DROWNING

Stop and breathe, deeply,
don’t look at the smog,
at the particles hanging
in your air like a curtain.

Don’t pause to consider
what you are inhaling, don’t
picture your alveoli clogged
with what you can now see.

You are drowning slowly in
a sea of air, so imagine yourself
a fish struggling in the water
of a sea you have laid waste to.

REINCARNATION

In my next life
I want to come back
as a Great Blue Heron.

I will majestically
stand by a lake, capturing
fish, capturing the eye
of all who wander by,
pausing in awe and desire.

And I will have
the one thing I know
I now lack, that trait
that has escaped me
for far too many years,
patience, the ability
to stand and stare
until the moment
is right, then to act.
I am not in a hurry
for this reincarnation,
so perhaps I have more
patience than I realize.

REFLECTIONS

An elk stands at the edge
of a placid mountain lake
and sees only the clouds
of an approaching winter.
A black bear leans over
the mirrored surface of the lake
and sees only the fish
that will soon be his repast.
The young man draped
in saffron robes looks
calmly into the water and sees
a pebble, the spirit of his ancestors.
I look carefully into the water
looking for an answer to a question
always lurking out of reach
and see only my ever thinning hair.

FirstAppeared in Green’s Magazine (Canada), Vol. 29, No.1, Autumn
2000.

JUSTICE

The Rabbi always said that
the highest form of justice
would be to teach a man to fish,
rather than to donate fish to him.

The Rabbi in question is now
long dead, and in so many places
teaching a man to fish will only
enable him to poison his family.

We have laid waste to ouir world
assuming someone will clean it up
for us, and we do throw money
as our attempt at atonement.

So perhaps we should give
out brooms, and hope for the best.

FATHER AND SON

We sat in the small boat,
the motor still, drifting downstream,
our lines in the water, the bobbers
dancing in the morning breeze.

He smiled, proud that we were
doing this together, he who knew
less about fishing than I, his son,
and I knowing next to nothing.

I kept casting into the weeds,
hoping they would tangle my
line, free the worm from the hook,
so I couild deplete our supply,

and we could return home
proud to have tried, successful
in not harming the fish, but
able to say we were fishermen.

THE POND

Along the shore
of the pond wishing
it was a lake,
the anhinga proudly
shows off the small fish
that will be his
mid-morning snack.

The egret finds
this show of ostentation
abhorrent and returns
to her search
for bugs on the reeds
fringing the shore.

The alligator swims
lazily off shore
hoping we will
soon pass, and
considers whether
he wants only to sun,
or if an anhinga would
make a good meal.

PELICAN

The pelican hasn’t been around
for a couple of days, and we miss
his akimbo dives into the pond,
surfacing and throwing his head back
to show he’s swallowing his catch
even though we suspect some of the time
he caught nothing at all, but knowing
we’re as gullible an audience
as he is likely to find any time soon.
We hope he is off breeding somewhere,
making little pelicans that will
be able to entertain us next fall
when we return, birds of our own sort,
not snowy egrets but snow birds nonetheless.
We don’t want to know any more
about the mating ritual, some
things ought to be private.
We learned that painful a few years
ago, when my brother thought it
was important we see thoroughbreds bred.
We prefer our breedings like
good French films, suggestive
but ultimately leaving it
to our memory, like so much of our youth.

REFLECTIONS

An elk stands at the edge
of a placid mountain lake
and sees only the clouds
of an approaching winter.

A black bear leans over
the mirrored surface of the lake
and sees only the fish
that will soon be his repast.

The young man draped
in saffron robes looks
calmly into the water and sees
a pebble, the spirit of his ancestors.

I look carefully into the water
looking for an answer to a question
always lurking out of reach
and see only my ever thinning hair.


First appeared in Greens Magazine (Can) 29:1 2000

RIVER CROSSING

We crossed the Hudson this afternoon
on a Dutch named bridge
in a driving rain so strong
you could hear little over the beat
of the wipers throwing sheets of water.
You wondered why the superstructure
was only on the Eastern end.
I wondered why they had to have
a Dutch name no one can translate.
The river’s surprisingly wide here
and you can’t even see the dead fish
or the waste from the plants up river,
its just a silver sheet of water
and the slashing of the wipers
and that name no one can translate.


First appeared in Calliope 21:1, 1997

THE CANNERY, LATE INTO THE NIGHT

The cannery, long before it was a mall,
sat on the verge of the bay
bellowing steam into the night sky
shrouding the stars in a gauze blanket,
listening to the braying of the harbor seals
pleading for the morning’s dross
to be returned to the bay waters.
The otters lie on their backs peering
over the rocks and the monolith
its lights blazing as the trucks and carts
are laden with neatly stacked boxes,
grasping their stones, crushing
the shells nestled on the bellies.
Outside the fishermen, boats
scrubbed clean, stagger
down the narrow streets, stumbling
from bar to tavern, sleeping fitfully
on benches in the nearby park,
dragging up narrow alleys
to small, fading framed houses
kerosene lamps growing dim,
knowing the sun merely dozes
below the horizon, soon
to edge up and watch the boats
ease back out of the harbor into the sea.
Steinbeck walks slowly, savoring
the smells of morning, tasting
the stale beer of the night before.


First Appeared Online at Beachfire Gathering, 1996.