It’s become a time to discover things about yourself
you never knew.
This very day you realize
you are quite content sitting,
watching the birds come and go
at the feeder outside your window,
unconcerned of how much time is passing.
You may even search for a long ago gift from a friend,
a book you scarcely glanced at,
just now come to your mind –
Birds of Canada: Species and Habits.
You open page one.
Ready now, finally,
It’s become a time to discover things about yourself
There are always good people.
Mr. Rogers was right.
Just yesterday the man on the plane
who saw me struggling with the overhead bin,
jumped up, took over, smiling.
The mother of three across the aisle
handing out cleaning wipes,
her children willingly helping.
The flight attendant, struggling with her face mask,
joking with her colleague:
“If I hyperventilate behind this, you got me, right?”
The Customs official facing a sea of disgruntled travelers,
asking me if I had fever or sickness: I told him no.
“I’m happy you’re well,” he said, before sending me on.
Heads up, people.
We have widely different families and streets and seas,
but underneath it all
we share a beating human heart,
the same skies and sun,
the same bewitching moon.
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.
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
Indelible in their memory,
Of someone once kind to them.
Astride their backs
We borrow their majesty.
We borrow freedom.
The sun was hotter.
You can tell.
Look at us squinting against it in photos then.
Everything washed out by the glare,
all detail surrendered.
we could be anybody.
The gardens, look,
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.
nothing could go wrong.
Our lives lay ahead of us.
Men were above us,
landing on the moon.
(goodreads.com contest winner).
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 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,
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.”
“Get a skull.”
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.
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
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.
Boats pulled out for the season
children rushing to school
and like a switch was flipped overnight
the water in the bay now darker
the light becomes a
The school uniform, penance.
The wool knee socks even in summer.
The black serge tunics
shiny, slick, crisp, from too many hot irons.
The geese now heading south
unsettling sounds overhead, clearly the desperate pleas
of those who seek release.
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.
Crabs can rest a little easier now on Bahamian beaches,
with the little white four legged pest gone.
They were never truly at risk.
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,
your wee nose sand-covered, twitching,
before diving down time and again,
up and down the shore, irrepressible,
until all light had left the sky.
and I called you home.
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.
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