We remember the oddest moments of life,
the tragedies, the occasional comedy,
but mostly the unusual moments that etch themselves
into memory in ways you would not have expected.
Driving along the mostly deserted road,
a moonless night, or nearly so, the Mesa
cold and forbidding, not at all reminiscent of the birth
to be celebrated by the world
the next day, as it had for millennia.
The movie was dark and heavy,
the meal somewhat the same,
dominating the conversation… THUD —
a sudden shift left into the oncoming lane,
no one, thankfully, oncoming, the door caved in,
passengers’ bones checked, none broken, all badly shaken.
In the beam of the flashlight, is an elk, sitting
off the road, still much alive but shaken, and
in the first light of morning, moved further
into the scrub, and by afternoon, off into the foothills.
The spider wandered around
the corner of the ceiling and wall
of the bathroom, one she called
a daddy longlegs, although most
spiders of my acquaintance have
rather long legs using my proportions
as a basis for comparison, and it was
my task to deal with it.
It was harmless, as are most
of his species, and I searched
for a way to give him and give us
our freedom, here perhaps,
a reality, since it is no colder
without than within, although the birds
in our wetlands might have other
ideas about the spider’s impermanence.
I paused, considered the options,
and knew this koan would not
be answered this day, and I bid
my octoped friend farewell, but
suggested he consider not
trying to bring me into his web.
I have given up on winter,
which is to say that I have
fled its iron grip, but
the memories I have
linger painfully in the rods
the surgeon carefully
screwed onto my spine.
It wasn’t the cold, though it
was far from pleasant,
but the snow that demanded
but also defied being shoveled.
I grudgingly face the job,
moving the snow from walk
and driveway to lawn and street,
and on occasion I’d heed
Buddha’s advice and treat
the exercise as a meditation.
But even then I’d recall
the tale of the monk told
to clear the garden of leaves
before a great master’s visit,
who completed the job
and proudly showed the abbot,
who agreed, but said
there was more thing
needed, and dumped all
of the collected leaves
back on the garden, then
said it perfect, and I knew
the wind and weather
would soon play the abbot’s role.
are disconcerted this morning.
It could be
that the sun startled them
or that they
protest the cold
for clearly they
as much as
She isn’t used to the cold,
she never will be, and she hates it
with the sort of passion she once reserved
for people of a different
political philosophy than hers.
She grew up here, but she left.
She has never regretted the departure.
She visits only in late spring
or in the heart of summer, or early autumn
and is here now only for a funeral, which she hates
more than the cold this winter.
She wishes that the death could have occurred
in late spring, early autumn, the heart of summer.
She is certain she will die in one of those seasons,
or at least in the deep enough south
that no one attending a funeral
will have to freeze and curse the winter.
She has no intention of dying anytime soon,
for she has a great deal left to do
and some of that clearly involves
cursing winter and hating the cold with a passion.
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
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.
It’s 12 degrees
the night air
my teeth chatter.
Standing in the lot
fetching my cell phone
from the glove box
my breath congeals
around my face
I look up
at the moon
on my forehead.
by a cirrus veil,
but her eyes
her lips soft
in a smile
I tell her
of my love
and she whispers
in the voice
as I curl
next to your picture