IN TRANSIT

Mom died, the text
message read, similar words
we’ve been hearing too frequently
but always leaving us
with the same hopelessness.
The words my brother, estranged
now, estranged then, come
to think of it, said two years ago
in a quickly left phone message.
I thought of confronting him,
but when he never answered,
I knew I couldn’t say what I
needed in a text message.
When my mother-in-law died
my wife and I were there, watched
as she took her final breath,
easy, calm, as if to say, this
passage is easier than I thought
given all the time I asked God
to let me take it. We didn’t feel
helpless that day, more like
silent observers, standing
on the pier as the ship slipped into
a vast ocean on the maiden voyage
a very new sort.

SUSIE

What do you say
on the loss of a child?
We sat in the lounge
drinking a vile potion
from a hollowed pineapple
giggling insanely
for no reason.
We wandered the tunnels
faces painted,
clowns in bedlam.
We lay together
on a mattress
on the floor and listened
to Aqualung
my arms around you
both, but sleep
came slowly and we talked
until night ran from
the encroaching sun.
I can feel her soft blond hair
and see her smile
as we walked
hand in hand in hand
along the abandoned
railbed, dreaming
of what might be.
As I struggle with sleep
and with a new day
I can hear the tape end
snapping at the end
of the ever spinning reel
wanting only to hold your hand
and stroke your hair.


First appeared in RE:AL The Journal of Liberal Arts Vol. 23, Issue 2,  1998

VISION

He is bent over, walks with a shuffling stumble. He follows the path, inscribing it center or as close to it as he can get. He wants to say hello to those who would acknowledge him. He doesn’t understand why his mouth refuses to smile, refuses to form even the simplest of words. All he sees is her face, he sees it clearly when he walks each morning as they used to, and he will follow it until he sees it again the loamy soil they will share soon enough.

THE CEMETERY, AFTER THE BATTLE

They come to her in the dark
the voices whisper, she hears them
from behind half lidded eyes
they sound like the children
that once ran across the open field
chasing the ball, a too slow bird
a mortar shell whose fall
outpaced them all, left them
scattered, shattered, marked
by simple wooden crosses
that were taken for heat.

She strains to answer them
the words thick on her tongue
clogging her mouth
like a gas soaked rag
stuck into the thin neck
of a bottle, lit, they explode
inside her mind, the shrapnel
tearing at her eyes
red, only red, the sky
seems aflame yet the sun
has long since set
behind the smoke of the fires.

They hover around her
gently touching her cheek
like a demented butterfly
seeking nectar long dry
she caresses the thick scar
were her breast once stood
proudly, but there is no feeling
only numbness of too many bodies
strewn on tables, across chairs
which are broken to feed the flames
which dance away into the snowy night.

She can see their masks
hiding sneering lips
spitting vitriol for what once was
she curses them, faceless
her eyes pressed shut
by their tiny fingers, kneading
the soft dough, pulling it
taught, letting it snap back
released by the sated mouth
of the devil child who runs
laughing up the hill
chasing a dragonfly
into the dawn.


First Appeared in Arnazella, 2000.

SHE SAID

She said that we are little more than clay
to be molded by God and carved by fate
and we count on nothing more than this day.

It’s but a week since she has slipped away,
we expect our sense of loss to abate.
She said that we were little more than clay,

just so much time, no matter how we pray
and when it’s done, there can be no debate
and we count on nothing more than this day.

We clung to her, begged God to let her stay,
she laughed with us, then entered through the gate.
She said that we are little more than clay,

that she didn’t fear heaven’s great array,
it was her time, neither early nor late,
and we count on nothing more than this day.

We still can hear her laugh, can hear her say
Sing! Dance for me! Life comes with no rebate.
She said that we are little more than clay
and we count on nothing more than this day.

AND WHAT IS LEFT BEHIND

She calls them
around her bedside
but they stand back
fearful of the withered ghost
hovering on the sheets, until
one, eldest, touches her extended
hand with a finger
as if passed through a flame.
I will be leaving soon
she tells them, if not
tomorrow then a day later
and I will take the hills
for they are mine, where
I ran as a child, tasted first love
and the stream where I swam
as a girl and from which I drank
when summer was entrenched holding
autumn at bay, that too will go with me
so when I am gone, you will
move the sheep and goats
to new pastures.