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.

THIN ICE

When we were much younger
we would meet by the edge
of the pond each day
after winter’s first taste
and pry rocks from the bank
with frozen fingers, one the size
of a fist, others even larger.
We would carefully aim
and in a crystal parabola
watch as they hit the frozen
surface, one upon another
in hopes they would not
break through to drown
in a strangled silence.

When the largest stones
we could heave would clatter
across the ice, great uneven
ruts in the covering snow,
we would reach for the shovels
we had sneaked from the garage
and slowly roll the blanket of snow
into a pillow on the banks.
Lacing on our skates, some
a size too large, stuffed with paper
others too small, toes crushed,
we would step gingerly out
like sailors too long ashore
and lean on our hockey sticks
like three-legged stools
tottering across a shined floor.
We would take off a hat
or a glove and mark the corners
of the rink and the edges
of the goal mouth, two sticks wide.
We would take the almost
round wooden disk of
layers of plywood
crudely nailed together
and begin a game
whose periods were marked
by the cry of our mothers.

Today the pond is gone
replaced by homes
and our shouts barely echo
off the brick facades.

HARLECH CASTLE

stones speak in lost tongues
to sheep grazing by the wall
clouds gather laughing

voices of dead kings
echo off cloud shrouded hills
she whispers in dreams

a November wind
cuts deeply across the keep
distant hills crying

slash of claymore
glinting in the morning sun
bird with wings unfolded

moss encrusted stones
remember long past ages
sun smiles knowingly

distant bay waters
stare lovingly at the stones
winter wind grasps me

echoes of the pipes
reverberate in mourning
village awakens

a lone sailboat
floats aimlessly in the bay
dead kings laugh aloud

winter wind whispers
fingers touching ancient stones
laughter of a gull

her smile reaches out
across the expansive sea
King Edward approves

sheep dot the hillside
in the great castle’s shadow
slowly munching grass

ever fragile moss
dances on November winds
remembering once