REMEMBERING ANOTHER FATHER

It was scrawled on the back of a grocery receipt, barely legible. Charles H. Boustead Tunnel, fryingpan river. The river is lower case, its capitals dangling by serifs in one of the tunnel grates that constricts the water’s flow.

Outside the full moon is ensnared in the gnarled, barren branches of the white birch. She struggles vainly to break free, but the maple wraps its limbs around her. It is only when she retreats into the earth, covers herself over, that the trees cede their grasp.

When Luna curls against you, is she chilled from the night sky, or does she reflect the warmth of the distant star? Does she press against the shredded satin, wrap herself in the fringe of your kittel? And when she tires of you, does she leave by the rotting, split pine boards through which you, bit by bit, return to the soil to nurture her captor?

I stand outside, shivering under a full January moon. Fading impressions of you are shunted into the tunnel of my memory. I never know where or when they will emerge, what they have gathered, what has been lost along the way. I hope for their return, regardless of form. The Boustead Tunnel carries about 54,000 acre feet of water annually from the river to the Turquoise Reservoir.

THE DARK TIME

The trees, bearing up strongly
against the still falling snow
remember leaves, though the memory
has run deep into the sap and slowed.

Beneath the frosted bed
the bulbs imagine summer,
try to picture their blooms,
but quickly returned to frozen stasis.

The cat thinks of venturing
into our yard, sinks its paws
into the growing snowbank, decides
the rug by the fireplace is adventure enough.

We turn up our collars, stand
firm against the wind driven snow,
remember summer, and curse the gods
of weather for taking it from us.

Maximum Exposure

She carefully hangs her life
on the tautly stretched line
across her small back yard.
A sun faded floral housedress
a pair of bib overalls
knees worn white on
the kitchen linoleum,
cracked and dingy.
She waits patiently
for Humphrey Bogart to arrive
and carry her up
the river of her memory.
The chicken threatens
to burn in the cramped oven
and she is again without napkins.
He will be home soon
his six pack chilling
in the old Kelvinator
and she feels the slap
on her bruised cheek
as she fluffs her pillow
where she will soon hide
her purpled face.


Recently appeared in Aurora, Down in the Dirt Vol. 167 (2020)

AS I RECALL

Like most you believe that
if it is worth remembering you will,
that memory is keyed to some measure
of value and if you forget that value
had diminished without your noticing.
You accept this as a sort of gospel truth
for you cannot recall that you once
rejected this argument out of hand,
for that has slipped way from memory
and lies valueless and withering
on the synaptic scrap heap.
You are certain you had a childhood
but just as certain you were thoughtless
until age three when life came rushing
in remarkable fits and starts
bridged by chasms of nothing
though you fear that some memories
may be slipping into the abyss even
as you deny that possibility.

TODAY, ALAS

Too much of what passes
for literature in these days is really
no more lasting than the evanescent
pixels from which it is created.

Books fade, pages crumble to dust
but that requires the passage of time
that our electronic world avoids
or simply refuses to acknowledge,

for history is something that lives
in storage, perhaps recalled, if still
viable, be very easily forgotten,
and compressed to save space.

Still I have my library of books,
and not once in recent memory
have I had to halt my reading
to recharge the printed pages.

A MESSAGE HOME

What I want to tell her is this:
it’s fitting, perfectly, that you
who so assiduously hid the past
from me, your past and mine,
now bars your entry, refusing you
even the briefest glimpse.
You want so to grab onto it
to have it carry you to a place
removed from here by time
and distance, where it is warm
and most of the time, cozy.
It is also fitting that you
call out his name, as though
he was in the yard
pruning a tree, delaying dinner,
the same he you cursed
glad to have him out of your life
and out of your house,
you wished him dead
so that you might call yourself
a widow and share
condolences with the other
black draped women.
You never mentioned
the six months of foster care
or the little sister who came
and went so quickly
when he had the audacity
to drop dead on you one morning.
This is what I would say to her,
this is the curse I would
place upon her
but she no longer
recognizes me, I am no more
than a well dressed orderly
come to remove her lunch tray.


First Published in Riding the Meridian 1999/1;2

A WINTER MEDITATION

I have given up on winter,
which is to say that I have
fled its iron grip, but
the memories I have
linger painfully in the rods
the surgeon carefully
screwed onto my spine.

It wasn’t the cold, though it
was far from pleasant,
but the snow that demanded
but also defied being shoveled.

I grudgingly face the job,
moving the snow from walk
and driveway to lawn and street,
and on occasion I’d heed
Buddha’s advice and treat
the exercise as a meditation.

But even then I’d recall
the tale of the monk told
to clear the garden of leaves
before a great master’s visit,
who completed the job
and proudly showed the abbot,
who agreed, but said
there was more thing
needed, and dumped all
of the collected leaves
back on the garden, then
said it perfect, and I knew
the wind and weather
would soon play the abbot’s role.