Friday, December 31, 2010

Weekly Worded

Time Times Temperature

Not just twelve degrees
but twelve degrees below zero.

The cold etches its lace
on the window glass.

The patio door gets locked
without a key.

The water pipes
are sluggish as an old man’s arteries.

I would get up and go to bed
but the New Year is over an hour away

and the mantle clock quit chiming
minus two degrees ago.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Weekly Worded

All That’s Left of the World

“I understand you have a rare volume of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.”
“Indeed we do.”
“What makes it so scarce?”
“The pages are blank.”
“All of the pages?”
“Every one of them.”
“What’s on the title page?”
“Not a word.”
“Then how do you know it’s a copy of Silent Spring?”
“Like I said, all the pages are blank.”
“Is this a joke?”
“We think it was, one that Carson herself perpetrated on the scientific community.”
“Do you have any other proof that Carson had anything to do with this book?”
“It smells like DDT.”
“Are you serious?”
“Dead serious.”
“That’s it?”
“Well, there’s also the signature.”
“I thought you said the pages were blank.”
“Invisible ink.”
“Oh, I should have guessed.”
“Would you like to see the volume?”
“What’s there to see?”
“Well, nothing except a sterile metaphor for a post-pesticide world.”
“Is that all?”
“That, and a sense of humor.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekly Worded

Still Life

As the Great Blue Heron lands
every small thing
turns perfectly still.
Its great blue shadow
sends shivers across the pond.
It wades to the depth
of its spindly legs
then transforms itself
into silence.
Wings tucked,
neck extended,
narrow head with a yellow beak.
As the sun tilts
in the silt impatience blinks.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Weekly Worded

Winter’s Furnace

The trash barrel smolders all night.
Embers fanned by a breeze

escaping the inferno
float loose across the snow.

They are paper sails,
discarded candles,

Christmas lights
drifting like burning kites.

As each ember cools
it falls like a wishing star.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Weekly Worded

Customer Service

I went to a home improvement center to buy insulation. My friends tell me if I stick it under my house, I’ll be warmer. I hadn’t done this before, so I was happy when a sales associate stopped to ask if I had any questions.

“Why does all your insulation look like giant rolly polly bugs.”

“They’re trying to stay warm.”

“That’s what I thought, like caterpillars, preparing for a new life.”

“Actually, I’m kidding. Insulation gets shipped to us that way. It saves space during transportation.”

“So none of these will metamorphose into something beautiful if, say, I buy a dozen rolly pollies and stick them into my dark crawl space?”

“Nope, sorry to say, unless you consider lower heating costs a transformation.”

“How many would I have to buy for you to guarantee at least one will turn into a giant butterfly?”

“Fiberglass is inanimate, it can’t metamorphose.”

“Maybe you lack faith.”

“How long have you been a homeowner?”

“I just bought my first house. That’s why I’m here at the home improvement center, to make my home more beautiful.”

“I’m sorry, insulation is not beautiful.”

“So does it turn into something ugly?”

“You’ll experience an incessant itch after handing it.”

“That’s not good.”

“And your eyes will water for days.”

“My allergies would be unbearable. Is there another department that would provide a warmer experience?”

“I’d recommend aisle five, electrical and lighting.”

“Is that where they keep the fireflies?”

“Oh yeah, thousands of them.”

“You’ve been very kind.”

“Thank you, and please, insist that Joe helps you, he owes me.”

Friday, November 26, 2010

Weekly Worded

Messin’ With The Hood

A deer stood perfectly still on the road, her eyes like maraschino cherries against the glare of my headlights. I braked, then crept to a standstill, no more than ten feet from the animal. It continued to stare at me. I honked the horn. Nothing. I flashed the headlights. Still nothing. Finally I rolled my window down.

“Hey, you got a death wish? Get off the road!”

The deer gradually turned to face my car, walked forward and placed her two front hooves on the hood.

