Walker,

17 Apr

to have your eyes fixed on the scrap of sidewalk
always two steps ahead, despite this intersection,
is an exhibit.  It’s only an exit from the parking lot,
but I am here and I see the leaves and branches
of your wind tossed hair—how they soften, like dusk,
the hard bark of your expression.

A blunt couple, frozen, stands with car doors open
as if they expect you to do the unexpected.
And I, like a muttering magician, wave my hand
for you to cross, guessing you need something,
like a sense of place, to make your way east
along this boulevard.

But if stories are a way to see what happens,
and poetry a seed, you are both to me
when, by the corner of my bumper, you perform
a perfect hairpin and go back west, leave
my body churning its wonder and distress
in this, the failing flame of my forgiveness. 

Log

24 Feb

The green pond wrinkles
where the turtle left
behind the white log

Wood Heat

20 Feb

I tend the damper and watch
from the window—bundled cousins
are laughter with toboggans.  

They slide the slope to jumbles
then regain the hill, gathering
and choosing lanes

for another fleeting run—
children banging the cadence
they have always drummed.

Soon the failing light
will send them in.
Soon we will go back home.

On the sash, I am turning
away from my reflection
to flame in the wood warm room.

I have a baseball in a box,

28 Jan

a leather pearl on my shelf.  The box is clear to show
red stitches and a smudge on Rawlings where the bat
greeted it with a rough kiss. 

I study it and conjure up the errant arc over first base;
the upraised arms and hands that would have a lofted relic.
HERE IT COMES! I cried, and grabbed it. 

Some guy exclaimed he too had touched the pearl,
but the usher arrived to check my fingers.  
All too soon, the sting had quit my skin.

A baseball had graced me, had been sent my way,
so I keep it in a box, and I still pray
for off-field outfield hits and sudden sunny days.

Final Flood

26 Jan

Beside the toddling Ausable we kids grew to be disciples
of gun oil, varnished stocks, blued barrels, and the old
cash register of Robinson’s Guns and Ammunition,
Grandpa behind the counter packing Half and Half
into his pipe, plucking a paper match.  I’d notice
his fingernail, evenly split and unable to mend
from where a car he’d been repairing fell on him. 

Visiting in summer, we’d walk from Grandma’s
to the store, numb our fingers in the Coke cooler,
wait for Grandpa to offer wet glass bottles of Hires
and Orange Crush, carbonated hiss invoking spirits
of the sugar rush.  Love poured—filled us,
made us less afraid even of the dusty black boar’s head
dead in his dim back office.

The store had, for years, been sitting vacant
when on an August weekend
Hurricane Irene contorted the Ausable,
split the town into floodplain and high ground. 
FEMA gained the land and came with bulldozers. 

Today, Google shows weeds 
and dirt where Grandma’s house should be.
Between those two trees, I point out for the kids,
and the store right where that dumpster sits.
            There was a front porch…

but the image on the screen is now blurred
by a sudden weight of water on the shore.  

The Housepainter Exhibits Hope

29 Oct

This great green tower is soon to be a pyre,
sparks and embers falling from the sky.

But today, ripe acorns are unsteady hail
and one ricochets the roof to my paint pail.

Brush in abeyance, I extract the now white
nut, settle it on a windowsill to dry

then, on lunch, coat another dozen or so,
leave the pointy pearls in a row

set on two dry leaves and a wicker table.
Perhaps the customer will notice and be able

to receive this, the smallest of small signs.
Perhaps she still believes in acorn rhymes.

Lonesome Along The Hudson

3 Oct

After college I work graveyards at Mobil Mart:
the register, the pumps, the bullet booth.
Just me, fluorescent lights, and piped in fifties.

Sunday night, a beat up limo, a man and woman
climbing from the back. He comes in—his face
an alloy mostly iron—buys Raleigh 100’s, turns
to exit and I quip, be careful out there.
He curses, you know somethin’ I don’t?
I say no, but he’s not done forging insolence
with eight pound dirty words and muscled scorn.

Finally, he quits.
The limo hits the street. I get outside for a smoke.

Under darkness,
lights on the barges move like mourners up the river,
or they slip away downstream to New York City.

The Youth Group Canoeing Trip Unintentionally Promotes An Eternal Perspective

17 Sep

By afternoon, the group stopped to make camp
and Paul remained on shore to help as I waded in
up to my neck, longing to make the smooth strokes
of farm boys and big kids who crossed over
talking and laughing as they went.
If he had foreknown the pending doom
of a youth group friend, he might have chosen
to stay home, but he hadn’t, and would see
my head slip under slow brown water,
hear the yell and splutter of the skinny kid
who didn’t really swim. 

