At 72, it takes two tries
to get each foot into my jeans.
I wobble and catch myself
against the closet shelf.
At 72, I nap each day
enjoy my dreams
scary or complex, puzzles
to ponder in waking hours.
At 72, it seems absurd
that I remember a child’s
great great grandmother.
I'm a walking history text.
At 72, my 87-year-old friend
says I am young. I should
not fret but get to work.
I have another 20 years.
At 72, I think of poems
unwritten, songs unsung
and return to my desk.
The day is young.
Truth runs thin in homes
diluted by pills and alcohol.
There’s no hook to hang your hat upon,
no rock on which to stand.
Mothers park along the driveway
at school’s end. Our Buick sits
cock-eyed across the curb.
I long to be like other kids, but
know I’m not. Vodka bottles line
the linen closet - a fully-feathered
duck rests in the freezer.
I show it to my friend.
The puppy ate mom’s sleeping pills
and will not wake again.
School is worse - so many faces
whose chatter makes no sense
to me. I am not them. Sunday’s
comics fill me with dread.
There’s no vacation from
fear, only blank days that
The Lord’s Prayer went missing today
on my knees no words to say.
Often a name, a place
evaporates as I reach for it.
Whole chunks of books I’ve read
when opened, I’ve lost the thread.
I used to drive with knowledge sure
of roads from today and long ago
my sense of place, a source of pride.
That map in my brain is gone.
This troubles me. It isn’t clear
what’s normal. What I should fear.
I trust the journey - friends, family, God
and if I must – will seek in books, maps,
stories, prayers to fill my lips
and ease my grip upon this world
and what remains – the precious gift
of days and hours, I ‘ve yet to claim.
Adrift in time,
days wash by
for date or name.
A whole week
vanished in August.
There is nowhere to go.
No one wants our dollars.
Once we modeled democracy.
Our story now's a dark comedy.
The President says the virus
will vanish like a mist.
No problem, he’s got this.
Magical realism is fine for
Isabel Allende and
Gabriel Garcia Marquez,
but has no place in a country where
people die alone in crowded hospitals
city folks swarm to the country
morgue trailers line city streets.
A pandemic’s not a minor event,
a slight inconvenience.
It stops the world.
No magic can blind us
to the growing
pile of corpses.
Warm at my back, black Aberdeen
dreams his fourteen years
chasing - never catching
cat and deer.
Awake he seeks me if I
leave his sight.
Howls the agony of
my upstairs to his down.
His almond eyes
give the lie to a gentle way
companion in migraine
patient with children.
He cannot hear me
when I call – stares heavenward
for long spells. Smells better
than any dog I know.
I carry him upstairs,
set him on my bed,
turn out the light.
Warm at my back, black Aberdeen
As I walk the old railroad bed away from town
violets and periwinkles peer from bright green ground cover
and the funky protozoan scent of the Raritan fills my nostrils.
A cardinal’s scarlet flashes from a Sycamore overhead
and two gold finches,like acrobatic dandelions,
frolic through the green haze of trees.
The path is lined with skunk cabbage, daffodils and buttercups,
their mix of intention and happenstance so like life’s.
High above, almost out of range, a hawk circles.
The hum of the nearby Interstate hardly matters here.
Its slinky spasms and urgencies are no longer my problem.
I’ve traded those for the white flowers of May Apples,
emerald velvet of moss and the disappearing tail of a red fox
trotting into the trees.
The world of commerce and its stresses
computers, paperwork, clocks
and what they count
roll off me in a grateful sigh.
I have lost my job and gained the world.
Please no box, no steel
to seal me from the earth.
Return me when it is my time
to all I was and wish to be again.
Release me to be born anew,
green and wonderful each Spring –
shoots sprouting from my heart
each part of me blooming.
A blue jay struts across the porch to forage in our planters. The red streak at eye level's a cardinal. White “ribbons” wrap the trees - plastic prayer flags to a God, gnome or Goddess unknown. A cuban lizard pulls one off the live oak on the corner. As I leave Johnnie’s Bakery, an Agama, his head and tail stripe the color of children’s aspirin, races ahead of me. Johnnie’s bread has the taste of hope hand-made, crusty, fresh. So too does the air, laced with scent of gardenia, magnolia and surf. Beauty confounds the thought of so many dead. Mourners bereft of goodbye are blind with grief while fear heightens others'senses. How can such extremes of bliss and horror cohabit this planet? The return of wildlife, clean air and quiet seas make it clear this earth can shrug us off without notice.
My aunt gave me the sea
in a book big as me.
Curled in a chair, I
wandered tidal pools
despite the Christmas chill
held hermit crabs
inhaled salt air.
I walked that book’s pages
with childlike devotion
an eight-year-old explorer
baby beach comber.
Robert Frost’s snow drifted
into my 4th grade class and
I listen for his horse’s bells
as I practiced writing
and first used an ink pen.
Line by cursive line
his poetry became mine
along with the smell of ink,
the feel of good paper,
the love of pens.
I began my own poems
in solitude, sweet solitude…
Dad dreams we flee the Nazis,
our ‘55 Buick low on gas.
We drive by the sea.
They come with guns.
They come in submarines.
He wakes sweating and terrified.
He shares his fear with me.
