MAL ANNEE

On the anniversary
of the start of a war
one feels almost compelled
to speak to its horrors,
its cause, its effect.
But we live in an age
where wars are plentiful,
when peace is the exception
and war seems to loom
around every corner.
So on this anniversary
I watch the snowy egret
stare into the pond
outside my window,
the great bird calmly
imagining that
in her world
all of the people
are merely fish.

GONE

The salmon people
don’t live here anymore
you have moved them
up the river, then inland
so they no longer need to wander.

The salmon
do not swim here anymore
you have dammed the rivers
to draw out their power
and penned the mighty fish
where the river first licks the sea.

The eagle doesn’t
fly here anymore
the great pines
that sat for generations
below his aerie are now
cut into neat supports
on which we hang our walls.

Our children
do not run here anymore
they have moved
to the cities, have gone off
to wars for fighting
is the only job
which they are given.

We have no rivers
we have no salmon
we have no sons, save those
who sleep under neat white stones.
We look for the eagle
a mighty spirit
but he, too, has been claimed
by the others
to decorate their buildings.
We have only our spirit
to guide us and we know
that soon you will claim them too
and leave us as you arrived
to repeat the sad story.

THE WALL

No one is certain who
painted the words on the wall.
No one knew when the painting occurred,
someone noticed the words
one morning and told others,
and the word spread through town.
People stopped to look at the words,
but few understood what they meant.
Soon there were pictures drawn
around the words, familiar faces,
and people would stop, add words
until the wall was a mural
that could not be forgotten,
only ignored by those
who simply wouldn’t understand.

VOYAGE FROM WITHIN

Magellan set sail 497 years ago,
which had nothing to do with her desire
to find a corner in which she could stand,
protected on two sides, and still
stare out into the world and see
all that was going on around her.
Better still if it were fashioned
of plexiglass, it could surround her
fully, as long as sound could get in,
and she could be fully engaged
in life without the risks that others
always seemed to drag in their wakes.
It wasn’t that she didn’t need people,
she just needed them at the proper
distance and most could never
determine what that distance
might be despite her entreaties.
Magellan would die a year and a half
later, a mistake she would never make.

UN4SEEN

Next week, somewhere,
something will happen.
Several people will say
they foresaw it,
others will be equally
certain it was
entirely unpredictable.
The truth, of course,
will be elusive
allowing everyone
the certainty of uncertainty.
It would be so much
easier if nothing happened
but things never happen
according to anyone’s
overly simple plans.

ODE TO THE CAT

I read a poem today
about a cat
and the memory
of my last cat came to mind,
and with it,
the certainty
that cats
have an innate sense
of people which people
utterly lack.
It may be that cats
are completely ignorant
of the masks we wear,
or simply that
they could care less
how we see ourselves
and only measure us
by what we offer them.
In that sense, of course
they are people as well.