I couldn’t fathom my life closing,
but it began, and Paul responded
like a father to keep me from my end. 
By second gasp, he shoved out a canoe,
then came swimming like a man, 
the calm in his voice a buoy.
And still, I tried to kill him. 
We were saved from my demand to live
only when our feet found sand.
          Later, at the fire with the others, Paul’s face said,
          Don’t think you’re the only one returning from the dead.

The Old Brown Schwinn Blues

6 Sep

I think I’d give a lot to do over the decision:
my father’s ten speed Schwinn Sports Tourer
gone to the scrapyard for money for vacation.
The maxim, If you don’t ride it, you don’t need it,
uncluttered my life a bit, but now that old brown
Chromium alloy frame and those aluminum rims
haunt me like an unforgiven sin.

My father let me ride it so I could still get to work
after he took my driver’s license, a mercy of persuasion
like a derailleur pushing on a chain to move it.
If I could, I’d go like seventeen again,
bomb a long hill in top gear, lower chin to handlebars
and praise wind that brings tears. Instead,
I slow pedal on this one speed poem.

Father’s Esker

30 Jul

We live on an esker, you are happy to explain
if the tiller jumps a boulder in the garden.
You plant peas as early as late April, eager
once the muddy days of sugaring are gone,
snow having quit even the woods by then.  
But ice takes longer.
 
*

Running trails in spring at the reservoir
where you and Mom used to go for walks,
I come across a rocky outcrop still iced over
and kneel beside the thawing, listen
down among the roots and mosses,
tell myself to not forget and tell the kids
how a glacial brook deposited the low rocky ridge
where I grew up and came to know the verse
of water and the woods.  I follow a creek down
to the lake, but know better than to risk
that worn and tarnished piece of silver.

*

We drive ourselves to the cemetery in summer,
glaciers so long gone now they are myth,
but here is our reminder: we cut the sod
around your marker, edge it with gravel
gathered from a nearby quarry.  
These greens and purples are minerals
once pressed by massive moving ice.
I tell myself, it isn’t meant to last forever.

The Wave

20 Jun

The swing set little girl, though flying,
manages to wave as I drive by
in the work van, sweep of hair
and dress turning sight to faith
and I tap the brakes.

Generously her flight curves,
her small hand giving grace
as if she knows it will return.
My hand obeys, and a swerve
of laughter crashes on my face.

Peanut Butter And The Loss Of A Father

11 Apr ProdAdminImage.ashx

I was given a good dad. His love for me, a great gift. Peanut butter helped me realize this.

I love peanut butter. Always have. As kids, our mom once expressed some concern for my brother and I, “You could develop an allergy if you eat too much”. Thankfully that has yet to happen.

I’m gaining fast on 50 and still eating pb regularly. My favorite is Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter With Honey (Creamy). I also like the Maranatha peanut butter. Jif is a workhorse, particularly for peanut butter cookies.

I’m a house painter. I pack my own lunch. Most days I take a container of pb&j, dipping it with celery sticks at lunch time. I have high metabolism and if I feel a bit shaky mid-morning, I spread some pb on a granola bar. It works wonders.

A house mate once told me, “John, I used to think eating was just meant to fill the hole, but when you cook I eat because it tastes good!” I was honored. But for too long I fear I have used pb to fill the hole without a true appreciation of its wonder, its sticky sublimity. A year ago something happened that made me appreciate it more: my father died.

Not long after he was gone (a few days, really) I perceived that my perspective on all of life was changed. I was seeing through a different lens. I could not immediately, or even months on, clearly identify the effects, but the world often appeared strange to my eyes (and heart). I feared this change was only for the worse, that sadness would prevail going forward. And that is true, but only part of the truth. Along with sadness I found another sense growing: joy.

Peanut butter isn’t really much to look at. Kind of messy. The natural kind separates, forming an oil slick that has to be stirred back in. Yet it is a gift, nutritious, flavorful, edible with other foods or by itself from a spoon. Kids eat it when they won’t eat the dinner they’ve been offered. And it even fills the hole.

It can’t fill the hole left behind by the loss of a loved one, but it has some power to impart a gratitude for all that is good in this world.

As I visit my mom and brother on the one year anniversary of dad’s death, I am more willing to embrace the sorrows and joys of life. Peanut butter tastes better than ever before. I am sad for our loss, but my heart is inclined toward gratitude for all the ways dad gave of himself, in love.

