DICTIONARY

I set out this morning
with my large dictionary
to find the perfect word
to describe the sky, the sun
just peering over the roof
of a distant house, the few
clouds aflame in a silent fire.

I knew there was a word
for what I saw in the dictionary,
for there is a word
for everything if you search
long and hard enough, but
after a while I gave up when
I realized I could no longer
recall what I had seen
that set me off on this search.

BEFORE YOU LEAP

She always told him
that he should, no must,
“look before you leap.”

He said he understood
and would do so, almost
always, he was after all
a child and no promise
could be that absolute.

When he came out
of the anesthesia,
his arm and leg
in a cast, he saw her
scowling at him.

“I did,” he said, “I did,
I looked for quite a while
before I jumped 
off the garage roof,
just like you told 
me I had to do.”

NOT A DONUT

I have never made a bagel. I have never jumped off the roof of a house to see what flight was like. I have never run a marathon or a half marathon. I have never owned a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Maserati. Or a Porsche for that matter. I have never driven a car at more than 130 miles per hour. I have never parachuted out of an airplane. I have never been six feet tall in my bare feet. I have never undertaken studies for a PhD. I have never attempted to swim the English or any other channel. I have never been to either Mongolia. I have never sat through the whole of Gone With the Wind. I have few regrets, but living on the Treasure Coast of Florida I do wish I could make a good bagel. I miss them, and they are nowhere to be found.

HOME, NIGHT

Living in a bamboo grove, she said,
is very much like living in an old house.

Look up at noon, into the canopy
and imagine you see rays of light
piercing the ill-thatched roof.

Listen to the growling winds of autumn
and hear the ghosts of the old house
making their way up creaking stairs.

And when you truly find the silence
imagine the Buddha sitting nearby
the morning breeze his breath
slowly drawing you into the day.

A STEP TOO FAR

He knew, the minute he stepped off, that it wasn’t going to end well. He should have realized it two steps earlier, but hindsight was of little use to him now. He knew he had to keep looking up, to focus on the sky. He knew he had to hope it would be like entering a black hole, where the end is certain but time slows and almost seems to stop. And, he remembered, the laws of physics break down inside the event horizon. What he knew he could not do was look down and see the ground rushing up at him. Even when you are 11, walking off the garage roof was not a really bright thing to do, the dare by your friends notwithstanding.

GROVE

Living in a bamboo grove, she said,
is very much like living in an old house.

Look up at noon, into the canopy
and imagine you see rays of light
piercing the ill-thatched roof.

Listen to the growing winds or autumn
and hear the ghosts of the old house
making their way up creaking stairs.

And when you truly find the silence
imagine the Buddha sitting nearby
the morning breeze his breath
slowly drawing you into the day.

SETTLING

The old, weathered maple
leans into the sun, its trunk
stroking the cobbled cottage
which sits against the foothill.
The square window peers out
over a wildflower garden
as the roof’s peakline
settles comfortably
into old age.
Walking around it I see
the back roof has collapsed
the back wall ever threatening
to return to the earth
of its mountain home.

THE SKY

The sky is the leaden gray
that denies the sun
and threatens the moon’s arrival.
It presses down on the roofs
of the talest buildings,
wraps them in a depression
those on the street below feel
without need of looking up.
This is a teasing sky-
a drop here, there, until
we know we are on the razor’s edge of rain.
The sky laughs at us
as it retreats into the night.