Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Mental Life of Plants and Worms (Written December 15, 2017)

The Mental Life of Plants and Worms

I couldn’t stop yawning.
I wasn’t bored, no, no,
that wasn’t it. How could I
be bored, when every day

We had something new,
an appointment to keep,
a friend to meet,
a book to read,
a movie to watch.

I was a little tired, I’ll admit,
but not unusually so.
I’d had a good night’s sleep,
and woke to a vivid dream,
in which I was in my old

Bookstore, talking to a customer,
deploring the sad state of affairs,
the paucity of quality paperbacks,
when in walked a young writer,
in town for a festival of authors,

Searching for a book by somebody
called Stuart A. Guest, whom I’d frankly
never heard of before. Or maybe
it was Stuart N. Guest, he wasn’t sure.
I was very sorry, I said, at which point

The promising young writer
disappeared behind a stack of books,
then reappeared, just as suddenly,
with a copy of the book by the author
he was looking for, the title of which,

Once I’d registered it, I promptly
forgot. I couldn’t stop yawning.
Maybe I’d had too much to eat,
but no, that wasn’t it. I’d had
a plate of linguini, with a meat

And tomato sauce, topped with
grated cheddar cheese. A modest
helping, nothing extravagant.
A glass of red wine. Frozen yogurt
for dessert, with rasberries. Maybe

I wasn’t getting enough oxygen,
it was so cold out and the wind blew
through the cracks around the windows
and the doors and the furnace ran
almost non-stop, pumping out

Hot, dry air. Or maybe the book
she was reading to me, which I
had welcomed at first, was about
a topic I had little interest in, namely,
the mental life of plants and worms.

I thought this was stretching it a bit,
though that just shows you what I know.
Apparently, worms have a central
organizing cluster of nerve cells that functions
very much like a brain, and underlies a certain

Primitive form of intelligence. Well,
maybe it’s true. I couldn’t stop yawning.
Annoyed, she said, why don’t you
go to bed, we’ll talk about it tomorrow.

Cloud of Forgetting (Written December 1, 2017)

Cloud of Forgetting

I kneel by the sofa where she lies,
one hand on her ankle,
the other on her knee.
She’s quiet now, breathing

More easily, trying to forget
the angry words she shouted at me,
when it was not even me
she was angry with, but
someone else, an old friend,

Who had gone off script,
thoughtlessly, and said things
that she found hurtful.
I could have intervened,
but I didn’t see what was happening

Until too late. Besides, it’s not my part
to protect her every step of the way.
That would be asking too much.
If that seems heartless, I really
don’t know what to say.

Let me pull the blanket up,
around her shoulders, and stay
a while longer, as she drifts away
on her cloud of forgetting.
Without forgetting, there is no

Deliverance. But I am, I suppose,
the enemy of forgetting, someone
who, almost against his will, remembers
what she so desperately wants to forget.

Ally (Written November 24, 2017)


Because it is made of crystal,
not glass,
and because it was a gift
from her mother,

More than fifty years ago,
when she lived in a different town,
with a different husband,
facing different challenges,
she keeps it tucked away,

In the back of a drawer, in a box
with no name, hidden but not
forgotten. Whatever healing energy
it had to give, it’s already given,
and now it’s just a stone,

About the size of a thumbnail,
half an inch thick, oval in shape,
purple below, white above,
with raised dots over the uneven
surface, which sparkle like silver

In the light. The setting is silver,
in two rounds, the lower round
like beads strung together.
If I look closely enough,
I can see a moose

Emerging from the purple haze,
with its antlers tilted into the white
above. Through all her troubles,
in the distant past, the not so distant
past, and the present, when the world

Sometimes seemed to be collapsing
around her, she’s taken the moose
as her symbol of strength
and endurance – her ally.

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?