Odds On Redemption

29 Mar

I’m thinking of a number
between one and ten
and whoever guesses best
gets the final brownie.
Clamor of voices desist!
Each make a choice
and I’ll reveal what I have hid.

I’m thinking of a hitter
who wishes to be better
than the pitch, not to press,
but to select one he can hit. 
He fights and works the count,
hoping for an offering
to come to him.

I’m thinking of a number
between one and seven billion.
This clamor of faces exists
to be cherished and lifted. 
I’m thinking of a kindness
given to the many, and all
the opportunity to guess.

Affliction and The Writing Life

28 Mar

“Being a writer is an affliction” a friend of mine recently posted to his blog.  I couldn’t agree more.  I write because I must.  It’s a necessity.  This is who I am.  It is a state of being, as my friend suggested.  Ultimately, I did not choose to be a writer.  Rather, the work and wonder of being a writer was placed on me by forces outside myself.  Sometimes I try to ignore it or go so far as to deny my calling.  As well, I take legitimate rest from it.  But always it is calling me back with stubborn persistence.  It is a weight or pressure as formative as glaciers. 

I commented to my friend’s blog that his post reminded me of the 1997 movie Affliction.  Nick Nolte played generational alcoholic Wade Whitehouse in this painfully riveting depiction of addiction.  The film (in which James Coburn won best supporting actor for his role as Wade’s whiskey guzzling father) causes the viewer to feel like an alcoholic, always off balance, never quite able to establish the foundational, the real, the essential way to proceed.  Sometimes when I write I feel like Wade Whitehouse.

Affliction is an apt term for the writing process.  The stumbles, the falters and false starts, the painful humbling that must occur for writing to be anything close to good, are discomfiting.  A friend once called a poem I wrote “dismissive”.  And yet I was compelled to continue with revisions. 

The addict who has come to the end of all hope knows she cannot save herself.  She will either despair unto death or be resurrected to new life.  If she is raised, it will come from outside herself and that too will be an affliction with all its attendant sufferings and humblings. 

Affliction is the way of the writer.  But it is not an empty or self-destructive affliction.  If I merely look within for hope and inspiration I am defeated before I begin.  But if I look beyond myself, listening, investigating, quietly considering the friction caused by outside forces on my person, I become more of who I am.  If my work fails, who am I to demand its success?  If it succeeds, who am I to demand its precedence. 

If I think I know my craft, I do not yet know as I ought.  And thus I am tempted to despair.  I suffer “corrosive self-doubt” (James Lee Burke), but I write because I must, this is who I am.  If you wish for your writing to give you substance, it is no better than addiction.  But if at the center of your substance is a writer, you do well to embrace your affliction.

The day we met

23 Nov

you sat like summer in your red pants suit
on the edge of that flabby plaid couch
and, like all of us, did not make sense
of our study in Leviticus.
Sunday breeze roused the sash

and you stepped outside to catch your breath.
I followed, drawn to where 
perfume and lipstick lit fires in my flesh. 

We talked and afterward it seemed as if
your long fingers had reached into me
and left prints, like an imp had sneaked
chocolates, then crawled into my heart,
leaving sticky bits and happy remnants.

The Water Oak

22 Nov

My first son and I, both of us long limbed,
just can grasp hands around the rough bosom
of the old water oak out front.  On its south side
large low branches have been removed
and rot makes dark hovels of the collar cuts.
Further up, fractured gray bones jut
desiccated among lithe green leaves.
 
By wind and years once pliant arms succumb,
dropping to the roof or lawn.  And as I gather
for a fire, I pray the long ominous bough
hung with mistletoe to endure over the corner
that is the boys’ room.  This prayer arose
even before the broken top that blew and caught,
hidden, in the last tree my logger father felled.

Prudence demands hiring a company
of men to prune danger hanging from above
though mercy blows extravagant on the breeze
and chainsaws cannot cleave that dominion.
Nearby roots of a younger oak, still growing,
are made known by a crack in the foundation
and a bow in the boys’ north bedroom wall. 

All of us who live within the province of oaks
must contend with the wind, and the creak
of limbs, as we stoop to gather sticks
and broken beauty.  All of us carry
or receive unwelcome news of doom falling
and must permit the reach and roots of trees
to subdue suddenly, or by slow degrees.