“Geez,” I shouted, “Watch out for the paint!”

But the hooves had already gouged and dented the surface.

I got out of the car.

“What do you think you’re doing? For god’s sake, have you no instinct for survival?”

The deer didn’t budge, though I heard one hoof tapping, as if to make a point of some petty irritation she had yet to air.

“What? Mountain lion got your tongue?”

Seven more deer appeared from the other side of the road, moving like a buckskinned gang of wild meat. I climbed back into the car, slammed and locked the door. Eventually, one by one, the deer wandered off into the trees.

In the silence I recalled what my father had said while teaching me to drive. If you see one deer, he cautioned, there are probably more.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Weekly Worded

Next to Godliness

The evening news ran a story about a meteor shower, the best viewing to occur around 4 a.m. in the western sky. I brushed my teeth and went to bed but not before setting my alarm. When the alarm went off I grabbed my towel and a bar of soap and headed out the door.

The grass felt cool against my bare feet, fresh with the night’s dew, and when I turned toward the west and tipped my head toward the stars they reminded me of the tiny holes in my shower head, starlight streaming over me like cold water. I could see the Milky Way collected like steam against the ceiling, but still no meteors.

Maybe if I lather up, I told myself, I’ll be ready by the time they arrive. Rocks from space with the scrubbing power of pumice. What a treat! I let my towel drop and suddenly a streak of light from the street. A police car came by slowly, sweeping the neighborhood with a floodlight. It hit me square in the chest, almost knocked me over with its intensity.

“Put your hands up” the megaphone ordered.

I’d been scrubbing my armpits, so compliance seemed redundant.

“Turn around” it ordered, but I didn’t care to be facing east. All lathered up, ready to rinse, and then this awkward interruption.

“Can you wait until I finish?” I called back.

The floodlight switched off, the car crawled down the street.

“Sorry” the megaphone squawked, “we can see you’re clean.”

In a few minutes the patrol car was gone. The neighbor’s dog barked. A porch light came on. Best viewing, my ass.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekly Worded

Will Eat For Work

The stoplight had just turned red, placing my driver’s window directly beside the man holding
the sign. I rolled the window down.
“Does that wording confuse many people who drive past you?”
“It gets me quite a few second looks.”
“A great marketing device, I must say. How did you think of it?”
“I’m a little dyslexic and one day while I was reading lunch...”
“You mean, eating lunch?”
“No, I was reading the ingredients off the side of a fast food wrapper.”
“Light’s going to change, better pick up the pace.”
“So I thought I’d give a jobless person’s perspective to the corporate food industry.”
“Cross traffic's light is turning yellow.”
“So I started sending in the free comment cards at restaurants.”
“And they gave you free food?”
“Yes, and a route, like delivering newspapers.”
“So why aren’t you at work eating burgers?”
“It’s my day off.”
“Ah, the light’s green. Gotta go.”
“Any spare change?”
“Here, try a few of these french fries.”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Weekly Worded

Wilderness Survival

“Did you remember to bring the pedophile?”
“No, I thought we’d just have a nice hike by ourselves.”
“Then how will we keep track of the miles we walked?”
“I brought a pedometer for that.”
“Oh. Did I say the wrong thing again?”
“I suppose a pedophile would work too if he wore an ankle tracking bracelet.”
“I can’t help it if I don’t remember the names for all the gadgets you own.”
“Oh, let’s just go for a hike and forget about it.”
“What if we get lost?”
“I also packed my PMS navigation device, so we’ll be okay.”
“What does that do?”
“It pulls in signals from satellites and tells me when to shut up.”
“Is it working?”

Friday, October 29, 2010

Weekly Worded

Ed Abbey’s Cadillac

A rag top is ideal
for tossing beer cans
while touring the desert

and twelve miles to the gallon
on a good day
makes as much environmental sense.

Ed, you were a heap
of contradictions, not so different
from the Cadillac your wife sold

for five thousand dollars
a year after you died.
Idealism can’t be restored.

