Sunday, August 11, 2013
Monday, August 5, 2013
in salt marshes south of Brunswick
we ease ourselves into contours
so gentle they don't show on maps.
Only the washboard effect
of successive waves of lavender
reveals a dainty presence.
Sea-lavender sells for five
dollars a spray in Boston,
but we're harvesting just enough
to warm us one dreary winter,
a candelabra as nostalgic
as my mother's genealogy.
Last night when the wind banged the doors
in our rented cottage and the tide
swept our neighbor's dory from the beach,
we felt each other quicken in sleep
as we both dreamt of gathering
sea-lavender in brilliant light.
I also dreamt, quite separately,
that a former lover came home
to sort through my possessions
and take away what pleased her,
items like the shard of slate
from the Deerfield Massacre stone,
the purple ribbon from Robert
Lowell's grave, the small glass cat
that was my first gift from my wife.
No wonder when morning came
I proposed we scout the marshes
for sea-lavender, despite the rain,
our bodies still uneasy
upon us, the briny damp
revealing as X-rays or radar,
the losses of our previous lives
reflected by the stony fog
and empowered by the radiance
ignited by our love of the sea.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Friday, May 31, 2013
The nurse called just as I coaxed the broken-wing bluebird into a box. “Your mother’s in poor health,” she said, “your mother’s dying, your mother’s dead.” I should call the funeral home, the florist, the gravedigger, but first I have to get this bird to the bird doctor, the fellow with the ostrich plume-design on his stationery. He specializes in bird repair. They come in broken and leave more or less whole. Some get artificial wings that beat by means of a hearing-aid battery, slung under the bird’s body like an amulet. Some get new beaks to replace those blunted by crashing into windows. The doc shapes the new beak from plastic, fusing it to the old beak-stump with superglue.
The doc is in. The bluebird perks up when I open the box and the doc’s big blond Viking-face peers in. The bird chirps, and then bursts into song. I think the tune is “That Old Black Magic,” but I haven’t heard it in that key before. “Nothing wrong with his beak,” the doc opines. He touches the bent wing and then flexes it. “Not broken, not at all, just sprained.” I’m so grateful. I explain that my mother is dead. “Everyone’s mother is dead,” he observes, “or will be. You could bring her in and I could try to fix her, but reactivation doesn’t always please the reactivated. Think of her happiness. If she returned from death, what would she tell the neighbors?” I agree to think. The doc poses the bird on his thick right forefinger and smiles at it. The bluebird launches into a Gershwin medley, rounding every note with a smile.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
The Simplest Geometries
Wild turkeys browse in the yard.
Their teardrop bodies look solid;
their tiny heads and feet work
the ground so briskly not a grub,
insect, or kernel will survive.
They cast shadows thick enough
to prevent the tatters of snow
from thawing. Toms in full display
stagger with the effort of fanning
their feathers in sun-shaped arcs.
Busy feeding, the hens ignore them.
Tomorrow I’ll have to clean the yard
by running a wet-dry vacuum
tethered to the house by a cord
fifty feet long. Years ago I dreamt
of hanging myself with that cord.
I looped it around a gargoyle
on the façade of Notre Dame
and swung myself above the tourists
crowding the Ile de la Cité.
Why did I awaken so refreshed
by what should have been a nightmare?
The grim sensation of smirking
over the plaza while treading
nothing but sky still lingers
with an air of accomplishment.
The turkeys will loiter all day.
They aren’t afraid of me. Their shadows
reorganize the April light
into the simplest geometries.
Their appetites steer them here
and there over tiny plots of earth
they own for as long as they can feed.
The glory of their presence costs me
only a few handfuls of seed.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Myra puddled among beige cats.
Beige herself, she disappears
except for her bat-ears looming
above the crowd. The other cats
welcome Myra’s alien features:
elongated head, spindle legs,
whippet tail. She’s popular,
and fecund, once, giving birth
to more than twenty litters
of Oriental Shorthair kittens.
After eight years, too exhausted
to continue, she faced extinction;
but the shelter queen snatched her
from her indifferent owner’s grasp.
She’s the only sample of her breed
among a hundred and fifty cats—
yet unadoptable, unwilling
to live in a house lacking cats
enough to shield her from the world.
Five years huddled here among
cats glad to have her. Sometimes
she withdraws to the under-parts
of a tattered upholstered chair
and snores her old lady snore
alone in the dark. More often
we find her cuddled with her friends,
all complementing her color.
We brush and feed her as if she
alone occupied this shelter;
and the sixty other cats
in this room gaze upon her
with a certain satisfaction,
as if her exotic framework,
more like a monkey’s than a cat’s,
flattered by comparison.