LOWERING

When they lowered my grandmother’s casket
into the sodden earth, there wan’t
a dry eye, shoulder or leg, around.
She would’ve laughed aloud,
her children always too busy for a visit
now soaked to the skin
in a cold, windy downpour, all but me,
the one she chose to conduct the service,
the funeral director behind me
with the oversize umbrella, ensuring
the words of prayer and departure
were dry enough to read, washed
only by my tears, held back, unholdable,
the clunk of the first shovel of dirt
on the simple pine box still echoing.

PALETTE

He is for it or he is
against it, and if you could
predict the vacillations you
could develop the means
of measuring the flux of sanity.

You could as easily grasp
the water flowing downriver
and by asking select questions
determine the next heavy rain,

but the odds are good
you will be outside when
the deluge begins, and
only its ultimate weight
and duration remain to be felt.

It all comes down to the same
thing, if you could paint the sky
blue, precisely which shade
of blue would you use and why
that one for heaven’s sake?

NIGHT MOTHER

The night closes in
chasing the sun, dragging
heavily laden clouds that stare
down, watching warily for us
to step outside without glancing skyward.
Clouds of night are particularly jealous,
most often ignored if not
completely forgotten, unsure which
would be worse, ultimately indifferent.
As we begin the walk to the car
the clouds open, a torrential reminder
that Mother Nature
will not be easily ignored.

RIVER CROSSING

We crossed the Hudson this afternoon
on a Dutch named bridge
in a driving rain so strong
you could hear little over the beat
of the wipers throwing sheets of water.
You wondered why the superstructure
was only on the Eastern end.
I wondered why they had to have
a Dutch name no one can translate.
The river’s surprisingly wide here
and you can’t even see the dead fish
or the waste from the plants up river,
its just a silver sheet of water
and the slashing of the wipers
and that name no one can translate.


First appeared in Calliope 21:1, 1997

OH, NOAH

It has rained for uncounted days on end
and we half expect one of our neighbors
to begin building an ark, so we look
through the falling drops for pets to line up

in double file ranks, seeking selection
for a journey they know must be coming.
Overhead, the dove sits in the maple
knowing his time to star will soon arrive

but unsure where there could possibly be
a Russian olive tree within flight range
but then, as the sewer drains overflow
he knows any branch will complete his work.

The sun finally appeared this morning
and the weatherman now predicts a drought.