CAT PEOPLE

We spent one morning
of our visit to Key West wandering
around Hemingway’s home.

The six-toed cats seemed to realize
that we were cat people, came
over to us, took us aside
for a petting and conversation.

He was a tough old goat,
they said, or so our ancestors
told itm and we cannot begin
to understand why you,
cat people, so obviously intelligent
would pay to see the old
typewriter he hated, because
the S and D keys always stuck

We scratched them behind
the ears, sat by the empty pool,
and waited for a literary
inspiration we knew was
never included in the ticket.

MONOLOGUE


I would like nothing more than
to have a long conversation with the birds,
that there is much they could tell me,
much they know that I should understand
but I am the interloper here, and they
have lost trust in my kind.

I watch them closely, trying 
to discern what I can of their thoughts,
but in a flash of wing, they erase
my efforts, their unique version
of giving me the bird, so to speak.

I speak to them, offer apologies,
atone for my presence, for the others
who have taken their space,
and they listen, but in the end,
turn away again, having, they say,
heard this too many times before.

WITHIN WITHOUT

Today I paused
and had a conversation
with my mind, and found it
remarkably enlightening.
It wasn’t a terribly long talk
for I quickly ran out of things to say
and I would have sworn
it had heard them all before
and anticipated me fully.
In the end though,
I did have one advantage
and simply got up
and walked away
and that caught it
wholly by surprise.

A VISIT

I’ve always imagined that one of these nights
I’d see my mother’s ghost. I would welcome the sight
welcome she that bore me, not she that stepped in
in a way,absolving my birth mother of her sin,
while assuming adopting me would make her complete.

She hasn’t visited yet, neither has done so,
but I hold out hope, it is after all the last to go,
and I do hear her voice, faint and all too distant,
sounding very much like my own one instant
and then no more than a faint whisper in retreat.

I don’t need a long conversation, a few words would
more than suffice, but some at least, a child should
in advancing age hear the sound of a mother’s voice,
if only to find solace in the fact that her choice
to yield the child was made from love not defeat.

CUTTING THOUGHTS

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 but 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.

LATTE

At the coffee shop they chatter as if in some foreign tongue, conversations overlaid one on another on another, until all I can strain are snippets of words, stray syllables. This is true everywhere I have visited, and it promises good coffee, for I have found that when I can easily eavesdrop on others at nearby tables, it is because the espresso maker has gone silent too long, there are few present, and I will regret the coffee shortly after drinking it.

A MEETING OF THIEVES

The squirrel on the lawn stood,
his little eyes boring into me
as I stepped out of the front door.

He threw out his chest, and I
half expected him to beat on it
with his forepaws, a rodent Tarzan.

I, of course, had no choice but
to stare back at him defiantly,
making clear I wasn’t easily cowed.

Finally, I broke the silence, and said
“Let’s be honest for once, we both
know what we are, and we are

very much the same, for you steal
the nuts from my trees as I
steal the beauty of the early dawn.”

“Agreed,” he replied, “and there’s
a very good chance neither of us
will remember where we hid our prize.”

RIVER

I know I should find a river
and just sit on its banks
and stare at the water flowing

I don’t have to step in it once
to know I couldn’t step in twice
if I wanted, so that problem’s solved.

And with dry feet, I can walk
along its banks with a bit more
jaunt in my step, which should

please the river, for I know that
it has long been watching me
as I frequently visit, and I would

like to think we are old friends,
at least that is what the lake
said during my last visit there.

MEMORY OF THE VINE

The conversation flows freely,
piles up on the table, amid
dishes from a meal
now fully consumed, as the
last of the wine reluctantly
cedes its grip on the bottle
and settles into the glasses.
In Abruzzi, the vintner
imagined this, staring
at the grapes pulled lovingly
from the now ancient vines.
As night draws its curtain
ever tighter, as hugs
replace the conversation,
the rest of the grapes
settle in for a final sleep.

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 & Daddies 1999 Vol 117