Room Nineteen (Written January 20)

Room Nineteen

 

She managed to ask for a room,

Give out the right credit card,

Go up in the elevator, and unlock

 

The door to her room before she burst

Into tears. The thing that had sent a shock

Through her system was the way

 

He had looked at her, with condescension,

As he told her she would have to pay

The full cost, and then wait her turn,

 

Which could be weeks, months away.

Something in her snapped. She burned

With anger and shame. She should

 

Call her husband, but she couldn’t. She felt

Lost and alone, entering into a dark wood,

And she was afraid she might not ever find

 

The way out again. Her worst thoughts

Gnawed at her. People had once been kind,

Then he came along, to put her in her place.

The Theatre of Life (Written January 19)

The Theatre of Life

 

Up, down, everyone in his row

Stood and applauded, and so,

Reluctantly, Ned also got to his feet.

 

It had been a lively performance,

But somehow he felt cheated,

Though without reason, since admission

 

Was free, and he could leave

Whenever he wanted. Submission

Was the key to the script,

 

But Ned would have none of it.

A very old man, who had written

Something nobody could remember,

 

Entered stage right. His birthday,

His ninetieth, in late December,

Was still on his mind. Everyone

 

Was invited to join the celebration.

The rows emptied, one by one,

As people came up on stage.

 

There was much talk and laughter,

And everyone marveled at his age.

Everyone but Ned, who left early.

I’ll Tell You Again (Written January 18)

I’ll Tell You Again

 

I sat down on the sofa without answering.

I don’t know why she said what she said.

I can look after myself,

 

I don’t need her. She’s tired,

I can see that. Okay, I’m selfish,

I know. According to her,

 

I always was. She’s so smart.

I don’t count, that’s for sure.

I might as well be dead.

 

I don’t believe it’s all for the best.

I wish I could put that one to bed.

I suppose what I need is more space.

 

I don’t know, just leave me alone.

I don’t like the smell of the place.

I told you once, I’ll tell you again.

 

Dream Catcher (Written January 17)

Dream Catcher

 

In the harbor waters, luminous fish

Surround and guide the boat

As it comes in. The Captain,

 

From his platform on the roof

of the cockpit, gives a thumbs up.

One of the crew holds up pails

 

Of fish for people on shore to see.

The trip, which began in a gale,

And continued in heavy rains,

 

With nothing but empty net

To show for their pains,

Turned around late in the day,

 

When a second boat approached

And a voice was heard to say,

“Friends, have you caught anything?”

 

The Captain, cast down from his

High perch, said nothing,

Only shrugged. “Try the other side,

 

Where the water is cold and deep.”

Reluctantly, for they were tired,

They did as suggested, and almost

 

Immediately began to catch

More fish than they could hold.

They could barely stay afloat.

The Guest (Written January 16)

The Guest

 

The sun is a lemon today, it is.

It’s like a huge lemon drop

Shining through the clouds.

 

Yes, let’s go down to the beach.

The water looks great, the crowds

Aren’t too bad, just wait

 

Till later. It’s so good

To see you. How old is Kate?

She’s eight. Into everything.

 

Absolutely loves insects,

Except the ones that sting.

And yours? I can just see

 

The little guy, with his

Funny grin. Let me be

Frank, I never did like

 

That husband of yours.

Something about his eyes.

You’re lucky to be rid

 

Of him, in my opinion.

I don’t know what I did

But all that matters is,

 

You’re here. You’re my guest,

Stay awhile. Consider this

Your home for now.

Plenty of Nothin’ (Written January 15)

Plenty of Nothin’

 

His parents were having a party,

To celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary.

The house had never seen such a crowd.

 

Family, friends, old classmates,

All seven children, as proud

As they could be. They played

 

Games, laughed, and hollered.

He knew he should have stayed,

But he snuck out, feeling like a fool.

 

He wanted to be alone. Across

The street, behind the school,

There was a quiet place,

 

Near the edge of a woods.

Back and forth he paced,

Singing the words of a song

 

He couldn’t get out of his mind,

Singing it as if to a throng,

Into the darkening, indifferent woods.

Fooling Myself (Written January 14)

Fooling Myself

 

But I knew she was telling the truth.

For too long I had been fooling myself.

Little by little, I had been going beyond

 

The limits I’d set for myself. And why

Shouldn’t I? It was my life, and fond

As I was of my wife and my children

 

Even more, I wanted to get some

Pleasure from it before I checked

Out. I didn’t smoke, snort coke,

 

Race cars, or fly planes, so what

Was the big deal, even if I went broke,

If I had an extra glass or two of wine,

 

Or a whiskey before dinner. Bonds

Were there to be broken, and a fine

Thing too, even if I do say so myself.

The River (Written January 13)

The River

 

It has a natural tidiness, washed

Twice daily by pounding waves

Of salt water from the wide

 

Atlantic, flushed twice daily

By the pull of each receding tide.

Multiple feeds of freshwater

 

Creeks sweeten its water,

As do myriad daughter

Brooks and streams.

 

Sometimes the river,

When full, can seem

As rough as white rapids,

 

Sometimes as smooth

As a sheet of glass,

Reflecting the town,

 

The lights along the road

Out of town, the reddish-brown

Of the marsh grass, the trees

 

That line the far hills,

So that you can almost see

Where it comes up out of the bay,

 

Where it is wide and deep and flows

Swiftly and silently under the rays

Of the sun, and is free.

Nobody (Written January 12)

Nobody

 

Nobody thought he could do it.

On the street in front of the hotel

Two men fought with bare fists.

 

Nobody in the crowd knew them

Or wondered what twists

Of fate had brought them to this.

 

It was Boston, a hot summer’s day.

Nobody wanted to miss

The action. People cheered

 

Each solid blow. Brother

Against brother, each feared.

Nobody wanted to stop

 

The slaughter. They spilled,

Between them, more than a drop

Of blood. Nobody cared.

 

If they had had guns,

Nobody would have dared

To do what he did.

 

He moved in and stood

Between them, hid

His fears, and shed

 

His cloak of anonymity.

It stopped them dead

In their tracks. Neither

 

Wanted to hurt him.

They had a choice, either

Knock him flat, or cease.

Racing Skates (Written January 11)

Racing Skates

 

She bought me the wrong kind of skates.

I wanted racing skates and she bought hockey.

I didn’t want to play hockey, but she thought

 

I should. I’d meet other boys, she said.

We were recent arrivals, caught

up in a transition from farm to town.

 

Racing skates, to my mind, were not

For racing around the rink, or up and down

The track with other kids, but for skimming

 

Over frozen ponds and lakes, along rivers

As far as the ice would hold me, brimming

With possibility, into country where the hills

 

Were covered in snow and the woods

Were thick with spruce and the spills,

If I took them, were gentle, and the wind

 

Was strong and I knew I would

Get through the long winter

And be fine, if left alone.