Along the banks of the barge canal in the village park, a man older, his hair white, almost a mane, sits on the breakwall feeding Wonder bread to the small flotilla of ducks. Tearing shreds of crust from a slice, he casts it onto the water and smiles as they bob for the crumbs. He tells them the story of his life as though they were his oldest friends. My Anna, he says, was a special woman, I met her one night in the cramped vestibule of an Indian take away in London during a blackout. We heard the sirens and then a blast, not far off. She grabbed my arm in fear. She was from Marlow-on-Thames, she lived in a small flat in the Bottom, she worked days in a millinery, and at night tended bar at the Local, until the war. She’s been gone two years now and I miss her terribly especially late at night. A goose slowly swims over awaiting her meal, she looks deeply into his eyes. How are you, dearest Anna, it is not the same without you late at night when the silence is broken again by the sirens.
First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021
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.