SENĀTUS POPULUSQUE RŌMĀNUS

As we walked slowly through the Forum
the Coliseum receding into the late
afternoon, the Virgins stood patiently
as befits a priestess trained to avoid
the stares of passing men, even tourists
such as we were, the columns staring
down reminding us of our youth

despite the birthdays that we celebrated
with the joy of togetherness, and
the nagging knowledge that we were
another year closer to that moment
we refuse to acknowledge, aware
always of its growing proximity.

We stare back at the Coliseum,
as the sun slides behind its walls,
and as the vendors selling all manner
of items the buyer will regret
in mid-flight home pack up for the day,
I imagine Caesar pausing in thought
then, sneering, turning his thumb down.

ALONG THE WAY

They walk slowly, each step
measured as to both length and cadence.
The need not speak, they have
long been synchronous, now cannot
avoid being so without great effort.

They say nothing, words
have grown superfluous,
and would only interrupt
the slow procession
of the clouds, the ducks swimming
against the river’s flow, the birds
playing tag, each
claiming to be it in turn.
Each day they turn together,
at different spots
along the river walk, and
return home, amazed
at all that is different
on the journey back.

ON THE SEDGE

My wife pauses by the placard
in the nature preserve and tells me
that what I have been calling grasses
are in fact a sedge known as sawgrass.

She points out the warning that
it’s serrated on the edge and earned
its name from those who grasped
it without knowing or thinking first.

I feign listening bit she knows
my mind is elsewhere, knows I often
depart conversations suddenly
while maintaining a false presence.

She does not know I am 40 years
younger, pouring hydrogen peroxide
on the cut deep into the interossei
muscles when the glove slipped off

and the yucca I was boldly trying
to pull from the dry, stone-like soil
had decided this was the moment
to extract its final revenge.

REQUIREMENT

She moves with the fluidity
that suggests she has
been trained as a dancer, though
she denies it, says that she
has no interest in dance, barely
tolerates music and then only
because it sometimes is a requirement.
She smiles, though it doesn’t seem
at all natural to her, more another thing
she does because she believes
is quite often required.
Hers is a life of requirements
and she strives to be compliant,
choosing to hide a seething passion
deep within, for it terrifies her:
this is what she was taught
by her mother, how she survived
four older brothers, a father who
feared his reflection in the whiskey bottle
and quickly erased it,,
the devil deal with consequences,
the pain on her mother’s face,
she often too slow to duck.
She knows the day is coming when he
will be repaid by her, and she hopes
no one she loves is near Ground Zero.

JUMPING OFF POINT

She says the shortest distance
between two points is a straight line.
He doesn’t have the heart to tell her
That on a cosmic scale space is curved
and no one wants the short straw anyway.
She can, of course, read him, a skill
she knows is reserved for women
and is one of frustration to men.
She laughs, and adds as if an afterthought
there is a wormhole in the neighborhood.
He has no idea what to make of her,
and this is how she wants it for
she and he both know so very well
that the shortest distance between
the male and female mind is a leap
of logic only the most daring would attempt.

LISTEN TO DIS

She finds dysfunction
rather disconcerting and if I
don’t agree she will take it as a diss
though I would quickly dismiss
that idea as disingenuous.
But she is prone to discomfort
and displaces those around her
in moments of dissonance.
She does keep her distance,
and tries to be dispassionate
and so I can easily distract her
which is to my distinct advantage.

THE SON

He hangs on the guest room wall,
simply framed in black, adjoining
his more ornate, Cheshire-
cat smiling sister. He isn’t brooding
really, there is just a certain needful
sadness, as he stares out, imagining
how he pictured things would be,
how they were supposed to be,
realizing here, they never were,
never will be, and although there is
no failure, no blame, he wears it
as his personal armor, still
so easily pierced by dreams.