet!
The show’s hardly begun!

There was a time, not long ago,
when she was the star of the show,
the one who could take an idea,
and turn it into something grand,
the way a sunflower seed,

So small in the palm of the hand,
will keep growing until it is
as tall as a woman, or a man.
Whatever the obstacle, whatever
the hurdle, whatever the puzzle,

She persisted. She never gave in
or gave up. And what she did,
though often hard, she did with joy
in her heart. Everyone felt better
in her presence. She made people laugh.

She could have been black or white
or brown or yellow, male or female,
or something in between,
it would not have mattered,
for she was the spirit of adventure.

She sleeps a lot of the time now,
but I’m okay with that.
There’s such a feeling of warmth
whenever I’m close to her.

White Noise (Written November 10, 2017)

White Noise

When she discovered that the white noise
not only did not
stop her from hearing the voices
but made her listen more closely,

In case they were talking about her,
saying things that were not true,
or at best half true,
with the aim of undermining her,
and sending her further into a tailspin,

She felt the wiser course of action
would be to accept her loss,
quietly, without protest, keeping
all her wits about her,
the way tulips will close up at night,

To retain whatever light and heat
they’ve captured during the day,
so that her enemies, who seemed
to be multiplying by the hour,
could do her no further harm.

She felt something funny in one ear,
a buzzing, a grinding the likes of which
she had never experienced before.
Was it a stroke? The flu? Chronic
fatigue? Or something else?

She stood up and announced to the others,
whom she had always thought of as friends,
but now believed otherwise, that she did not
feel well and wanted to go home.
Everyone stopped talking and looked at her.

She swayed back and forth, and we were
afraid she would fall. She took a step
toward the hallway, where she had hung
her coat, turned and looked at me.
I hurried to her side. I thought

We should go to the hospital,
but she said no, and she seemed
so sure of herself, so set,
I gave in and went along.

No Beginning, No End (Written November 3, 2017)

No Beginning, No End

She went inside, locking the door.
If I was who I said I was,
why had she never seen me before?
A walk around the block would do me good,

We both agreed. It was raining
but not hard. The wind had shifted
to the north, bringing colder, arctic air
that blew right through my poor hat.
The traffic was heavy on Champlain,

A steady stream that had no beginning
and no end. If I lost my balance,
as I clung to the edge of the sidewalk,
I might fall in front of a car and just like that,
as if by magic, all my troubles would be over.

Down Sainte Croix the traffic was light
to nonexistent. A woman I knew, a neighbor,
came toward me, her dog on a leash.
I asked his name, not for the first time.
We can be glad it’s not snow, she said,

Pulling her jacket tight around her shoulders.
In a shelter in a far corner of the parking lot
smokers congregated and made small talk.
Two or three stood outside the shelter,
in the rain, as if to punish themselves

For their bad behavior, or just because
it was too crowded inside. Farther down,
along the back road, a family of pheasants,
mama, papa, and six fledglings,
scurried to find a way down into the marsh.

I was cold, with the wind in my face,
but now, at least, I had something
I could tell her, something that might
please her and jog her memory.

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.

Drunk on Words (Written September 18, 2014)

Drunk on Words

 

My journey has come to an end.

I’ve completed the circuit.

I’ve come home.

 

The house swims up close,

With its blaze of kitchen lights,

So bright I cover my eyes.

 

The door to the garage begins

Slowly, jerkily, to rise,

Inviting me in, but something

 

Holds me back. I sit there

A long time without moving.

For weeks, for months,

 

I’ve traveled the land, gathering

Impressions, discovering truths

About myself I never knew.

 

I had a rhythm to my day

Which I’ll be sad to give up.

Drunk on words, drunk

 

On the beauty of the line,

What will be left of me

When I’m done?

Born To This (Written September 17, 2014)

Born To This

 

In his own bedroom for the first time,

Lonely and unable to sleep,

He took a quick slug of what was left

 

In the bottle, because the drinking portion

Of his evening had come to an end.

Women are changing before everyone’s

 

Eyes, he said to himself, drunkenly.

Think about that change. Think about

What is happening in this room tonight.

 

He stood by the window, looking out

On the street. He had never seen

His street in the middle of the night.

 

The houses were dark and almost hidden

Behind the shaggy canopy of trees.

He was not angry with her, he was angry

 

With himself, because he could not stop

What he was doing. He had no reason

To be angry with her, she was perfectly

 

In the right. A small voice began to speak

Elsewhere in the apartment, but too softly,

Too distantly for him to hear. Tomorrow

 

Was his birthday. Had she completely

Forgotten? He dressed himself

In silks and satins. He was born to this.

Insects Can Defecate (Written September 16, 2014)

Insects Can Defecate

 

Being alive as long as we have,

We don’t feel it as much.

We sit around, mumbling

 

And complaining, or staring

Into space. A few of the women

And one or two men push their walkers

 

Up and down the halls. Wanderers,

We call them. The food is not bad,

I’ll say that, and the coffee.

 

Insects can defecate,

We learned that in biology.

They have intestinal tracts,

 

Anuses, and everything,

Just like us. The doctor

Comes once a week,

 

On Thursday. Life

Grinds you down,

Pounds you into submission.

 

Tuesday morning we have

Art class, and I wish

It was more often.

 

What I like is working

In color, and best of all

I don’t have to talk about it.

 

Sometimes, after supper,

A man plays the piano

And sings to us.

 

We gather around,

We smile and we clap,

But it’s never for long.

Perfectly Timed (Written September 15, 2014)

Perfectly Timed

 

I think he’s pleased,

The way he smiles at me

And keeps looking at me

 

With the wide, innocent

Eyes of a child, as if

There is so much more

 

He wants to tell me

But doesn’t know where to begin.

He knows he won’t be able

 

To find the words,

So he doesn’t even try.

I’ve kept the photo

 

All the years of our estrangement

To remind me of the good times

We once had, before things turned

 

Sour, and he left. It’s tangible proof

That I never stopped thinking of him,

Though we never spoke.

 

In the photo we’re standing on a beach,

His arm around my shoulder.

He’s very happy

 

And I’ve got my usual frown.

But this is the day, just before

Or just after the photo was snapped,

 

That we saw a fish hawk

Dive straight down out of the sky

And snare a trout.

 

It was so perfectly timed,

That dive, so quick, so efficient,

We never forgot.