Countryfolk favored wood to stone;
church, stairs, an ancient ash-gray dock,
except in the cemetery behind some evergreens
where Martha and the baby are laid under
granite like a lump in the pastor's throat.
Mallards rise on a tonic chord
from the organ tuner's stroke.
Not staying for the recital
they are flying on their own music;
fading in the southern sky
expanded by two souls.
a dozen prawns recline in the skillet,
black roe-eyes staring upwards
through molten butter
and each others' whiskers.
Garlic perfumes them like incense.
Liquid gold bathes their translucent
shells. A cut lemon
squeezes out the last anointing
fragrant myrrh worthy of a king,
an ephemeral gesture,
like all last rites.
Ten minutes ago, they squirmed
in a basket at the market,
mounds of living commas,
dreaming of mud at low tide,
now rising at last
in manicured hands
to the heaven of human hunger.
I wit you start. You will occur to me.
Over and over the distance shouts
in the dimness and the darkness of an
overshadow. You wait right there a
virgin, untouched by flame or duration.
I cannot hide my house. Your vision
rests nested in my heart like another
face looking at me with the accusation
of defeat. I cannot rest. I must undie
in each and every moment. I must not
tire for the relief. You nod your head
at me whenever I must ask to pass, and
your gnarly roots grab at my running
like so many tentacles on an orb. I must
be cautious. Even the rain can produce
the mud that rates that even second lapse.
I want to win. I must survive. The two
planes rest upon each other in the dark
two countries of space noting it in need.
Stick to the gun and arrive. The merit lies
in cunning with the self. Ruthless lying to
the ego to get the job done. I don't want
to walk. Just the same. Torturing the
ease and indolence with the exercise that
they discipline with work. Leaving pain
vanished in the air behind us, and leaving
us brimming with answers up on the top.
Memories are not still. They are full of passion,
action, causal events. But sometimes an image freezes
as in a movie frame, and presents itself as the only thing to grab for
to make the beginning of a poem; chances are it's a symbol and much to be desired.
Cling to it as though for dear life,
with the force of a worm kissing its way into an apple
or a leech fastening onto a naked heel.
Let there be the still picture of a wild rose,
then let time lapse photos swell
and open the bloom
before a hoary heart
and in this moment start
to fashion the tale.
The still is the kernel.
It is the nugget.
It is the protein in the meal.
Maybe you think I keep you
like I keep my old shoes
because I can't bear
to break in new ones
but that's not the reason.
After all these years
you’re still a good fit,
still polished to a shine
in my eyes.
I want to be laced up with you
as long as I live.
(First published in Grab-a-Nickel,
Fall/Winter 2004-2005, p. 12.)
It was June.
We walked through a sea
of tall grass which bowed
to the ocean breeze,
revealing clumps of gossamer, pink wild roses--
their fragrant petals glistening in the sunlight.
The breath of wild roses permeated our pores,
became part of us, and all else faded;
the blue cloudless sky, boom of distant fog horn,
swoosh of waves hitting the shore,
and the harsh call of seagulls.
Now, when I hear someone speak of Maine,
I am there again;
seagulls are flying above Nevil Light;
I feel the ocean breeze blowing the grass
and I breathe deeply
of the perfume of wild roses.
is as big and thick as cream
and after a harsh northern
Winter, I'm going to sit
outside in its gold warmth
and let its gentle sparkles
pour across my face
so that I can lick up
each extra drop of it
until I am no longer
bruised by ice and sleet,
I eat until I feel soothed
in each frostbitten cell,
soothed the way only
love can soothe,
healed the way
only love can heal.
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