STARS

Once the winter stars
wrapped in their cloudy shroud
shed frozen tears, unwilling
to come out of hiding.
We searched for them in vain,
knowing our failure,
retreating to the warmth
of home, only to repeat
the failed effort on so
many other nights.

Now, here, the winter stars
are usually fearless,
some drowned by the moon,
but she waxes and wanes
and they reappear, the brightest
never fearing the chilled sky.
We stare at them in wonder
having forgotten for so many
years just how beautiful
they can be in their glory.

INTO THE BRUSH

I have carefully peeled
back the skin of a hundred snakes
and left their twisted forms
curled around mesquite
as so many skirts. Canadia geese
follow carefully worn paths
across an October sky
undeterred by storm clouds
giving chase from the west.
A wolf wanders down
from the tree line to the edge
of the highway. She can taste
the approach of winter,
bitter on her tongue, her coat
grown thick, watching
for a buck to be thrown
to the gravel shoulder
by a passing truck.
In my closet I have
a pair of boots, nothing more
than simple cowhide.

First Appeared in Amethyst Review (Canada), Vol. 8, No. 2, Winter 2000

RETIRED

God sits at his easel, brush in hand
and thinks about the butterfly
alighting on the oak.
This man would rather paint
the nightmare of hell, but
he has been cast out and
his memory has grown dim.
He remembers being a small child
amused by the worm peering
from soil in a fresh rain and how
when he split it, both halves
would slither away
in opposite directions.
Now he rocks in the chair
and watches night fall
and shatter on the winter ground.

First Appeared in Medicinal Purposes: A Literary Review, Vol. 1, No. 6,
Spring 1997.

WINTER?

In the early morning, before
I open the blinds, before
the sun approaches rising,
I imagine the chill enveloping
everything outside, October
slipping quickly toward
November, to the possibility
of rolling snake eyes, to snow.

Winter always came that way,
unannounced, and at least
by me, unwelcomed, the
last of the crimson, flame
orange and ochre leaves
dragged to the earth
and buried ignominiously.

But I know when I do
open the blinds, even
while the sun is still in
its celestial witness protection,
I will see the shadow
of the palm trees and know
that here we measure winter
on a wholly different scale.

REFLECTIONS

An elk stands at the edge
of a placid mountain lake
and sees only the clouds
of an approaching winter.
A black bear leans over
the mirrored surface of the lake
and sees only the fish
that will soon be his repast.
The young man draped
in saffron robes looks
calmly into the water and sees
a pebble, the spirit of his ancestors.
I look carefully into the water
looking for an answer to a question
always lurking out of reach
and see only my ever thinning hair.

FirstAppeared in Green’s Magazine (Canada), Vol. 29, No.1, Autumn
2000.

Santa Cruz Wharf, September

The quieter you become
the more you can hear.
— Baba Ram Dass

Orion lies over the wharf
staring at the moon, dangling
like an unyielding eye, barring sleep
while below the waves wash
onto the shore, licking the pilings
and tasting the sand, a calming roar
broken only by the barking
of the harbor seals.
It is not a night for hunting
the bear has fled over the horizon
preparing for the coming winter
and the hunter tires from the chase.
A gull nips at his heels, and plunges
back into the swells, he must be
content with the odd fish and scraps
from the strange ones who mass
on the wharf each day and retreat by night
until there is only the hunter
and the goddess and two young men
curled into the sand.
I stand on the balcony
and stare at the hunter
wishing that sleep would come,
that the white eye would blink,
but the waves wash in
and the harbor seals bark
and the stars beat
a slow retreat.

First publshed in Lighthouse Weekly, January 17, 2022
https://www.lighthouseweekly.com/post/geography-and-santa-cruz-wharf-september

OF THE SEASONS

In the heart of winter, then,
which seemed unending
I would stare out at the maples
barren branches piled
in ever tottering snow
and dream of palm trees
and a warm ocean breeze.

In heart of winter now,
such as it is, all I see
are endless palms and
many Southern Live Oaks,
their branches piled
under a heavy burden
of sagging Spanish Moss
and I dream of the simple
beauty of the maple leaf
shifting from its deep green
to its endless shades
of autumn beauty.

DRINKING TEA IN KABUL*

Rockets flash briefly
across the chilled sky,
plumes of smoke, ash
carried off
by impending winter.

Over the lintel of the entry
to the Inter-Continental Hotel Chicago,
carved deeply into the marble
Es Salamu Aleikum
staring implacably
through ponderous
brass framed doors
onto the Miracle Mile.
Countless guests
pass below it
unseeing.

My son and I
sit across a small table
spilling bits of tapas
onto the cloth,
laughing lightly
at the young boy
bathed in a puree
of tomato, his shirt
dotted in goat cheese.
My son explains
the inflation of the universe,
gravitational waves
cast off
by coalescing binary
neutron stars.
His words pull me
deeper
into my seat.
We speak somberly
of the jet engine
parked haphazardly
in the Queens gas station
unwilling to mention
265 lives
salted across
the small community.

We embrace
by his door, the few
measured hours run.
He turns to call
his girlfriend,
I turn my collar up
against the November night.

The Red Line train
clatters slowly back
into a sleeping city.
In my room
I brew a cup of Darjeeling.

*”We will drink tea in Kabul tomorrow morning, if God wills it.” – Basir Khan, Northern Alliance Commander, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, 13 November 2001.

First appeared in Hearsay, 2004 and in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008).

QUESTION POSED, AWAITING A RESPONSE

I stooped and spoke
to a stone, asking the question.
I was here before you arrived
and I will be her long after you leave.
I held the sand in my hand
warm from the sun, asking the question.
I came after your arrived
and I will leave long before you are gone.
I held the winter wind on the tip
of a finger, asking the question.
I am not here now
and I have never been here.
I touched the waters
to my lips, asking the question.
I was above you when you came
and I will be below you when you go.
I saw the flames dance
before me, asking the question.
You were ashes once
and you shall be ashes again.
I stood mired in the clay
clinging to my legs, asking the question.
It is of me you were formed
and it is to me you will return.
I sat at the foot of God
blinding light, asking the question.
You cried to me at birth
and you will cry to me at death.

First Published in The Poet: Faith Vol. 1, Spring 2021
https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/spring-2021—faith