Calling Hours

13 Oct

He had told me where to buy the car
then helped rivet sheet metal to places
Vermont winters had eaten the ‘73 Pontiac’s

floorboard.  It took two days in November,
our fingers so cold it hurt to get them warm.
All winter the car got me to the store

where we worked unloading trucks,
pricing, stocking, sweeping, mopping,
crushing cardboard boxes in the baler.
 
Tonight, in line at the calling hours
for my father, he meets my wife and children,
says he always knew I’d turn out good.
    
I can’t get over these faces, these people
I haven’t seen in thirty years or more.
They’ve adorned themselves with love

for dad and all the good he ever did.
They tell me stories of dad helping them
or his words they have not wanted to forget

and I am drawn to his reflection in them.  
The rust of death has marred our souls;
tonight there is help to patch the holes.

River Carver

13 Sep

A photograph from about a year before you died
shows you seated on a large stump hands folded,
shoulders slumped. My brother and I had walked
down from Grandma’s with my birthday camera
never meaning to capture how cancer had deprived you
of Helen years back, how grief had seized you

and your workshop had retired into shadow;
the gravers laid on benches among shavings
sharp reminders of your need to carve reliefs.
They had fit the artist’s hands—hands made
to wield them—and formed many works:
the shields of the apostles on oaken doors, the altar table,
the walnut reredos so beloved by the congregation.

Helen had ever been your blade and stone,
her keen spirit comfort to your war wounds,
but the unceasing waters of bereavement
whittled your bones and finally broke them
at the kitchen table where Grandma found you
gouged by your own hand and that dull revolver…

Once, while in the South Pacific, you had mailed
a thank you to my mom for photographs received
of her, a then months-old baby. Declaring love,
you promised her stories, mud pies, and the circus.
Your works deserve prominence, but you
were carving for an audience of folks along the river
in a town that would suffer many floods.
For Carrol Coolidge (1908-1980)

Cousin (In Memoriam)

20 Jul

for Jeffrey Eells, 1968-2001

Eight years of traffic have blurred the accident site
by the time I see your place at the cemetery.  I say
I didn’t know you had been buried close to Grandma
and your sister cries—she knew you like I never did.  

Gentle, easy going, made for downhill skiing,
you meant to finish college, were fluent in sarcasm,
and had a well of sadness you kept covered
with laughter that snapped like dry sticks.  As kids

we laughed like cousins at Grandma’s in the glen.
We played kick the can, took our places at the table,
passed the rolls, heard the stories being told,
then got back in the family cars again.  

    Today your sister is keeping her own well and,
for me, pulls back the lid.            (Did you ever
find someone to let in, someone to draw water with,
someone who could damp your dry pail with rest?)

Here I stand, a tree beside the streams she pours,
planted in the soil of her dreams.
    My bark is rough—see how green her grief!
My roots are scorched—freely is falling her relief.

Given

30 Jun

Our Sundays in the park are not forgotten:
the flowering apples, the plumb and level bees.
At the pavilion, bridesmaids and groomsmen
smoking, waiting for pictures to be taken.

I had a wish to syncopate their laughter
with our cadence and our rhythm.
You concealed, double wrapped in skin.
I your living envelope, your place of origin.

Not desiring marriage, and despite my arm’s petitions
I gave you for adoption.
      Oh, the grip of charcoal eyes, of newborn grace!
      Oh, the place where lightning struck my boughs!
      Oh, the rhythm of rainfall the day you appeared
my rising river, my hidden-to-me girl.

Fall arrives and oaks brace themselves,
the park gathers its leaves—I am familiar with
the hardening of bark, the early freeze,
but could not have guessed what now rolls over me.

An infant cry—a flash and strike—but wait,
a distant rumbled comfort has its say.
I ask the baby’s name, tiny hands are upraised;
The mother and I stretch over the stroller like a canopy.

-for Jill G.

Graceful Rider

30 Jun

I recall the asphalt—a blur beneath—and my days
at the school of tachometry.  Chrome tailpipes
and handlebars shone like a vision.
I leaned into the turns until the foot pegs scraped.
Hardtop suited me just fine.

I evoke the throttle’s spirit—the twist and release—
and the engine’s heat.  They moved me, but pavement
takes a toll and ditches are replete.  All those close calls,
falls, and crashes hurt, but I never refused the road.
I crossed the double line

before I slowed.  Then came the graceful rider.
He rode from days of old on everlasting tires
because the time had come.  When he spoke I shattered,
but he whispered to each piece; for every shard he shouted.
His voice was bread and wine.   

