cropped rain and fog on highway

It’s Only Natural

It’s Only Natural.

I am not immune to the wonders of the natural world.
I have seen peacock feathers under a microscope.
I know birds retrieve lint from the ears
Of a musk ox carcass to construct their downy nests.
I realize that the grand canyon of Mars
Is the same size as the United States.
I too know that when a blue whale dives deepest
Its massive heart slows down to two beats a minute.

But none, for me,
Can rank with a heated conversation one dressing room over at Marshall’s.
A debate in a movie lineup about the merits of Scorcese vs. Tarantino.
One Raymond Carver poem.
Give me the Lives column in a New York Times Magazine
About the writer’s troubled child.
Let me in on that moment when you knew it was over.
There for me lie the mysteries I care to unravel,
The fleeting moments between us drawing me back
Time and time again.

Hike your mountain. Portage the greatest rivers.
Give names to all the stars and constellations you have ever seen.
Then tell me about it when you get home.

** Photo by Joel Koop.

horse resized-3601046_1280

Equine Therapy

 

They remember you:

Their  heightened perception always at work,

An enigmatic sixth sense,

So rare in humans.

 

They open wide their huge liquid alien eyes,

Shift quietly in their stalls.

Their huge nostrils flare in welcome

At your approach.

 

For you carry with you

The scent,

Indelible in their memory,

Of someone once kind to them.

 

Astride their backs

We borrow their majesty.

We borrow freedom.

 

 

scarlet soda

Thirst

 

The sun was hotter.

You can tell.

Look at us squinting against it in photos then.

Everything washed out by the glare,

cheekbones, jawlines,

all detail surrendered.

Dazzled,

we could be anybody.

 

The gardens, look,

they’re parched.

It hurt to walk on the grass.

We lay in scorched backyards

slathering butter on our chests,

chain-smoking, eating fluorescent cheesies,

swilling bright red soda.

Everyone burned raw.

Everyone looked deliriously happy.

 

We knew

nothing could go wrong.

Our lives lay ahead of us.

Men were above us,

landing on the moon.

 

da-vinci revised

Past Master

 

Among da Vinci’s countless notebooks, all written in code,

or backwards, to ward off thieves,

is found a jotting that translates to:

“Tell me if I ever did a thing.”

 

Hardest on himself,

his abandoned projects haunted him,

and those completed offer little solace:

scissors, the parachute, a clock with a minute hand,

the helicopter,

the first contact lens.

 

An upstart, he sketched Mona Lisa, no doubt, just to keep us guessing.

Her lips alone took him 10 years.

Voracious curiosity fuelled him,

climbing a mountain outside of Milan to understand

why the sky was blue.

dissecting human cadavers to perfect his anatomical drawings and,

it is rumored,

lions!

 

When he was commissioned to paint the Last Supper

he reluctantly put aside a joke book he was writing,

and throughout his life was convinced that if only we had wings

we could fly like birds.

 

Imagine this man’s to-do lists:

“Have Avichenna’s work on useful inventions translated.”

“Buy mustard.”

“Get a skull.”

 

 

 

Blanca

Post Script

Post Script.

You need to know that I want
Unabashedly sentimental songs.
Think Van Morrison
In his earlier, less angry days and
Dylan, in his later, gentler ones.
An instrumental of Annie Laurie is a must,
As too Mark Knopfler,
Who so magically supplied the soundtrack
For my days here.

You’ll need really good food for after.
Excellent, piping hot coffee and brewed Orange Pekoe in china pots,
Kentucky Fried Chicken,
Pizzas made to order,
And a Build Your Own ice cream sundae station
To add the requisite whimsy.

Display a very few pictures of me,
Not huge Bristol boards packed full of them,
So popular these days.
Black and white predominating, if you will,
My unwavering preference.

Flowers?
Yes, my nod to tradition,
Scads of calla lilies, but white only,
The yellow look fake somehow,
Oh, a few off white roses, would you,
Champagne they call them now.

And in the middle of everything
Position one commanding vase of
Fat white peonies,
Because their fragrance, their sheer deliciousness
Outdistances all the others combined.

Everyone there ought to tell
One story about me that stands out for them,
And not just of sweetness and light.
The dark, too.
You all know
I was more than one shade.

A piper would be wonderful at the close,
Just one, as there was for my father,
A whole band of them he felt excessive
And I must agree.

Then let me go.
Knowing that most days
I cherished this life of mine
And that while briefly here,
Laughed probably more than most,
Loved a few of you beyond measure,
And with providence in my corner
Was able to write a few poems
I would not change one word of
Even now.

 

 

 

schoolhouse sepia

September

September #1

Obligatory backpacks bought,

duo-tangs and the cornucopia of Sharpies,

heralding the dull march back to classrooms, schedules.

In this forlorn wake a trail of

unhurried pancake breakfasts,

scrabble games that last for hours

and lying perfectly still on the sun-scorched dock,

until perhaps trailing a finger,

but only one.

 

September #2

Boats pulled out for the season

children rushing to school

and like a switch was flipped overnight

the water in the bay now darker

somehow

deeper

 

Undercover

Late August
slyly

slowly

the light becomes a

miser.

 

Compulsory

The school uniform, penance.
The wool knee socks even in summer.
The black serge tunics
shiny, slick, crisp, from too many
hot irons.

 

Warmer

The geese now heading south
emit unearthly,
unsettling sounds overhead,
clearly the desperate pleas

of those who seek release.

for Maggie post 2

Rest easy, Maggie

I lost my lovely wee Maggie last week. She took her leave as sweetly and bravely as the day she came to us as a rescue years ago. She was 10 – and it was heaven having her every day of those years.

