Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Barred Owl in the Larch



The owl thinks so hard the air

around it shivers like foil.


You’re excited by its presence,

a brown muddle in the larch.


Other birds sound alarms, jays

rasping from deep in their throats,


crows hacking at the atmosphere.

You want me to photograph


this hunter as it thinks of mice,

its brain waves almost visible.


It may look like a slab of bark,

but our friends will admire it


and envy its bottomless poise.

The day darkens into thunder.


We dread these late summer storms,

which sometimes fell large maples


or pepper us with bursts of hail.

The owl will ignore the weather,


shrugging deeper into its feathers

and gripping its perch with talons


firmer than our finest handshakes.

I retreat to my room and clutch


my various timid organs

while you in the kitchen soothe


our pair of tuxedo cats

who stare at the owl outside


with all their instincts tingling.

As the storm breaks, I’m staring


at my photograph of the owl.

Shaped like a loaf of whole wheat bread,          


it clutches the perceptible

world around itself and peers


into the imperceptible world

with a focus honed to kill.


Thursday, August 26, 2021

Peterborough Murder Mystery


We say, “Good night,” but the night

incorporates nothing good.

The river exhales an opaque mist.

We both hear the splash of a corpse

tossed from the bridge. We return

to the spot on the pavement

where our alibis had lingered

not quite long enough. The stiff

may turn up so far downstream

no one will blame us for dashing

to the all-night diner to regroup.


The stainless well-lit space

hums to itself. Cops perch on stools

and chat up the waitress. Her face

is cloudy as a nebula. Smiles

droop from it like rusty sickles.

We order coffee and console

ourselves with knowable facts.

That splash may be innocent.

Maybe it was a buck deer leaping

into the river for a bath.

Maybe it was suicide

and therefore not our business.


But there was something absolute

about that splash, something creeping

through the mist to shiver us.

Only murder crawls so many

legged up the spine and haunts

bystanders with a lack of clues.

The squat cops gnawing burgers

are prepared to handle the dark side

of this village. But we know nothing,

except that the river’s very cold.                         


Was that your carcass or mine

tossed so casually into the dark?

Let whoever finds the victim

drifting downriver alert

whatever authority lingers

in this world of gray excuses.

The mist is so thick tonight

it erases all but the cruelest

moments, leaving minor dramas

to terminate well before dawn.




Tuesday, July 13, 2021

In the Breath of the Waterfall


 It’s good standing in the breath of the waterfall. The spray feels like bolts of silk flung into the air. The roar divides into complex phrases and elongated sentences. If I stand here long enough, I’ll become a water creature, freshly gilled. Or at least amphibious, frog-faced to face an uneasy world. Days of midsummer rain have refueled the waterfall. A year ago, it was dry, a hulk of boulders without obvious purpose. I climbed up the wall of stone and stood where the brook had flowed all winter. The July heat had sunk into the naked outcroppings. Now it’s a thrust of power nothing organic can challenge. I want to live in its favor forever. At least for a moment or two longer. If I slip on this plank walkway, I’ll flush downstream all the way to the serious river in the valley below. That’s only a couple of miles, but the abrasion of the rocks would render me naked to the bone. That has its own attractions, but for now I’ll just inhale the mist, a membrane between dream and dreamer, porous but tough..

Friday, July 2, 2021

Slime Mold



You mistake it for an upchuck.

This tacky shapeless construct

aggregates independent cells

to protest through sheer disgust.

It objects to climate change


and to the dogma of structure

that dominates sentient minds.

This eukaryotic creature,

neither flora nor fauna,

adheres to bark mulch placed


for aesthetic effect behind

the chic brick shop that sells

fair trade goods from Peru.

This temporary alliance

of cells can creep elsewhere,


if most of the cells agree

on direction, speed, and purpose.

Sensitive to airborne chemicals,

alert to possible sources

of food, it can change its shape


from one abstract expression

to another. It may form stalks

of fruiting bodies flinging spores.

It eats bacteria, compost, yeast,

and even competing fungi.


Aren’t you sorry you mistook

this elaborate creation for bile?

Although this fuligo septica

is commonly called “dog vomit”

by other thoughtless people,


you should apologize before

its many cells decide to trace

you to your source and slime you,

rendering everything you believe

that revolting shade of yellow.