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.

GLASS HOUSES

You want to yell at him, tell him
to stop, that it is too soon, that he
is not ready, cannot be, won’t be
for months to come, but you know
he will not listen to you
standing, gesticulating, imagining
a stone in your hand, shattering
the glass walls, the crackling
gaining his full attention
causing him to realize what is
so very obvious to you.
But you cannot do so, wishes aside,
there are no stones to be found
within the house in which you stand
and if there were, there still are
very clear rules against your throwing one.

VILLAGE

The village of my grandfather
still stands amid the fields

adobe walls stained
by soot from the fireplace

birds nesting in the summer
warmed chimney singing.

The ancient scythe leans
against the wall, its blade

embedded in the crusted soil
as the old tractor idles in the field.

Armies have trod this ground
ignoring the small house

smoke curling from its roof
stew bubbling in the iron pot,

for the city hills away,
its brick walls beckoning

the spoils of war hanging
in its galleries and vaults.

My grandfather lies
in the parched soil

roots of plants wrapped
around his fingers.


First appeared in Alchemy Online Literary Magazine 2000/2 Fall-Winter and later in Legal Studies Forum Vol. 32, No. 1 (2008)

A TURN

He is never certain what to do on days
like this one, when the winter takes
a particularly nasty turn, the temperature
hovers at utter emptiness, and the wind
elects to try to enfold everything it can reach
in a coat of frost, that bleaches life away.
He walks each day, through the nearby park
if the weather is the least bit cooperative,
through the neighborhood when not, where
at least he can take a small shelter from the wind
in the shadow of houses closed up tightly,
life walled away within, smarter, he imagines
than he is, his fingers ill-gloved, slowly losing
all feeling, but this is his practice, something
he does because it requires doing, heeding
an edict from an unspoken voice. And later
emerging from a hot shower, feeling limbs
restored, he glances at the weather in hopes
the next day will be kinder, and slow in coming.