Rest easy, sweet lassie.

 

Missions

 

Crabs can rest a little easier now on Bahamian beaches,

with the little white four legged pest gone.

They were never truly at risk.

Sorry, Maggie,

you were fast, but never as fast as them.

The hunt was your delight in and of itself.

You’d look up from your dig,

bedevilled,

your wee nose sand-covered, twitching,

before diving down time and again,

up and down the shore, irrepressible,

resolute,

until all light had left the sky.

and I called you home.

 ***

 

Ebb. Flow.

 

The tidal pools down the beach

will remain relatively undisturbed now.

Future visitors there would be wise to follow the moon

to discover them at their warmest,

their most inviting.

 

There was a woman who did so once,

frequenting them with her two little white dogs.

She dressed all in white too,

making them a matched set.

I watched them once from afar, wading languorously

among those becalmed shallows just offshore,

their very own roman baths.

 

They stepped gingerly among the rock and coral

that contained them,

distracted in their reverie by only a rogue wave

or a dark cloud scurrying overhead.

 

I think the woman was a poet.

They were terriers, I believe,

Scottish like her.

I heard once that she loved her dogs well.

 

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While sitting on a bench at the Brooklyn Promenade. 

The Galleons

Because I am reading Frank O’Hara
while sitting on a bench at the Brooklyn Promenade
 

I am aware it is 10:30 in New York
on a Tuesday morning

the way O’Hara was always aware
of what day and hour and season were in front of him

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
he wrote almost sixty years ago on a July moment

that must have been like the one I am having now
the summer hour blossoming

at the promenades by the rivers and in the parks
and in the quiet aisles of the city
 

when everyone who should be at work
is at work and the trees are meditating

on how muggy it will be today
and the fleets of strollers are out in the sunshine

expanse of the morning
the strollers that are like galleons

carrying their beautiful gold cargo
being pushed by women whose names once graced

the actual galleons Rosario
Margarita Magdalena along with other names

Essie Maja from places that history has patronized
like O’Hara going into the bank

for money or the bookstore to buy
an ugly
NEW WORLD WRITING to see what

the poets / in Ghana are doing these days
or the liquor store for liquor

or the tobacconist for tobacco
and sitting at the Brooklyn Promenade I haven’t looked

at the news to see who now has died
though my fingers keep touching the phone’s face

to find out that when it is 10:30 in the morning
in New York it is 11:30 in the night

in Manila and it is 4:30 in the afternoon in Lagos
and in Warsaw and it is 9:30

in the morning in Guatemala City
where it is also Tuesday and where it is also summer.

 

– Rick Barot

 

 

 

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Debris

This by William Brewer. The last two lines are perhaps the best of all –

 

Storms are generous.
Something so easy to surrender to,                                                                         sitting by the window,
and then you step out into the garden you were so bored of,
so bored of you hated it,
but now it needs you.

 

                                Twang of the rake’s metal tines biting at the dirt.
You destroy a little camp of mushrooms,
pull leaves into a pile,
are struck with wonder
when there rolls out
a little bird’s nest—
the garden’s brain.

 

                                       You want to hide in it.
Twigs, mud, spit, and woven in:
a magenta strip of Mylar balloon that glints when turned to the sun,
a sway of color you’ve seen before.

 

                                     You were a boy.
You told your grandfather you spotted a snake in the yard                               between the buckeyes.
He revved his weed whacker,
walked over,
conjured a rose mist from the grass
that swelled in the breeze, swirled together, grew dark,
shifting through fans of sun,
magenta, then plum, blush,                                                                                                                                     gone.

 

Smell of exhaust. Tannins of iced tea
you drank together on the porch later,
his spiked with Wild Turkey,
the tumbler resting on  his thigh,
the ice-sweat running off, smearing the dried snake juice,
pooling in a divot of scar tissue.

                 A souvenir, he called it,
from the winter spent sleeping in a hole in the ground in a Belgian              wood,
listening for German voices to start singing
so he knew he could sleep.

bride

Clearing away the detritus…

Among my favorite poets writing today: Tony Hoagland. Few do it better. Who else could unearth a parallel between a blossoming dogwood and a bride ripping off her dress? He inspires us all to dig down a little deeper, to not be complacent. And asks us to pay attention to the things that truly matter after we clear away all the detritus.

 

A Color of the Sky

 

Windy today and I feel less than brilliant,

driving over the hills from work.

There are the dark parts on the road

when you pass through clumps of wood

and the bright spots where you have a view of the ocean,

but that doesn’t make the road an allegory.

 

I should call Marie and apologize

for being so boring at dinner last night,

but can I really promise not to be that way again?

And anyway, I’d rather watch the trees, tossing

in what certainly looks like sexual arousal.

 

Otherwise it’s spring, and everything looks frail;

the sky is baby blue, and the just-unfurling leaves

are full of infant chlorophyll,

the very tint of inexperience.

 

Last summer’s song is making a comeback on the radio,

and on the highway overpass,

the only metaphysical vandal in America has written

MEMORY LOVES TIME

in big black spraypaint letters,

which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.

 

Last night I dreamed of X again.

She’s like a stain on my subconscious sheets.

Years ago she penetrated me

but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed,

I never got her out,

but now I’m glad.

 

What I thought was an end turned out to be a middle.

What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel.

What I thought was an injustice

turned out to be a color of the sky.

 

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store

and the police station,

a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,

like a sudsy mug of beer;

like a bride ripping off her clothes,

 

dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

 

so Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.

It’s been doing that all week:

making beauty,

and throwing it away,

and making more.