He made pursuit his standard and tattooed me with fire.
I ducked and dodged and rolled with bent desire,
but he planned my course.  He pierced and purchased,
broke bones and mended, then caught me with a look…
He saw a man born blind.

My will failed, he gripped.  He healed my road-rash knees,
rebuilt my make and model, he saw to parts unseen
and my gears made changes.  Rubber on the street
moved me to new places.  Beneath chain and sprocket
I saw narrow roads unwind.               

November Highway

29 Jun

Over radio waves, on a glare November day, a wide sky
transmits Bob Dylan’s boot leg release number eight. 
The buzz of amplifiers rises in the places where he breathes.

He says, Once I had a pretty girl, but she did me wrong. 
Now I’m marching to the city and the road ain’t long. 

I’m driving alone, so I join the sacred melody and the sky
stoops down—to better hear the singer, I tell myself—
as if the buzzing and the breathing are its favorite song.

The Lustering Of Love

29 Jun

Her lips, the wine of garden evenings.
His hands, the bread of their communion.
The conversations of their skin lingering
Unhindered by rejection.  In their fields
Pomegranates, dates, and figs flourished.
Ripe fruit bent branches low for them.

By guile, then, eyes were opened, fields taken;
And they sewed fig leaves, bodies curtained,
Alien.  Yet, they would begin again
To anticipate lilac drifting on the breeze,
To look for all the ways a rose can please.
As one, they would await shame’s retreat.

So arise my beautiful one.  Winter is past,
The rain is gone.  Go early to the fields
With me to see if vines have ripened,
If flowers have opened.  The gardens
Are protected, the figs do well, the harvest
Will be full, the vineyards are in blossom.

Only Dog

24 Jun

As kids, we would put our hands inside
her toothy den; for us the molars were mild,
the incisors unwilling even to gentle dent
the soft butter of our skin.
She chewed a couple of neighborhood pets
and Dad had to put her on a run
until we moved outside of town.
There, with our Shepherd’s perked ears
and pointed nose always close by
my brother and I could explore fields
of curious cows, or trod a tangled wood. 
She would bark for joy in the driveway
when visitors arrived who sometimes
waited in their cars until we settled her.

In her waning days, Dad helped her
to get up steps, lifting her from behind. 
The day came he said, She’s in a lot of pain,
and lifted her into the bed of the pickup. 
We drove to town at dusk and dark
had fallen when the vet came out to us.
As if it had all been a dream,
she was gone
and we had started back toward home.       
        From beside him
there on the bench seat of the truck
I glanced up. Dad focused on the road
and cried.  We never had another dog. 
Dad’s words: It’s too hard.

Timber by Caleb Eells

1 Jun

It was the first day of Spring break, a Saturday.  My brother, my sister, and I were outside doing spring cleaning.  We went inside, tired, and grumpy. We were hungry and wanted lunch.  But when we went inside, we found something quite unexpected. My mom was sitting on the kitchen floor, and was crying hard.  The vacuum we had heard minutes before, wailing like a siren, now sat silently next to her looking mournful. That’s when my dad came in the room with the phone in his hand, and told us Grandpa (on my Dad’s side) had been in an accident, and had died.  I learned later that Grandpa had been out logging (cutting down trees) at another person’s house.  He had been cutting a tree that had entangled itself with another tree, so when the tree he was cutting fell, the top of the other tree came with it, and had hit him in his right temple, just below his helmet.  The person he had been working with said that the blow knocked him down, and then he curled up and didn’t move.  My Dad believes he had died right then. Gone.  In the blink of an eye.

My Grandma, Aunt, Uncle, and Cousins live in Vermont.  My Grandpa used to live there too.  Now he lives in heaven.  And, yes, I’m positive that my Grandpa is in heaven right now.  So anyway, the same day we got the phone call, we hurried to get to the airport and we flew to Vermont, taking one stop to switch planes in Washington D.C.  We arrived in VT around 12:30 and met my Uncle Cam and my cousin, Paul, there.  We drove back to their house without much conversation, and got there at about 1:00.  In the morning, we met their cute German Shepherd puppy, Maya.  Their cat, Daisy, didn’t like the new puppy, and stayed clear of it.  On April 15th, a Tuesday, it snowed about four inches.  My sister and I were happy about the new snow, while our cousins moaned about the fresh snow and how they wanted it to be spring.  My brother couldn’t have cared less about it.  Looking back, I too wish it hadn’t snowed considering the circumstances.  I think Grandma just needed it to be Spring.

