Monday, October 20, 2014

Try to Remember


The first time I noticed
being without it? Well. Cold tea
in the kettle. Cat peering out
of the Rice Krispies box. Two tickets
to The Fantasticks by the phone.
On the TV, Merv Griffin laughing
at Danny Kaye. The mailman
saying, hope you don’t mind,
it was open. The school bus
coming blithely up the street,
chock-full of kids. Was when.

Display Behaviors


We were watching a nature show
about misfit animals who have evolved
in odd ways to take advantage of a food
source or a mate, including the stalk-eye
fly who blows bubbles into his own
brain, soon after birth, pushing his eyes
far out to the ends of fragile stalks—
degrading his eyesight but improving
his chances with the ladies.

Of course Noreen and I are quick
to point out the parallels with humans
forced to do the same, to find ways
to survive and pass on their genetic
material. As a fatty in the eighth grade,
I gained grudging respect from classmates
by daring to eat whatever they placed
in front of me:  leftover hamburger pie
scraped from lunch trays and mixed with Red
Vines scraped from the lunchroom floor,
then spiced with chewing tobacco. She
allowed other kids to earn the chance
to connect the dots of her leopard-like
freckles with Magic Markers, and later,
showed certain handpicked males where
the constellations Virgo and Chamaeleon
could be found.

Now, they show the only parrot species too fat
to fly, and a caterpillar that dies and is reborn,
winter and spring, seven years running.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ossuary


She paused from her work to tell me she
was no angel, and this, no dream--
but you can't trust angels or dreams, reckless
as they are with the truth.

Her work was to gather human bones
from a large, loose pile, and sort them
into cubicles carved out of the stone in this
underground catacomb--row after row,
as far as the eye could see--and labeled
with bracchium, sinistrum crus, and so on.

But it's something religious, right? Who else
works in Latin? Should I be learning
something? doing something? Always
about you, the living, she hissed. You 
are alive. And I could see through her,
especially at the edges, as she bent
to put a load of skulls, capitibus, in her basket
as if gathering windfall fruit, only round
and perfect and white. Do what you like. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Winter from Which None Will Emerge Unscathed


Well, right off, Uncle Cleo will die, but we can’t
really blame the winter so much as deep frying.
Two disks in Irwin’s spine will bulge when he tries
unsuccessfully to push the neighbor’s daughter’s
Fiat up the driveway, but he does get asked in
for coffee—but just coffee—so there’s that. Arwen
will hold her face against the kitchen window, soaking
in the last of the sun’s warmth at 4:45 p.m., and later,
mid-January, carve day lilies into both of her thighs
with a lobster fork. Six-year-old Stefan learns
the hard news about Santa. A seven-hundred
year-old foxtail pine in a Sierra Nevada ice storm
splits down the middle. Thirty-seven residents of Butte,
Montana question the existence of God, though
twenty-two will recant before Easter. One night in early
February, Cyril will see a side of himself so dark
and loathsome that he will refuse to allow
the coming reproach, the slow indictment of light. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Laughs Overheard


The snigger of slander,
like a sleeping pig. 
The guffaw of flattery,
like smashing plates.
The whinny of desire,
caramelized as baby
back ribs. The punctilious
titter, like a forced
fart. The one not
mirrored in the eyes,
a dull razor pulled
against the grain.