Thursday, November 16, 2017

Meditation in Absence

They say the hermit Anthony left his cave
because the neighbors always stopped by
to jeer at him, pester him with questions,
the kids throwing garbage and rock shards.

He dug a hole, trimmed a lodge pole
and tipped it upright, so he could sit
at a height away and alone,
a filthy, hungry man, stuck
beside an Egyptian road, trying to pray,

the narrow end of the tree top
like a soft cushion, his retreat
a tall wreath of nag champa,
swaying back from restlessness into
sleepiness, from agitation to apathy.

Still, the visitors come,
some with bread, some criticism,
wind and rain and unimpeded light
blinding him to what will be a graceful fall,
a grounding.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Mister Theresa

The roof of the world hides ice witches,
Britishers dried and flayed by their own drives,
desiccating in the winds that die
somewhere among the Jharkhand dunes
where she stands, burnt and bowed,
reciting an altered Balkan prayer.

Barely present, possessing no future,
she is sorting the things of men
and things unbecoming
with the necessary sloughing of skin.
She's an ecology now, fog haunting ice,
or a poisoned river, sunlit only to love birds.

I regret the cult, now feckless
and beyond control.
I resent the copyright on her blue rimmed robes.
Reciting the names of the healed and dead,
I'd expect the end of disease.
I still do.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

So Much to Get By

It is not possible to think
the goose is concerned only
with himself, not when
his sounding is sympathetic
in your throat, loud
and seemingly without medium.

Like goose-flight across
the innumerable lawns,
you drive north & south
on Highway One, thinking
this is not the time you die,

No, this is the road past
the nuclear plant cooling tower,
its blooming white flower
shredded on stacked
strato-cumulus clouds.

Soon enough, in August,
it will be hotter,
but your disbelief still
wears socks and high tops,

denying even while the clytemnestra,
plunked into the clay and soaked,
is somehow still green,
the bees wend to what
loses its grip and falls,
ripe and sweet, through
dense dusty myrtle.

There is never only the goose,
when there are goslings
and the season before goslings,
when the chickadees fling grass seeds
onto a park path,
or after a few years, see:
he passes with the moon.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Slow Lilac

A new spruce blocks the view
of some neighbors' houses from where I stand,
looking at the mossy shed
against the towering pitch pines.

I am trying a trick where I
memorize an image to carry with me,
the sky is featureless gray as
night is coming and this is not so easy,
too many careful flowers, hand laid stones
around the stepped pond,
twin birch trees bowing over a wood lawn chair,
the lawn in the completely delicate air.

My memory is just flashes like this anyway,
no idea how I got past the split rail fence,
can't follow the path to when
we ate dinner, drank hot tea,
and I must have walked the dog,
yes?  And did we talk?

I know that early morning crows
skimmed the wet road with their bright prizes,
there was an old oak
and at the corner road, a slow lilac,
which reminds me my father died
and that is how I arrived
in his yard under this gray sky.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Memo to the New Central Scrutinizer

Right off, move the dining room chairs
and lay on your back to see
the underside of the table
and how it's all put together.

Do this with all the tables you see,
disrupt the customers at the cafe,
curiosity making you
a difficult guest at friend's homes.

They've been suspicious of
the hidden bits of their furniture,
confused by what you may do
with the layers of laminated

facts they feel responsible for
yet ignorant of, and embarrassed
by your bony form laid down
along their imperfect floors

to inspect the assumptions,
the trestles and clamps
and tenons and screws they could have
trusted and now doubt.

Make vague offers to sweep up, absently
brushing away what crumbs and cat hair
may have clung to your back,
but promise to detail

the cracks and crooked joints
that tell of coming collapse,
decipher the meaning of each creak,
then shim a random leg.

Now build your own tables,
always in motion with wobbly wire, weak cleats.
Thinly glued and short-lived tables
that move on to become other objects:

an ear; a pair of eyes;
a three-toed monster
holding open a mid-century school book
under an unplugged lamp.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Map of My Pockets

After eight weeks in hotel time, we drove north
to Thanksgiving dinner and start this household move.
Following my mind as it follows the objects
that cross time and state lines, house to house,
I find these things keep sanity, sanitary, sanctity:

A notebook for its lists, the scattered pens,
some blank with disuse or cold, primitive
against my own virtual place in the world,

a knotted phone charging cord as a nest
for the yellow plastic tree frog that started with us
15 years ago in Oregon, riding my pockets east;

caramel sugared almonds in a small box
that I pick my teeth around, having poor dentition;
two ticket stubs to a Peter Pan musical,
where my son, strung up and green, flew;
an eyeglass cleaning cloth, safe from use;

a meter of baker's twine and a short leather strip;
three sales invoices and a thick motel receipt;
a pressure gauge clipped to the lip of my black jacket
to help monitor the right rear and left front tires;

black suede gloves in the lower left jacket, with three cup hooks,
nickel plated and loose among dog treat crumbs;
right side jacket holds the gray wool hat & dog leash
and two Master lock keys on a hooked lanyard.

In my jeans are more key rings looped together:
for the house where we're guests,
for the new house right now way down the road,
and a fob to the deflating white car.

The back pockets hold trash that's to hand when there's no can,
napkins collected as a habit from the days of small runny noses;
six wood screws for the laundry room door hinges
that I'll replace after the washer and dryer pass through.

If I handed off to you the weight of these things,
could you cobble a compass, walk the dog,
pick up the thread and, suspended among homes, find me?

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Minimal Passage

Those days, the kids returned from college,
I drove to the foundry and back,
our routines forming like wet brushwork
or fretwork, hidden in fingers then visible.

First thing one morning,
a rattling in the chain link,
hard to see just where, past the weeds
swirled on the far side of the cooling
swimming pool.

What, I thought, is strong enough
to shake all day?
The ravens aren't confined to the garden;
the squirrels too lank and wily.
But it's guesswork, the mind
outside the body.

Later, last in the evening,
I had to pull a dead rabbit
backwards out of a link loop.

Vincent Van Gogh gave the maid
Gabrielle Berlatier his severed ear,
a space too small to escape through,
shake as he might the whole fence.