A CALL

The thing about it is
it is so damn quiet
I can hear myself think
but I can’t think anymore.

And I’ll tell you
this box is so cold
it just leaks air
and water has seeped in.

Somehow I expected more
it isn’t at all what
was promised
and the stone

is not set straight
which is driving me
only slightly crazy,
so tell me

about my grandsons
are they still handsome
young men, do they have
girlfriends like your wife.

You know steel would
have worn far better
and white satin
would be so much

more cheerful than this blue,
it just clashes with
this white gown
which fits terribly anyway.

You should come to visit
more often, Hilda’s son
and all her grandchildren
visit each week, but me, no one.

Its starting to rain again
so go, you don’t want
to catch a cold, it could
kill you, of this I’m certain.


First Appeared in Children, Churches and Daddies, Vol. 117, 1998.

SOMETHING

There is something gentle about her,
a softness, as though she arrived
on a gentle breeze, was present before you
felt her on the back of your neck, a smile
that cast your shadow on the snowy walk.
She was often like this, as though knowing
she might be an antidote to the harshness
of winter, and the losses that piled up
as time eroded our lives.
We were never sure of what we should say,
and so often opted for silence, but she
seem to welcome that too, as though it
marked a change from something
we would never fully understand.
We never knew when we might see her,
auburn coat dappled by the sun
but we welcomed the doe, and she us,
and that was always sufficient.

A TURN

He is never certain what to do on days
like this one, when the winter takes
a particularly nasty turn, the temperature
hovers at utter emptiness, and the wind
elects to try to enfold everything it can reach
in a coat of frost, that bleaches life away.
He walks each day, through the nearby park
if the weather is the least bit cooperative,
through the neighborhood when not, where
at least he can take a small shelter from the wind
in the shadow of houses closed up tightly,
life walled away within, smarter, he imagines
than he is, his fingers ill-gloved, slowly losing
all feeling, but this is his practice, something
he does because it requires doing, heeding
an edict from an unspoken voice. And later
emerging from a hot shower, feeling limbs
restored, he glances at the weather in hopes
the next day will be kinder, and slow in coming.

A RIVER RUNS

Once, not long ago,
a river meandered
through our town.
Actually, there was
never a river here,
and our town is really
a small and shrinking city.
But the wistful look
on your face when I
mentioned the river is
reason enough to have one.
So now I have to move
somewhere in Connecticut
or Massachusetts, or start
digging a large channel
through downtown.
Hand me a shovel,
I hate New England.

A PERFECT MOMENT

A week ago there was a moment
that perfectly summed up life,
at least as seen by a three-year-old.
Three-year-olds know far more
than they are given credit for knowing,
far more, they are certain,
than their parents, and just enough
to make their grandparents laugh
at the most inopportune moments.
It was lunchtime, always a period
where so very much can go
so very quickly wrong, but all
was peaceful on this day, much laughter
and conversation until the moment
he twisted his mouth, and in a voice
more suited to an arena, announced
“I can’t believe . . .
I have salad . . .
in my mouth!”

CONTINUO

The dolphin knows
precisely when to feed
when to bless the day
when to swim south
feels the pull of the tides.

Each day at noon
he walks across the factory floor
around lathes,
shavings, and up
the metal staircase
into the small office
its windows overlooking
the shop floor and pushes
the red button
mounted on the wall.
The whistle peals over town
as people glance reflexively
at their watches.
When asked, he says
it is always precisely noon
never sooner, never later
he is certain, for he checks
the clock on the steeple
of the ancient church
set each Friday by the parson
to insure God’s work
is promptly done.

Each day at ten before six
the parson climbs the ancient
wooden steps into the bell tower
and staring at his watch, waits
until the hands align
then leans into the rope
as the bell rings out six times
then he climbs down and walks
across the neatly trimmed lawn
to the small white clapboard
house that sits on the edge
of the cemetery behind the church.
It is precisely six he says
for each day at noon
he sets his watch
to the factory whistle.


First appeared in PKA Advocate, No. 9, December 1996