Thursday, February 27, 2014

Feeding the Wild World





Deer and wild turkeys quarrel
over cracked corn strewn in my yard.
The deer wield hooves, the turkeys

peck and display. Each party
applies dirty looks. The corn on snow
looks festive and ornamental,

like gold dust sprinkled in quartz.
The world revolves on an axis
that terminates right at that stump,

the one on which a tom turkey
displays a halo of spiked feathers.
The deer refuse to kneel and honor

this phenomenon. Magnetic north
occurs just under the snow,
prickling their hides. I’d spread

more corn, enough for all parties,
but my appearance would spook the deer,
dismay the turkeys, and rupture

the electromagnetic tension
that holds this scene together.
Later, tired of watching the squabbles,

I’ll exit into the forest and slog
thigh-deep through pathless snow
to find an ornamental moment

I can call my own. A boulder
wigged with a snow-cap would do.
Or a wind-broken pine kneeling

with its crown all brittle and rusty.
The forest will scowl but tolerate
my presence. My clumsy deep tracks

will embody my form so firmly
the deer and turkeys, returning
to their customary habitat,                                                

in discovering the trail I’ve left
will be glad they didn’t cross me
in my gross inconceivable flesh.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Maxine Kumin: In Memoriam






 Maxine Kumin died recently. We were friends for many years.


Snowshoeing in the Joppa Woods

In Memoriam: MK

Snowshoeing in the Joppa woods
in concave February light,
I feel slight as punctuation,
my bigfoot tracks so shallow
a breath would fill them behind me.
The hemlock are breathless, though,
and thrust their armfuls overhead
as if offering them to the sun.

At the end of this unplowed road
your barn-red farmhouse clutches
three hundred acres of forest
and one small frozen pond where
skinnydipping in hot weather
defies clouds of mosquitoes and flies.
I skimmed over that pond this morning
and flayed it with my sullen gait.

Your reading tour in the South
has left your farm in my keeping.
Caesar, your Dalmatian, follows me
in the hock-deep snow. We’re friends,
your dog and me. Our habits
revolve around eating and walking,
reading and target shooting,
and refusing to answer the phone.

You trust me with your possessions,
but I’ve never met your children,
grown in all directions, and doubt
that your husband recalls my name.
The woods smell sweet as a bakery.
The sizzle of my broad-based stride
topples the silence and comforts
the dog, who wonders where you’ve gone.                                   

Meanwhile in your best beige suit
you’re basting a college audience
in your crisp suburban soprano.
They’ve never seen a woman like you,
whose verse straddles its victims
with a sly aggressive confidence
and tugs at various organs
until the creature laughs or cries.                       

Caesar slogs along, resigned
to my company. The sun drops
below the crest of the Mink Hills,
the hemlocks droop as if flirting,
and the old Joppa graveyard
thrusts a few illegible slates
into a jeering blackish smile.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas









Cat shelter quiet on Christmas Day,
no one browsing to adopt.
A box of toys mailed from Carmel.

In Timmy’s Room the big guys
nose about. Bob the tough one,
cabbage-headed veteran. Midnight,

long-haired gloss. Mr. Peepers
with gray saddleback and crown.
But it’s Dewey who thrusts himself

headlong into the box to root
through the catnip confections,
his rump soaring, his tail aflame.

No need to rescue him. The box
topples off the sofa and spills.
The guys each grab a toy. Other cats

tumble into the rumpus and bat
cloth mice, plastic balls with bells,
and catnip-filled vegetable shapes.

Bare trees shrug at the window.
A bright day, the snow cover stretched
over brassy weeds beyond

the rutted parking lot. The cats
prattle around the room, grinning.
A canned food treat slopped on large

plastic trays confirms the day
as special enough to remember
if cats remember as people do—

a slur of overlapping snapshots
sparking in the grain of neurons,
fading into black and white.