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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.