Soft July

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since you’ve been gone the days
are silent

except for the rush of wind
in our apple tree.

See how the fruit hangs
heavy, pulling low
the branches;
ready.

so I’ll wait in the shade
of soft July
and think
of you.

Variations on a Theme

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ChurchBodegaBay

But there are so many
To be considered.

The sky, for example,
Is blue today
And white clouds
Are gliding
Over the green continent.

Meanwhile, under the trees
Up Bonny Dune Road
Antennae tremble in the
breeze

While a bird hovers
Momentarily
And dives.

And what about me?
Suppose I’m driving towards Davenport
And I turn too fast
Around the smooth curve
And, seeing the bearded man
Bent over his tripod,
His camera aimed
At the glittering creek

I hear the screaming horn
Of a head-on pickup-truck
And crashing glass
Suddenly fills
My flaring eyes . . . .

. . . . or maybe I swerve in time
And drive on to Davenport,
To the Whaler Inn,
And with my camera
Search for the right shot –
A white church
Against brown hills.

But today I sit alone in the living room
Listening to Mozart , waiting for you

I watch as the cat stretches
By an open window
And stroke her warm fur,
Black silk in silver sunlight
On the dark red carpet.

(1977: re-posted 2017)

Winter Tree

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The winter tree
does not move.

Its wide trunk
plunges into graven earth,
unseen roots, grasping hands
feel deeply the living soil,
hold firm anchorage
against the coming storm,

but rising wood, thin
though strong enough
to paint slender lines,
trails into purer air,
gives shelter
to Christmas birds.

They hunch on stems, quietly
waiting to sing open
the dawn.

(12/23/2011)

She sits in the old, red chair

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She sits in the old, red chair
feet up, the red crush of the ottoman
giving rest to tired ankles.

At ninety-nine, her face is lined
and thin, cheekbones jut beneath
piercing young eyes, as hands,
thin, pale skin barely concealing
vein and bone, lie in repose in her lap

as we talk, remembering all the days
and find her mind a crystal stream
vibrant, alive with a life of love

filled with places past
and people gone.

Memorial

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Summer

 
He worked nights, leaving as we climbed
the tall narrow staircase to our shared room,
up into the summer heat, the steel fan
in the hallway window
pulling cool, leafy breezes
from our waving trees.

We heard the kitchen screen-door
slap shut, the Pontiac roaring to life,
and watched as slowly he backed down
the dark driveway, and was gone.

And gladly we glided through misty dreams,
flying over tree-tops, baseball games
and cool swimming pools,

when finally the robin’s enthusiasm
and the fresh morning sun
flashing through green leaves
woke us as we heard the car stop
and Dad call cheerfully, “I’m home!”

The air already scented with bacon and coffee,
we flew down the groaning stairs,
two steps at a bound,
and eagerly started another golden
summer’s day.

 

Winter

 
One winter day I did something wrong, and
he got angry and drew his worn leather belt
From the loops of his grey, stained work trousers
To teach me a lesson.
Terrified, I ran upstairs to the big closet
and trembled behind coats and sweaters,
as heavily he came up the steps,
righteous anger ringing in his voice,
tears flowing down my cheeks;

when my big brother, teenage and strong,
called defiance to him and drew him down
into the back yard to fight him
and save me, angered by his

memory of so many other beatings,

determined to stop it now!

But facing his own father

he could not fight back, and

weeping, I watched my dad
pummel my brother’s defenseless face,
far worse than any beating
I would have gotten.

From kitchen window,
I screamed to them both
to stop!

That was when my father saw,
in the kitchen window’s glare
his own father’s angry eyes,
and felt his father’s fists

landing hard on his own face,
and he stopped and

embraced my brother.
 

 

Spring  
Seven years after my father died
my first child, my son, was born in spring,
and in the gleaming, sterile room
I first held him in my arms
as, with his impossibly wide, blue eyes
he calmy gazed right into my raw soul,
and I felt in a sudden rush of warmth,
a timeless love
and at last discovered
the reason for my life.

It was then
I understood my father.

In my son’s face I saw my own
and felt my father’s eyes gazing
in warm wonder on me
and I glowed with
unconditional love for my son.

(30 Jan 2011)

Survivor

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car and tree

My busy day paused,
gassing up the car,
I waited as the gallons flowed
and clicked to a stop,

and ready to go,
I slowly drove
toward the busy street

when the sudden crush
of limb and leaf,
held me on the edge ­—
wondering

how a dying tree’s
green embrace
cradled me
in my shattered car,
unscathed.

The Humble Man Prays

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Sunlight through Dirty Window

“A man who is truly humble cannot despair, because in the humble manthere is no longer any such thing as self-pity.” Thomas Merton

+

I am like this window
streaked with rain,
obscured by
blowing dust,
neglected
yet holding firm
against the wind.

I know
that some fine, clear day
you’ll open
the door,
wipe my sins away
and clean at last
I’ll dissolve
into your face.

(10 Nov 2012)