Nazis enter my dreams
dragging the stench of Dachau.
They come with guns.
They come in submarines.
I wake sweating and terrified.
Neo-Nazis march in Charlotte
armed - flags waving,
hatred palpable and near.
In dreams, I hear
the thud of boots
on the night stairs.
Hold every cell still
palm under chin
legs and feet balanced.
Stay in the trough
between cough and ache.
Sleep without waking
throb and cry
She touches me
as if I'm rock or tree
immune to time
impervious to woe.
The twenty years
(with luck and grace)
invisible to her.
In her constant now
our cardinal sings
the mac ‘n cheese is hot.
We walk the stones in her backyard
our sacred spot.
She will have time enough
to seek me
in rocks and trees
when I’m gone.
Today she leans
against my jeans
and turns me
These mornings are it, life’s glory
disguised as just another Spring day.
Sunshine, leaving for work in the soft air -
a bit of traffic, not too much – an easy commute.
The sweetness of it, life here and now -
The no big deal, the simple day, the normalcy.
It’s what I yearn for when life turns cruel
to drive over the bridge into town
to breathe the smell of the river,
to ride down Main Street as cherry trees blossom.
Give me a day like that, I think
one with no special thoughts or agonies,
a day to enjoy my habits with nothing amiss.
Sometimes I walk right by them without noticing,
these perfect days, driving down Main Street.
Squirrels remind me of a man
I loved, who with rope and spike
climbing trees and swinging
limb from limb.
“They are my brothers”
he said. Came home crying one day
because he crushed a nest,
killed babies, when he felled
I stop to watch
a tree man work today.
High in the air he swings
in chain saw ballet. As
I watch him cut,climb
leap from limb to limb,
my young life returns to me.
I see my love without a net
fearless and free
against the sky.
A flattened Cane Toad lies
in the street. Its poison can kill a dog.
They hunt by the garage at night
under the light - run when I come out
leap into the garage door
with a THUD. Invasive.
When the temperature drops
below 40 in South Florida,
iguanas fall from trees like rain.
“Don’t touch them” we’re told
these colorful creatures are dormant.
They advise us to kill them -these visitors
from the Jurassic. I cannot.
How could they know they’re trespassing?
Purple stalks of Lupine carpet Iceland
their color pops against green moss.
Their beauty out-competes
local flowers - poses for photo ops
with tourists picnicking by “Keep Off” signs,
blankets old lava flows and glacial melts.
Visitors stride from ships and planes to seek
this island’s treasures - yet urge it to trade
silkies for Sea World.
Loosestrife blooms each August at riverside
in my old town. The mill wheel turns.
Art hangs in the stone museum.
People come for the small shops and fine buildings
but stay for quiet streets overcast by ancient trees.
The area booms when the Interstate is finished -
corporate folks out-compete farmers.
Agway loses to Walmart.
Commuters careen past hay wagons
on country roads.
we’re not artists
in all places, times.
no one’s whole life rhymes.
at moments we may
draw, write, pray.
at others, watch,
love, raise children,
join the fray of being.
let’s love ourselves
await the time
when Spirit calls
then pick up pen or violin
Las Vegas. How glorious.
It’s a hot diggity dog free-for-all.
No planning, no zoning –
dump it all out there
on dry-as-a-bone high desert,
a pawnshop, car-wash heaven.
Million dollar-gated communities rest flush against
junked car yards with razor wire fences,
graffitied underpasses and washed out arroyos
with undocumented poverty up the
In the middle of which someone has dropped
a statute of liberty, a sphinx and a pyramid
stitched together by a roller coaster -
“Oh, say can you see!"
People flock here to drop millions.
“They’ve shipped the wild horses north.” The park ranger told me. “They couldn’t survive here.”
To which sins shall I confess?
Panic when as an infant, you’d hold your breath and faint?
Complicity moving away from Grandpa?
Weakness, letting you visit your father who was still drinking?
for the dogs you did or didn’t like
for shopping trips where you spent money like a Sheik
for not punishing your $300 pre-Christmas phone bill
for loving you when you were your least loveable.
We refract the light that spawns us
Blue permissiveness from black strictness
Green sprouts from shiny white bread
Time unearths our original sin,
No one comes from nothing.
Who birthed him – potty trained him
taught him to tie his shoes?
The concept’s blind to the myriad
lives that touch our own -
The workers who create roads
The teachers, who teach math and language
The plumbers who keep the sewers working
The linemen who climb poles to keep the lights on
Who made the shirt he wears?
His shoes? His socks?
Rich or poor we all rely on weaver, seamstress
garbageman and priest
to help us through our days.
In this time of plague, we’re reminded
no infant can change its own diaper.
The whole place we built by hand not just paper and paint. We hung rafters from the sky a chimney and bright metal roof which sang in every rain. We walked blank land and invented life anew in the Blue Ridge as if anyone ever starts again. Years later a blind date remarked “You’ve spent your life on houses.” True. Like a nest-obsessed bird, I’ve painted my way from town to town designing space for friends and music, tables to sit at and chairs to read in. I envisioned a family unlike my scattered patchwork which rarely gathers where I live. All that time and work for a life dreamed of a love desired – perhaps that’s why birds have not just nests but wings.