The day after the snow, we had the calling hours (a time when people come and give their condolences to the relatives of the deceased person and to see the deceased person in the casket).  When we saw his body in the casket, my Aunt cried a lot.  The lump in my throat , which was as big as a watermelon, didn’t go down till I left the room.  The calling hours lasted about seven hours, but I left with my sister and younger cousin after about three hours.  A kind lady volunteered to take us home.  I noticed that people get a lot nicer when one of your family members die.  I guess it is just courtesy.  Or maybe it’s sympathy. Or maybe even empathy.

The memorial service was the next day, and the weather was sunny.  My Uncle, my Dad, my Mom, and my Aunt all went up and talked.  My Uncle did a wonderful speech, and my Dad read some poems.  One he had written, and one Grandpa had written.  My Aunt and my Mom read some poem-like-writings.  We sang some of Grandpa’s favorite songs, and two different pastors got up and talked.  The memorial service was really marvelous.

We finally left on April 20th,  Easter Sunday.  The flights went well, and we arrived home in time for dinner.  My Dad went up there again last week for the burial because the ground had been too muddy in April.  I’m glad my dad was able to go up again.  He was able to help with the work at Grandma’s house, and he was also there to comfort her. We will be going up to VT again in the Summer.  I will not be seeing my Grandpa ever again in VT, or even on Earth.  But I will see him later, in heaven.

by Caleb, age 12

Beautiful girl

26 Jan

you draw my eyes and I anticipate.
Like on a starlit night, my gaze
rises to your skies and remains.

When I stay too late in town,
full of cares, I remember you.
Street light and cityscape are fair,

but your light is higher, and yours
a darker country.  So take me
where flame will be folded into fire. 

Let us lie close.  Let us make
a space for stars at the window;
they are drawn by our embrace.

Hydrant

18 Jan

He’s stuck—a burdock in the sock of
his apartment on the third floor—so he rolls
himself to the window, watches a backhoe
folding knolls of asphalt and earth.

Men and trucks are lined up at the curb
with pipes to fix a break. A rush of lake
consuming glory is pouring from the hydrant,
exalting, darkening the summer morning street.

There! and there! glad kids appear
with stamping feet, splashing their hair
and skin and sending him back to the days
when he still filled his run-home-lungs with air.

Beside him on the table his pill organizer
and a glass of tap water can wait while he thinks,
those men down there are working hard;
today, no mud will make it to the kitchen sink.

Song Of The Sanitation Worker

6 Jan

We, the yellow vested men,
Hold the bar and toe the rail of the county truck
As it jerks, bucks, and grunts its girth
Through city block and subdivision.
We leap down, run-trot, retrieve the bins,
And attend the marriage of a wheeled plastic container
To a greased hydraulic mechanism. 

Laying on gloved hands, we open lids, face odors,
Yank levers—bending, lifting, even reaching in
For the sake of the human garbage mission. 
Ours is the trash romp, the crud collection;
Ours the pride and pomp of rubbish. 
We are the shakers and dumpers.
We are the gristle on the bones of sanitation.

Hidden

5 Jan

Ready or not, the seeker says.
    There’s only so many holes to go down
in this house, but they run to them again
when the count begins.

Who crawls from the laundry heap
or out beneath the bed is musty, dust
and silliness, contented to be found,
or else lodging complaint
if the count was too quick.

They pull my hand, demand, Count loud!
You’re it!  Oak floors bounce and shake,
then all sounds whisper into secrets. 

I raise my voice to reckon time
before ready or not and here I come.
I go slow, but you’d never guess
the way they’ve flown, like ghosts,
behind doors and into backs of closets.

Then I search the rooms of our home;
I seek their faces,
and the light that would be
found in darkened places.

Teller

28 Dec

In books he read aloud, my father uttered charms.
Brave Sneelock, the Heffalump, farmers Boggis, Bean, and Bunce,
the characters by whom he cast a spell.
As a boy, listening, I never guessed an author
and barely parsed the teller from the tale;
all the earth and sky was in the telling—and didn’t fail.

Who told me stories first my heart is welded to
with sentences, is anchored to, as truth is to a word.
His voice turned all to flint and fire,
or else so leaf and green as to be giddy.

Mom says he still reads to her—I can see him in his chair:
lamplight on furrowed brow and legs crossed.
The sun is low; the sky in rows of ruddy men
is marching down to greet him and he begins.
His gift is words—words full of rooms
in which the wonderment of telling is the end.

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