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.

velella

A Windblown Legacy

Dolphins are toothed whales. Who knew?

How do you distinguish a dolphin fin from a shark fin? (You never know when that might come in handy.)

Easy!

Dolphins roll at the surface so you see more than just the fin. If you only see the fin and nothing more, head for the (air) mattresses.

I just came in from the beach. I was, as ever on these islands, beachcombing, with my writing pad and pencil tucked into my windbreaker pocket, hunting for “sea glass.”

It takes about 20 years for a piece of regular bottle glass to evolve into the much sought after “beach glass,” ubiquitous now in pendants, earrings, bracelets, etc. Twenty years, that is, of continuous buffeting by course sand and salt and sea spray. The glass must be exposed to all these elements during that time to render it smooth and opaque. And exquisite.

I bring these treasures home and display them everywhere – in wine glasses, soup tureens, ice buckets, any receptacle will do. In fact, the more incongruous the vessel, I find, the more intriguing the display.

These trips never disappoint. In a recent seaside meander I happened upon a diminutive jellyfish, a fascinating creature, about the size of a pinkie finger. They are usually deep blue in color, but their most obvious feature is a small stiff sail atop a transparent cylindrical base that catches the wind and propels them over the surface of the sea. The mainsail in this case is the fish’s protective barnacle, made of a fingernail like substance.

This jellyfish is commonly know by the names sea raft, by-the-wind sailor, purple sail, little sail, or simply Velella. Yes, they are small but they are amazingly resilient. Like Sammy Davis Jr (RIP). Or a toddler resisting bedtime.

When these wee jellyfish die their hardy mainsail remains, to become part of all that outlives us… their weathered windblown legacy.

More beaches – and discoveries await.

beach

Sea Change

The sea is my book today;
I read it wave by wave.
Light changes, wind shifts, the story unfolds,
the afternoon drifts on.
The mood is a placid one:
the water more green than blue.
Its movement is rhythmic, predictable,
like metered verse:
neat stanzas piling up on the shore,
politely making room for more.
Not like yesterday with its heavy drama,
all driving wind and heaving surf,
a real old-fashioned page-turner.
True to form,
it took no prisoners.
Tomorrow
from this same perch,
a brand new yarn awaits:
different book jacket,
different author,
title yet to come.

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September 1st and 2nd

September 1st

The obligatory backpacks bought,
The sectioned notebooks and the cornucopia of Sharpies,
Heralding the dull march back to classrooms, schedules.
In its forlorn wake a trail of
Unhurried pancake breakfasts
And lying perfectly still on a sun-scorched dock,
Until perhaps trailing a finger,
But only one.

September 2nd

Boats pulled out for the season
Children rushing to school
And like a switch was flipped overnight
The water in the bay now darker
Deeper

christmas lights

Minor Defects Will Not Affect Wear

How can you care not
For this earthly life?
Even with its vagaries,
Its ragtag beginnings,
Unspeakable endings.

Remember how
The latte at the corner café that late afternoon
Arrived as the autumn light dappled your newspaper just so,
Intertwined hearts atop the foam,
Courtesy of the beaming waitress who announced
She was getting married.

You sometimes reach the bus just in time.
Blood tests come back perfectly normal.
Simple mini lights transform a sad house.
A fresh fall of snow perfects a neglected yard.

Awaken to the astonishing delights of the
Here and now.
The two legged terrier with the tailor-made chassis,
The tired little girl in the shopping cart who smiles back,
A favourite Phil Collins song on the car radio
In the pouring rain.

There are blessings.
They must be heeded.
It doesn’t get better.
It just may be enough.