New paint and upholstery
won’t bring you back.
The bidding on eBay

less than expected, despite
the current owner’s claim
it’s a hoot

riding your memory around
Arches National Park.
Delicate Arch is ever tenuous

and time will bring it down
like the rest of us. Driving past it
is all we have left to do.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Weekly Worded

Mountain Folk

“Nobody lives up that mountain road except the wealthy.”
“Then it’s a private road?”
“Oh no, it’s public as hell, they want us to admire their homes.”
“Then there are recreational destinations up there, hiking trails, scenic vistas?”
“Oh yeah, hundreds.”
“There must be a map.”
“Nope, the landowners won’t allow it.”
“Okay, I’ll watch for the signs.”
“There ain’t no signs left, except the ‘No Trespassing’ ones.”
“Damn well better believe it, they got dogs too.”
“Hasn’t anyone complained.”
“Oh sure, there’s been some whining.”
“So the authorities are looking into it?”
“Yeah, if by ‘it’ you mean their own pocket.”
“I’m going to drive up there. They can’t keep the common people out.”
“Go ahead, they don’t care.”
“Why not?”
“Their houses are so far off the road they won’t even notice.”
“What if I honk my horn?”
“They’ll just think a FedEx delivery truck got lost again.”
“Well, this revolution won't start itself. Thanks.”
“And close the gate behind you. Those golden calves tend to graze anywhere.”

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Weekly Worded

Convenient Thinking

I ate two hot slices of pizza at the convenience store for dinner, thinking fast food would be easier than driving all the way home and cooking a frozen pizza in the oven.

Then I bought a bottle of water to wash it down, deciding it would quench my thirst faster than rushing home to fill a glass under the tap.

Someone stepped out of the public restroom, so I stepped in, a chance to relieve my bladder instead of holding it on the long drive home.

After I washed my hands, it occurred to me to wash my face, thereby saving the time when I clean up before going to bed.

Things were so convenient I asked the young woman behind the register if she’d like to go out for a drink after her shift ended, instead of going home to my wife and kids and asking about their day.

I grabbed some money from the till while the young clerk was getting her coat, realizing how much simpler it would be to take the cash instead of going to work again.

That night I slept in my car. The florescent lights over the gas pumps were so bright I dreamed I was stretched out on a sunny beach, which was certainly more convenient than driving all the way to California.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Weekly Worded


I held it in my palm
until it warmed,
this potsherd

with a fingerprint
eight-hundred years cold.
Then I set it back down

on the rock ledge
that leaned toward an overlook.
Just a fragment

broken off the rim of a bowl,
it sopped up all the blue sky
it could hold

before rearranging itself
in the dirt, one more piece
of this puzzled earth.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Weekly Worded

Polonius Tweets

“Two things before you go.”
“Only two?”
“Don’t be sarcastic.”
“And the second thing?”
“What second thing?”
“The second of the two things before I go.”
“What was the first?”
“Not to be sarcastic.”
“Oh. No, that wasn’t the first.”
“It sounded like advice.”
“It was not my original thought.”
“So, can we move it along?”
“Yes, I was going to say, neither a borrower nor a lender be.”
“Of course not, those are regulated enterprises, requiring much more capital than my pittance of an allowance.”
“Oh, that’s some relief.”
“And the second thing?”
“What second thing?”
“The second of the two things.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot.”
“Just a second.”
“The world’s waiting.”
“It was something about thine own self.”
“The phrase ‘Thine own’ is a bit redundant.”
“Don’t be a smart ass.”
“Okay, that’s two, I’m outta here.”

