JEALOUSY (AGAIN)

We are jealous of trees,
anchored as we are
to a grasping earth,
able to tear free only
momentarily or with
the help of machines,

for trees can approach
the clouds, swaddle
all manner of birds,
and, we are certain,
know heaven more
intimately than we can.

And trees are jealous
of birds, able to fly
well above their highest
branches, knowing
the true blue of the sky
and the verdant base
from which they took flight.

Just for the fun of it I asked ChatGPT to write a poem on this topic. Here is its effort:

In envy we gaze upon the sky, Watching birds soar with such grace and ease, Their wings taking them to places high, Leaving us on the ground to freeze.

We long to join them in their flight, To feel the wind beneath our wings, To escape the troubles of our plight, And spread our arms to feel the fling.

But alas, we are not meant to fly, Our feet firmly planted on the earth, While birds glide through the clouds on high, Showing us the true meaning of worth.

We may be jealous of their freedom, But let us not forget our own, For we have the ability to dream, And make our own paths to be shown.

So let us not dwell on jealousy, For we too have our own unique gifts, Let us embrace our humanity, And find joy in the life we’re given

SMALL REFLECTION

It is that moment when the moon
is a glaring crescent,
slowly engulfed by
the impending night—
when the few clouds give out
their fading glow
in the jaundiced light
of the sodium arc street lamp.
It nestles the curb—at first a small bird—
when touched, a twisted piece of root.

I want to walk into the weed-strewn
aging cemetery, stand in the shadow
of the expressway, peel
the uncut grass from around her headstone.
I remember
her arthritic hands clutching mine,
in her dark, morgueish apartment, smelling
of vinyl camphor borsht.
I saw her last in a hospital bed
where they catalog and store
those awaiting death, stared
at the well-tubed skeleton
barely indenting starched white sheets.
She smiled wanly and whispershouted
my name—I held my ground
unable to cross the river of years
unwilling to touch
her outstretched hand. She had
no face then, no face now, only
an even fainter smell of age
of camphor of lilac of must.

Next to the polished headstone
lies a small, twisted root.
I wish it were a bird
I could place gently
on the lowest branch of the old maple
that oversees her slow departure.

First published in Rattle #23, Spring 2005

ARRHYTHMIA

Life ought be little more than
arrhythmic motion, a path
we only want to straighten,
to smooth, its natural, necessary
twists and bumps somehow,
for we always see them as
impediments not moments
of joyous indecision where
there are no wrong choices
for each choice unfolds
a new path never trodden,
never imagined or foreseen.

A bird flies to where it needs
to be, but for most that are
not migrating, that place
isn’t known until arrival and
even then, save for nesting,
it is the right place only for
a day, a week, a month
or perhaps only a moment,
for a bird knows only this
moment and this until
there are no more moments.

PRISONERS

As we sit
in the great metal tube
we imagine ourselves
birds awaiting the freedom
only the sky offers.

The clouds reach down
swaddling us and we
realize that we have
yet to fledge, likely
never will do so.

Peering out the small
window, the earth shrinks
and grows large again,
and as we step out,
the birds look at us
and feel only pity.

CIRCLING

This morning as the bell
signaled the end of morning zazen
the whistling ducks took up
their song, circling the wetland
as if inviting me to photograph them.

They quickly grew bored waiting
and flew off to a place
I do not know, can not imagine.

Perhaps they will return
this afternoon, circle
in a duck like pose as I capture
them with the long lens, and this
will satisfy them for another day,
but perhaps they will not return
and punish me again
for my morning absence.

LUNCH

The pelican has remarkable patience. It doesn’t hurt that he knows how this will play out. It’s pretty much the same, day after day. That’s life on the jetty. Once the crusty old man is done fishing, once he packs up his cart to leave, he will dump his remaining bait fish on the jetty. Or, as the pelican prefers to think of it, the buffet table.

THE NATURAL KEY TO HEAVEN

The hawk sits on a branch
looking up at the sky, knowing
this is perfection, lifting up
chasing a cloud, floating lazily.

The butterfly flits from plant
to plant, tasting the fruits
that nature has given her,
perfection in a single moment.

The cat sleeps on a rocker
the breeze rustling her coat,
until waking for dinner
which appears at her request.

We spend hours searching
for the keys to heaven, hoping
to insure what comes after this
life, but so often not living it.

CASSANDRA IN FLORIDA

She is large, and largely immobile
and occupies the bench by the road
that encircles the property like a noose.

She does this each day, a crust
or more of stale bread tucked away
in a pocket of her always floral

housedress that envelopes her
and the bench she occupies
as a monarch on her throne.

The ibis see her coming and gather
at her feet like acolytes awaiting
words from their sage and goddess.

She doesn’t disappoint them, telling
them a tidbit of the world, more often
who was taken sick overnight, who

died yesterday, always a shock
she says, then whispers conspiratorially,
but actually expected, of course,

for everyone here has numbered days,
and then tells them stories of her life,
real and imagined, the veil between

her truth and her fiction now diaphanous.
They grow impatient, but a good queen
reads her subjects and reaches

into the pocket pulling out the crusty
bread, smiles at her flock, says see, I bring
manna and together we cross the desert.

First Published in Chantarelle’s Notebook, March 2019
https://chantarellesnotebook.com/2019/03/22/

NO CLICHES HERE

The birds in this part of Florida
have found a way around the cliche
and we are thankful they have done so.

As we saw last week when
the neighbor’s yard was regraded,
and before the new sod arrived,
the “soil” was mostly sand
and there was not a worm
to be found anywhere.

Yet the birds, early and late
got all they wanted to eat,
for their meals are insects
so from now on I shall have
no alternative but to work
to death the phrase, “the early
bird catches a few insects.”

Do you think it will get any traction?

ABSURD, FL

The utter and complete absurdity
of living in Florida can
be ever so easily illustrated.

Last evening the neighbor’s
dog decided it needed
to express itself and did so
in clear and loud terms.

The limpkins and gallinules
in the wetland behind
both our homes shouted back
and based on my admittedly
limited vocabulary of bird
there were several four
letter words and at least one
upraised middle claw,
for that language is universal.

And all of this was once
Native American land and I
am certain they would not be
pleased at what we have created
and the birds would agree.