ELEGY

I am a Yao gem
inferior to jade
but awaiting the sorceress.
Will she wear me
in her ear, or prefer
the pendant?
I am a branch
broken from the tree
to dry on the ground
my fruit shriveled
into stones.
Carry me in your dance
inhale the fragrance
and raise me from the ashes
to come down
to the foothills
and dip my feet
in the slowly flowing waters.

FERRYMAN

He comes to me
in the dead hour of night
the old shriveled man
poling his poor ferry
across the river of my dreams.
He comes when
the moon has fled
and the stars fall mute
and he beckons me
holding out the copper coins
stating his fare.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I show him
the butterfly perched
on the window box
his wings folded
darkly iridescent
a tissue paper opal
awaiting the first sun.

He comes to me, beckoning
and for his fare
I hold the rose
beneath his nose letting
the carmine velvet petals
caress his nostrils
as he smells the luscious
aroma that bathes his face.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I pass to him
the crystal goblet
of the sauterne
and he sips
as it washes over
his tongue, tasting
of honey and fruit.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I give him the voice
of Wolfgang’s strings
of Johann’s harp
of Ludwig’s piano
of Callas, Pavarotti,
the symphony of the rain forest
the sonata of the surf.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I give him a picture
of the young child tugging
my hand, as he pulls me
to see something marvelous
he has just discovered,
his laughter deafening.

He comes to me
in the dead hour of night
the old shriveled man
poling his poor ferry
across the river of my dreams.
Each time he retreats,
the fragile boat empty
his fare uncollected.

AS THE CROW FLIES

Leaving the fields
of the countryside
for the city, it is the birds
that tell you when
the invisible boundary
has been crossed.
There are usually signs
along the roads
bolted to steel poles
but the birds know better.
In the country, birds
sing long arias to the day,
to cornstalks making
the slow green to gold transition,
of a cat chasing a field mouse
among the fruit burdened trees
of the late-summer orchard.
Crossing to the urban world
their songs grow shorter
a kirtan with a squirrel
cut off by a car horn,
the briefest prayer
to the morning sun
a tentative greeting
to a dog or cat sleeping
on a sidewalk.
We would do well
to listen to birds.