Saturday, February 22, 2014

Found Barefoot on a Winter Beach

Elderly man
Found dead
On local beach
This morning,
Half in-half out
Of the water,

That much is known;
Heart attack suspected.

A few hours later
I walked by the site
Of his body's discovery--
Part of my regular route.

Nothing seemed different.

You’ve got to think,
Of his last moments alive--

Taking off his shoes
To feel the surf
And sand
Around his feet--
The bracing cold and wet
Of the abiding sea.

Did it seem like
An eternity passed
During those last sensations
Before he lost them all?

I believe it's a slander that
The next day,
In the morning paper,
They were calling his death
A suicide.

Perhaps he just wanted
To go back to beginnings--
Get one with Nature.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Wear Signs of the Struggle Lightly

For reasons having nothing to do
With the intention of the author,
That bromide suggested itself
While reflecting on a New Yorker article
I'd read in bed the night before,
Subtitled, "Views on Growing Old:"

"Wear Signs of the Struggle Lightly."

I don't care to look into where
Those uplifting words might have come from,
But they got me to thinking.

The piece was written by a poet,
Donald Hall,
While gazing out a window
Of his ancestral home
On a New Hampshire farm.

Hall's ruminations
Are anchored
By the vision of an old barn,
Its roof recently jury-rigged
To prevent collapse--
A hasty repair that, even so, he knows
Will see him out.

Hall spends most of his time now
At this old window,
Watching seasons change
As he thinks about past
Generations of relatives, bodies
Now occupying an immaterial dimension
Around this durable,
Timber-built house.

The image his words evoke in me,
However, is not of some same blood
Concentrated on a few
New England acres
For a hundred and fifty years.

Back that far
My folks were scattered
Over half the Midwest--
Carpenters and grocers,
Dirt farmers,

My thoughts, as
Hall lets me
Look through his eyes, are,
Of the wood--

The wood that's framing that window,
As well as all the doors, and
Wainscoting in the dining room,
Polished pine floors,
Finely grained and thigh-thick
Hewn hardwood beams.
They're of wood!

Moss-backed, rotting in the barn,
Or growing old on a dry and
Amputee oak out toward the edge
Of the yard.

I imagine blackened,
Shredding bark of an ancient
Wisteria stretching, straining,
Gnarling up the front porch.

I can see graying cedar
Fence posts sporting
Polyps of fungi,
Disintegrating into earth.

We take all this wood for granted,
Harshly prune, poison and cut,
Pulp and overuse it,
Scratch our initials
Into its trunk.

Yet, unaccountably,
Thankfully, for us
There'll always be
A feeling of sympathy
Emanating deeply
From the wood.

"Wear Signs of the Struggle Lightly"?
I don't think so.
That sounds like
Some sophistic
Way of thinking,
That's neither the way of wood
Nor human.

We both support, and bear our scars,
Bend or decay with time
Until we reach the ground:
It's our nature.

"Wear Signs of the Struggle Proudly"
Is more like it.

Friday, November 18, 2011


On a Friday night after work,
The first promise of snow is in the air.
I'm out on the back porch
Looking east at the sky.

Up ahead,
A long distance flight powers down.
Its light makes tunnels through
Orange-lit street clouds.
Its suddenly insistent thrumming
Joins the theater-voiced city--
All the humanity, motors,
And small animals
This side of Phinney Ridge.

Under our black and crimson night,
A few fresh-faced stars
Nudge and wink
Over a private joke
That I'm privileged to understand.

A week ago, though,
Out on the front porch that time,
I looked at the rain on the street
And remembered a juvenile me--
Even into my fifties, for god's sake--
Inhabiting soggy afternoons just like this,
All drug-addled, brain-fevered, and flopped sweat,

Stalking what passed as normal,
But getting nowhere near.

Oh, thank you, Lord.

Thank you, my dear wife,
And daughters, and
Recently departed mom,
For bringing me back here
From where I used to think
I belonged.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Under the Skin

Under the skin,
All over my body,
Pieces of something
Have taken root.

My nose has sprouted
My forehead,
A sebaceous cyst--

"Like the stump of the horn
Of a shorn devil,"
I think,

Friday, June 10, 2011

Chilling at the Ragged Edge

The other night I was
Crossing the living room carpet
After turning off the lights
And checking the doors,
And I felt--
Really felt--
Something strange,
Like electric,
Coming from the shadows on the floor.
I was stoned--yeah--but still, it was there:

An energy crackling,
A feeling giving me tingles,
Making it impossible to sleep.

(You know what I mean,
Or maybe not--no foul--
But let me tell you:)

The Olmec and Iroquois were down there
Chanting denial of oblivion.
They were
Pounding in the basement,
Carousing, bloody ghosts of the defeated,
Becoming more raucous by the moment,
Demanding to be joined.

Would you be coming, too?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Back Up

Under a chill and fitful sun,
Past the parking strip trees
Being whipped by a spring wind:
I'm driving again.

In preparation for this foray,

In a discreet paper bag
I have carefully packed
An extra pair of pants
And underpants,
On top an absorbent pad,
And--just in case--an adult diaper.

The bag's on the backseat now,

Helping to keep my mind at ease.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

No Dignity

[Warning: Contains graphic images that some may find appalling.]

Bent at the waist,
With head on forearm and forearm
Hooked around the rim
Of the bathroom sink, I look down,
At my bare legs.

Above the knees I can see an expanse of
Tiny corrugations delicately wrinkling
The flaccid skin, and,
Never noticed before.

I have assumed this odd posture
Of rumination
In order to move along the gas
That gurgles and squeaks
Through my bowels.

Below me, a plastic tube coils up
From a frisbee-shaped bag--
A urine receptacle and newly-found companion.
The tube stretches
Into and through my urethra,
Connecting the bag on the floor directly
To my bladder.

Being as careful as I can not to
Stretch the incisions that run intermittently,
Like a blackened ragged rainbow,
Across my belly,
I slowly lower my buttocks
To the cold seat
Of the toilet.

I know from brief experience that
This action will strain the tube
Across my leg, painfully pulling
On the tender tip of my penis, so,
In order to give it more slack,
I will first lean forward to avoid stretching
The stitches in my stomach,
And then adjust the tube in a Velcro strap
That's pasted to my thigh.

I will sigh with relief,
And sit patiently above the porcelain bowl,
Making note of an umbilicaled
And bald baby bird
Perched lonely
In its nest of pubic hairs.

I will listen to a sputtering stream of farts, and
Will hope soon for some semblance
Of defecation.