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Weekly Worded

The Fall

“Aren’t the trees beautiful when they begin to change colors?”
“If you think death is beautiful, well, yeah, I guess.”
“Death? Come on now, trees just lose their leaves but live on.”
“I’m losing my hair.”
“That’s not the same.”
“My hair is changing color.”
“That’s still not the same.”
“My bark wrinkles and peels.”
“What bark?”
“Skin bark, you know, the outer layer that isn’t smooth anymore.”
“I don’t care what you say, you’re not a tree.”
“The question is, am I growing more beautiful?”
“You’re becoming more obtuse.”
“But beautiful?”
“Yeah, dense will do.”
“Okay, like I said, a forest.”

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekly Worded

Back to School?

The bus, outfitted as a camper,
pulls into the site opposite mine.
It’s an old bus, out of service
forty years, maybe more,
but children still pour
from its swinging door
when the engine stops.
It’s the school of pine needles
and sumac, wild raspberries
and milkweed pods.
There’ll be rocks tossed
into the creek before lunch,
bushes thrashed with sticks
before naptime, and chasing each other
in circles at dusk.
After the sun disappears
marshmallows will catch fire
to light up the night sky.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Weekly Worded

The Light In the Closet

“Hello?” I asked of the air.

A light had come on as I opened the door, reaching for a shirt, which wouldn’t have been unusual if I owned a lighted closet. I always wished I had one, and now, apparently, I did.

I peeked into the deepest corner to see if someone was standing with a flashlight, but the closet was uninhabited. I glanced toward the ceiling, looking for a fixture. The light was so bright I couldn’t see behind it.

Dog-paddling through layers of clothing I’d hung along the wooden pole, I touched sleeves, collars, buttons, belt loops, and empty pockets. Clearing a space, I reached the back wall.

Nothing but light.

I stood in my boxer shorts, scratching my head. Then I remembered the yellow shirt and brown slacks I’d intended to wear, lifted them from their hangers, and shut the closet. The light disappeared.

From under the door a puddle of darkness seeped out while I dressed. It formed a pool around my toes. I should have stayed to see what would happen next, but my shoe boats were moored beside a chair and in them I floated away.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Weekly Worded

(for Wayne)

“So the television signal comes from that hill to the southeast, and that’s
where I should point the antenna?”
“That’s right, you’ll get the best signal from there.”
“Should I have my television at that end of the house?”
“No, not necessarily, if you orient the antenna correctly.”
“Should the rabbit ears be droopy or straight up, like it just saw a weasel?”
“What rabbit ears?”
“The rabbit ears on my roof.”
“I thought you had an antenna.”
“I do now that I put the rabbit on the roof.”
“And you’re on the roof?”
“Right. With my rabbit.”
“Did you remove the rabbit ears from the television?”
“I have the television up here too.”
“I hate to tell you this, but rabbit ears are supposed to be used indoors.”
“I wish you’d have said something before I got my recliner up the ladder.”
“You have a recliner on the roof?”
“Yes, and my television, and my rabbit ears, along with my rabbit.”
“Do you have an electrical outlet up there?”
“Well I’m not stupid, I brought an extension cord.”
“Then plug it in and tell me if you have a picture.”
“Oh yeah, now there’s a real good one.”
“Do you think you can stay in that position until the end of the game?”
“Oh for sure, but I don’t know about the rabbit.”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Weekly Worded

The Poetry of Light

“ -- until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.”

--Elizabeth Bishop, “The Fish”

From my backyard, Elizabeth,
everything was rainbow.
The storm had pushed off
to the east, its black clouds caught
against the San Juan Mountains,
and the sun which still hadn’t set
ignited those raindrops like gasoline.
Iridescence doesn’t begin
to describe it. The sky had to be
on fire, clouds roiling like smoke
from behind a clean burned line.
A window of blue had opened
beyond the rainbow’s arc
and one snowy mountain peak
stuck through it like a tooth,
as if grinning.
I stood in my yard, bare feet
against the wet grass,
able to feel the turning earth
grind the sun into dirt
and I too had to let
such a perfect moment go.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Weekly Worded

Recipe for the Wild

The middle of August
heading up toward Kennebec Pass
a forest service sign warns me:
Bears are in the area.
I plant my tent -- stake it
to the earth, then hike a circle
around my camping spot.

