The old man peers at the yellowing book
then places it on the arm of the chair.
He gives the walker a sad, angry look,
and still struggling, looks up in mocking prayer.
Clutching the book, he limps to the table
and sinks onto the chair, risking a fall
that could reshatter his hip. Unable
to hear, he shouts to his wife, down the hall,
who brings the hearing aid and his glasses.
His eyes glow as the ancient words bring fire
to his voice, arms dance as though his class is
full of young minds that are his to inspire.
He settles into the chair, bent by age
and curses his body, now more a cage.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)
He can remember it as though it was just yesterday. Actually it was just yesterday, but for him that had little to do with memory. Bits of his childhood would come flooding back: the city, the cousins who took him in for the few dollars his mother could offer. But his grandsons are a vague shadow, sometimes present, sometimes faded into the background. He ex-wife is ever present, and he clings to her, despite her death, wondering if they will get back together. I don’t want to tell him that his wish will require a firm belief by them both in a hereafter, and that neither of them was very good at directions in any event, so who knows where they will end up.
The white crested duck
waddles from the pond
headed for the path
on which we take
our morning walks.
He is accompanied
by wives or girlfriends,
we prefer to think
one of each for propriety’s sake.
Want to tell him
that Liberace tried
that hairstyle years ago,
and it never worked
on bad hair days,
and in any event
he always sashayed
and never waddled.
I would much rather be home, listening to Joan Osborne on the CD player, lying on the couch with you sleeping across the sofa curled under the cotton throw coiled against the winter battering the windows ca tucked into your knees.
Instead, I sit on the bed CNN droning in the background and stare out at the Hoyt Cinemas the marquee blank but blazing over the barren street with the occasional car sliding by in oblivion.
In Paris the air traffic controllers have joined the strike much to the mirth of the citizens of London but I will have to postpone my trip or perhaps just spend a couple of days wandering the Cotswolds roaming among time worn tombstones nestled in the shadows of ancient churches.
In six hours I will run along the bay, under the watchful eye of early diners in the Marriott coffee shop and the lone egret standing at water’s edge watching the giant bird with unmoving wings reach out for the sun.
First Appeared in The Distillery: Artistic Spirits of the South, Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter, 1997.
It’s 12 degrees the night air slices through my sweater my teeth chatter. Standing in the lot fetching my cell phone from the glove box my breath congeals around my face a cloud. I look up at the moon snowflakes dancing on my forehead. Luna’s face is shrouded by a cirrus veil, but her eyes are yours her lips soft caressing curl upwards in a smile as yours. I tell her of my love and she whispers her love reflectively in the voice I hear as I curl next to your picture slipping slowly into sleep.
In Tibet there are more than 80 words to describe states of consciousness, several words to explain the sound of prayer flags rustling in a Himalayan breeze that reaches up to the crest of the peaks that lick at the slowly gathering clouds, all of these words never uttered. There are no words in Tibet to describe the soft brush of your lips across my cheek, your hair pressed into my chest. There are no words in Tibet to describe the faint bouquet of soap and morning coffee as she dries herself slowly in the mirror that runs along the sinks. There are no words in Tibet to describe the sound of her laugh half giggle as we watch the kitten roll on her back, paws up reaching for the mote of dust dancing on the heat rising from the fireplace, pressed down by the lazily spinning ceiling fan. There are no words in Tibet to describe her eyes as they dart after the Monarch that flits above the deep purple Sedum that stands in silent prayer to the sun. There are no words in Tibet to describe how she cringes at the sight of the buck lying alongside the road eviscerated by the fender of the car, long gone, his horn buried in the shallow dirt. There are no words in Tibet to describe the ripples of her spine as I run my finger down her back while she curls, grasping at the margins of sleep. There are no words in Tibet for all of these, no words to fill the room, to blanket the lumpy mattress on which I sit staring at the blank screen of the TV, reflecting the neon light of the 24 hour diner that flashes through the gauze curtains of room 4218 of the Hyatt, merely the echo of another plane lifting out of the San Jose airport.
A voice clear, jazz straight up in six strings with no surprises, but sitting next to my wife and lover it is what an evening wants in much the same way as a night in the heart of winter demands spooning beneath the blanket pulled up to our chins the outside world, having ceased to matter.
She knew for a certainty that the shortest distance from here to there would be the one route he was incapable of finding. It had always been like this, impatient to get somewhere, he trying to accommodate her, yet still finding the most circuitous route. He was always embarrassed, apologized profusely until the day the solution appeared. For the first time she wanted to meander to get there eventually, to see what they might find along the way, to stop for a good reason and for no reason. And that was the day he discovered that all you needed to do was follow a straight line.