THE VISIT

I have never visited
the grave of my mother,
either of them, which seems most odd
primarily to me.
The mother I never knew
until it was too late to know her
is buried in Charleston, West Virginia
a place i intend to visit, grave site included
in the coming months, to see
where my mitochondrial DNA was planted
and grew into the odd shape
that greets me in the morning mirror.
The mother i knew so well, who could always find
ways to frustrate me when I was certain she exhausted
every possibility is buried next to my sister,
placed there by my brother who couldn’t quite
get the funeral together, at least not the one
she would have appreciated, with the near famous
all pump, never the right circumstances
so into the ground she went.
I will visit there too, someday perhaps,
but helical gravity will always
pull me to the Mountain State.

SANSHU’S BLINDNESS 正法眼蔵 四十

If you come forward
and ask no question
the master will
give you an answer,
but if you approach
with a question,
the master will
strike you with the stick.
It is only when
your eyes are blinded
that you can take up
the master’s staff
and all is clearly seen.

MOURNING

You never know how the news will arrive
you are just certain of its arrival.
You know it on some level, even as the event
is happening, but that doesn’t blunt
the piercing tip of the blade
that finds the soft spot in you and cuts deeply.
You hoped for a miracle for her, for her son,
her husband, for those who knew her
gentle smile, warm compassion, cutting wit,
when the situation demanded.
She was a friend who would appear
when needed most and slip away
when the need began to dissipate.
The news came today, the hole is fresh
and you can only attempt to fill it with memories,
knowing even as it seems again full
as do so many others as you age,
when you step into it you will plunge
back into the well of loss
and again struggled to find the sun
hiding in a too often darkening sky.

LBD PLEASE

She says every woman
should own a little black dress,
and during the time she tries them on
I am thinking what she meant was
every man should be married to
and in love with a woman
who wears a little black dress
as well as she does, but I say
It looks really nice on you,
You should buy it, and
I think, I will
find events to which you
can where it frequently, because
it looks so good on you, and you
in that little black dress
make me look so good
standing next to you, and men,
although they will never admit it,
are all so often about reflected glory.

CLARITY

There are those occasional moments
of clarity that appear without warning
and are, as quickly, gone.
We expect them less as we age
and they oblige us by staying away.
Children assume them, and are
rarely surprised, as though
they see them coming, need no warning
and have no expectation
anything will come of them.
Expectations grow proportionally with age
and patience diminishes apace.
The child understands all of this
with the same fascination she has
for a soap bubble, as she watches
each float away on the breeze of time.

SATURDAY MORNING, WINTER

The radio is suddenly blaring
and the clock of the stove says
seven o’clock but the window retorts
it is winter when there is no time.
You pull up your collar
as you prepare to leave.

At the store, pick up
a baguette, it will go well
with a pork tenderloin
with a sauce of Portabello mushrooms
and haricots, if you can find them
or green beans, if not.

The old dog stares at the door
debating the frigid tongue of the wind
or a burdened bladder.
She barely sets paw on the lawn,
squats and returns to her mat
in the front foyer.

Shake the snow from your collar
and leave your boots on the mat
while I warm the coffee left
from this morning and then
we will unpack the groceries.


First published in Potato Eyes Vol. 14, 1997

PUEBLO CHRISTMAS

The night is that bitter cold
that slices easily through
nylon and Polartec, makes
child’s play of fleece and denim.
The small rooms glow
in the dim radiance of propane lights
and heaters as the silver
is carefully packed away
in plastic tool boxes.
The pinyon wood is neatly stacked
in forty pyres, some little taller
than the white children
clinging to their parents’ legs,
some reaching twenty-five feet,
frozen sentinels against
the star gorged sky.
The fires are slowly lighted
from the top, the green wood
slowly creeps to flame
as its sap drips fire
until the pile is consumed.
Half frozen we step away
from the sudden oven heat.
The smoke climbs
obliterating the stars
as the procession snakes
from the small, adobe church,
the men at its head firing rifles
into the scowling smoke cloud.
A sheet is draped over the four poles
a chupah over the statue of the Virgin Mother
remarried to her people.
She weaves through the crowd,
gringos, Indians, looking
always upward, beyond the smoke
the clouds against which it nestles,
beyond all, for another
faint glimpse of her Son.