Friday, June 28, 2013


If I knew
the names
of all the grasses
in this pasture

Would I see them
in a new light

Could they suddenly
beyond their language of wind
more specifically explain
the life in me

that I try
and try to resurrect
in these dead letters?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Possums are so chillingly detestable to me that I cannot bear to look at them. As road kill, it is hard to decipher what is outer and inner, so grotesque is their skin. A mother and babies at her teats under the car in the driveway, pink and gray, look like squirming aliens. One moves across the pavement and disgusts me with its slow, seeming blindness. Its hideous nose relentlessly pulls its hideous body and worm of a tail, dull and useless.

On a rapturous summer morning in a week of them while my seventeen-month-old grandson visits, I pull him to the meadow in our ritual of sunrise, wind and birdtalk. He holds the sides of the wagon, and occasionally I brush mosquitoes from his temples. He looks serious while we encounter a golden cosmos flower, a few blue dianthus, tall grasses and sumac. Bending poplars whisper and wave. Wrens and sparrows leap in the trees around the perimeter of the meadow bowl. We don’t speak, or if we do it is hushed, hoping not to disturb all this. It is a pretense, and I sense in my gut that we don’t belong. Yet there is no resistance to our being here.

We reach the tree swing, and he grins, waves his arms and points, preparing for me to pick him up. I wrap my right arm and hand around his waist, set him firmly in my lap, take hold of the rope with my left hand and balance us trickily on the wide wooden board while my feet run backward steps on the ground to start our descent from as high an arc point as possible. And release. Wind. Celestial wind. My chin on his head, his hair fine as spider silk blowing across my lips. The branch is high, so the pendulum swings long and slow. In silent appreciation we feel part of this grace, this cool wind and shade in hot summer, these creatures driven to survive.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a possum, big and fat. He is crawling slowly in our tree’s shade, in the mown circle with us, at the edge of the tall grasses, so slowly that he doesn’t seem to be moving. I have a decision to make: Welcome him, ignore him, or wish him away. I whisper to James, “Look, a possum.”

“Der,” he says. (“There.”) Enthralled, we watch this animal be with us, watch us. We keep swinging, with my periodic ground steps to restart the pendulum. For a full ten minutes we watch each other without another word. Possum's eyes are huge, aware. He walks slowly away, into the grasses. James lifts his hands in his gesture of “where is it?” and I whisper, “he’s going to sleep in the grass.” We swing a while longer, and he asks a few more times in the same way, “where is possum?”

For once I know the possum, a little. I see him in my mind’s eye. He is not ugly (this one, at least, is not ugly). I doubt he will ever be ugly to James. The possum lives in “our” meadow. He welcomes us. He shows me what is ugly in myself and changes me.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Will they ever find Jimmy Hoffa?

Apparently the FBI has revived the hunt for Jimmy Hoffa in a field in suburban Detroit, after a tip from mobster Tony Zerilli.

* * *

Muffled, hooded and knocked on the head,
steak and baked potato just eaten,
lips greasy, dark wine forever,
then a field, alive.
What matters
in this body of the world
that opened to him before
he was dead,
making his Mother Earth
an accomplice, enfolding him
into his final lap of sleep?
The meaning of life
is that it stops, Kafka said.
And yet we never stop digging.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Custodian

Last summer the meadow foundered
under the blazed stare of the sun.
Goldenrod browned, shriveled
and listed like masts in a dry marina —
no sails, no wind, no water.
All summer long I hardly
dipped my toe into that dusty font —
the whole sanctuary abandoned
by God, bird and woman.
But what Nature ruins, Nature can
repair, having the keys. Today She
overturns her silver box,
gliding rain into all her little locks.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Anguish in the garden

Sometimes when you want to cry, you just have to laugh. Events both universal and personal coalesce in a week of distressing times. I am seeking peace and openness, or hoping for it at least, when my will is weak. Some days peace hides, until unexpected messengers break it open in spite of themselves, and me.

* * *

Anguish in the garden

Away from the house's story
peopled with damp fears

I am looking for quiet in the sun
among the blooming chives

when there erupts the relentless clucking wail
of a chicken trapped

behind the wheelbarrow in the barn
and an echoing spastic cry

of another from the coop below 
which ignites yet a third from the hydrangea—

a trio of irritating sirens
screaming the three alarm fire in my head

and we all burst into flame
of charismatic confusion

burning hot and quick until over and out
we move on in hulked silence