It is just that sort of summer day
when the sparse clouds crawl ever more slowly
across the city, peering down, as if wishing
they could end their journey, knowing this won’t happen.
On the fields of Falkirk and Culloden Moor
stained with the blood of ancestors who, only now,
claim me as one of them, allow me to wear the tartan,
the clouds build and flee without ever pausing
to peer down on the carnage below.
They want only to move on, continue the passage,
give endless chase to the sun, certain
they will fail and fall, only to take up
the chase again onward into eternity.
In the elemental scheme of things
we humans are, at best, middling.
We are minute in the scale of the universe,
our time not even a glimmer, and
as we age, time contracts, but only
in the shortening forward direction.
But pity the poor hydrogen-7 isotope
whose life is likely over
in 30 yactoseconds, absorbing
the laughter of helium-5 living
on average, 33 times longer, and both
jealously, if ever so quickly
regarding our seemingly infinite span.
But lest we get complacent, there is
always zirconium-96 for whom
our life is but the blink of an eye,
barely worth noting, a second at most
in a span that could reach
twenty quintillion years, so we
are nothing special, save in our own eyes.
The difference between love
and lust is as thin as the blade
of a fine razor, as broad as
the Rio Grande Canyon outside Taos,
so how can you tell one from the other?
Some will say it is an impossible task
others will take the “I know it when
I see it” route leading nowhere.
There is no easy answer, certainly,
but those who have tasted love
will tell you the difference is
monumental and elemental.
I have wanted a woman deeply,
cared for her, missed her in her absence
but when my love, my lover, is
not here I am incomplete, and
that is an abyss into which I dread falling.
Somewhere in here there is
a hidden irony, not irony really,
but a close enough approximation.
We are creatures of softness, we
relish textures that yield to our touch,
would rather be swaddled than armored,
vastly prefer the kitten or puppy
to the armadillo or porcupine.
It’s all about softness really.
And despite this primal desire
for pillows and down filled duvets,
when it comes to measuring value
we’re all about corners and hardness,
about solidifying our financial position.
And while we crave bills and coins,
our ultimate measure of success
are those crystals formed over eons,
made hard by pressure and time,
for those are the jewels of our existence.
Along the river this morning, the gulls
stood on fence stanchions watching
the parade of walkers, runners, bikers
like them ignoring the river, intent
on logging the daily miles, oblivious
to the panorama that lies just beyond
our closely focussed eyes.
The gulls offer a piercing commentary,
and that is something we notice,
and so unlike the Egyptian Geese
of our Florida home, who chatter
incessantly along our walks,
like so many old men sitting
much of the day in Riverside Park
staring out over the Hudson River
trying to clear phlegmy throats.
He had planned
the exercise for weeks,
certain this one
would allow them
to break through the wall
that had imprisoned
the metaphors within them.
It was simple, and that
was its beauty, too many
attempts had become
bogged down, mired in
the fear that words
could do the greatest harm.
The exercise is simple,
he said, and they
put pens to paper.
Later, toward the end
of class, “would one of you
be kind enough
to read to the class
of a young woman’s lips?”
One boy meekly rose
and through half clenched
teeth said, “Her lips
were precisely shaped
to barely cover her teeth.”
First appeared in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, (2008).
“I don’t want to”
is hardly a sagacious
way to run a country
and “just because” probably
didn’t work when you
were a child, why
would you think adults
would accept it now?
And when we all
expressed our displeasure,
disdain and contempt,
which part of “no”
did you have trouble
grasping, Mr. President?
The apple may not
fall far from the tree,
but let it sit
on the ground long enough
and the worms will have it.
Ambrose Bierce said diplomacy
is lying for one’s country,
not lying to it.
First appeared in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008.