You were born 128 years ago,
not a long time in the history of the planet
and a blink in the life of the universe
but two good lifetimes on the day
you came into the world, not knowing
what would become your place in it.
We celebrate you today, as we celebrated you
during your life, a rare feat for it
is usually one or the other, either
reason enough to have lived.
I still recall the great windows,
the larger-than-life paintings
that brought Moses into my age,
and I imagine you recalling the stories
you learned at the feet of your grandfather,
so I practice what I will tell my grandchildren
of the immense passion of the small museum
tucked away on a hill overlooking Nice.
The cemetery is a place of monologues,
family histories laid bare, admissions,
secrets long kept hidden finally revealed
You must listen carefully, for the voices
speak only in hushed tones,
befitting both place and circumstance.
There is no dialog, no riposte, no
response for in this place, that
would be put of place, censorious,
Thy are respectful, one speaking,
a pause, then the next, and time
seems meaningless to them, the tale
is all that still matters, and matters deeply.
Pause, if you will, and learn, but say
nothing for we dare not speak
ill of the dead.
The temperature falls, slowly at first
but gaining speed, as though
in the grip of winter’s gravity.
Winter has the potential to be
a black hole season into which
we enter and imagine we
will never reemerge into spring.
The wind whispers stories to us
of a time when this was all ice
when no one complained of a chill
for there was no one.
We turn up our collars to remind
the wind that we will remain here,
for nature has given us
an equal dose of stubbornness.
The morning paper said
that a surprising number of Portuguese
man o’ war washed up on the beach yesterday,
bringing out the Dangerous Marine Life flags.
The paper also featured stories
on two fatal hit and runs, a person killed
in an apparent drug deal gone bad
and the opening of a redone highway exit ramp.
Further in, we learned of a new seafood restaurant
overlooking the beach, and the ground breaking
for a forty-six story building that, when done,
hopefully in two years, will house
an upscale hotel and 113 condos
in the heart of the downtown shopping area.
There were may other stories, but I
couldn’t read most of them this day, so
taken up was I with the mass suicide
of the countless Physalia physalis.
He says that in his prior life,
this being second he knows of,
he was Japanese, although he did
have a cousin in China, but he
doesn’t know his name anymore.
He wasn’t there for the war
with Okinawa, but he knows
that karate was developed then,
and it’s why, in this life
he studies karate, because
it’s part of his heritage.
He says he has many more stories
to tell of his prior life, he
remembers it quite well,
but that’s all he will tell us
today, for a six-year-old
needs to dole out stories slowly.
In a different world,
I would write you stories, poems,
that would bring a tear to your eye,
that would make you laugh even when
your mood would deny joy,
that would bring freedom to some
and loosen the shackles on many,
that would reflect peace,
that would lighten your burden,
that would heal, if only small wounds,
that would recall a better world
and enable its rebirth.
In a different world
I would write you stories,
but we live in this world
and these are the words I have.
I sit outside, on the mesa
having watched the mauve, fuchsia
and coral sky finally concede to night.
The two orange orbs sit
twenty yards away, staring back
and in this moment coyote and I
have known each other for moments,
and for generations, and we are content.
Coyote tells me he was once
an elder living in the old adobe
buildings, how he was a shaman,
still is, with his magic, and I
tell him of how I walked for years
in the desert, food appearing
from heaven, of how I crossed the sea
and some thought it parted for me.
Coyote and I are both old
and we know we each have stories
that no one would believe, and
so we are left to believe each other
and tell our stories to the sky gods.