Bending to penetrate
the thick undergrowth,
I smile at the two red eyes
staring back at me.
Berries are in the area too,
red raspberries ripe as summer.

When I blink dozens appear
where the two had been,
then hundreds, maybe thousands
and the two clumsy cups
of my bare hands can’t hold them all.

Birds in the trees complain --
they take one at a time
but I fill one hand
only to spill those berries into my mouth,
lick the juice from that hand
and fill the other.
I am ravenous for the serum
of this wildness to heal my blood.

Before frost comes to this place,
before snow turns its narrow road
impassable, I want to grow fat
on raspberries, to stumble
back to my tent and sleep, maybe not stir
until the tiny white flowers
of morning unfold.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Weekly Worded

Barn Dance

The farmer on the hill
keeps a yellow crop duster
cabled to his piece of earth.

When the weather signals clear
he starts its engine and lifts
so much imagination into the sky.

It’s his air tractor,
cloud seeder,
well-trained canary,

his liquid-filled silent spring.
It’s a low-flying
loopy handwriting sample,

a Stradivarius tuned to the horizon.
It’s a day at the circus
under the Bigtop,

every spectator straining to see
how the acrobat on the wire
thinks he can dance with

the hippopotamus of gravity.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Weekly Worded


When it rained last night
I slept through it,
unconscious of the rain
hitting the tin roof,
rolling off the eaves.

I was dreaming
about places not in the rain,
about cloakrooms and landings
where goulashes wait beside a door.
I must have been tuned to the effort
of trees expanding from inside
one ring at a time.

I wish I’d come awake
just to say to you
who lay sleepless in the dark beside me,
Listen, it’s raining!
and all you’d ever have to say back to me is,
I know.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Weekly Worded

When the Rain Came

Nothing else mattered.
We stopped staring at the TV,
lost our grip on the remote control.
Rain hit the roof with more crackle

than static, fell thicker than pixels
or peacock tails. Tree limbs bent
like so many weather vanes
twisting to line up with the wind.

We both stood and faced the picture
window where our landscape muted
from green to gray—the light driven out
of the sky by so much penetrating water.

Nothing could have been
more compelling, not the moon
breaking loose like a shock of rigging,
not the flotsam of sodden stars.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Weekly Worded

Faustus Visits the Ag Store

The herbicide boasted on the package
of its nondiscriminatory approach to killing.
The manufacturer named it, Kills All.
I picked the product up, drawn by
the image of a mushroom cloud balanced
like a balloon above a cartoon plant's head.
The thistle looked as if it might be trying
to talk to me, but having drawn a blank
it needed my purchase to complete its thought.
This was marketing at its finest,
devastation and a conversation
concentrated in an easy-to-use container.
I stopped a sales associate:
“I can’t find a price.”
He took the container from me
and examined the label. “64 ounces of death.
Death always requires your soul.”
“But does it kill bind weed?”
He scrutinized the label
like a monk assigned to illuminate a manuscript
without his reading glasses.
“I think it says it ‘kills everything’.”
“But bind weed?”
At the checkout I unbuttoned my shirt.
“I’m not sure physiologically where the soul is located,
but I am assured this stuff kills bind weed.”
The checkout woman laughed -- cackled, really --
then pointed her scanner gun at my chest.
“That’s a good one.”

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekly Worded

Living Wit Bears

Fastened to a registration booth barricading
the entrance to a state park, a metal sign read
“Living Wit Bears.” A missing letter
might have been dissolved by wind, rain,
sunlight exposure, or whited out
by a mischievous camper.
“How smart are bears?” I asked the attendant,
while filling out my vehicle license information form.
“I don’t know” the uniformed woman replied,
“I’ve never seen one.”
“But they’re in the area, aren’t they?”
“No idea” she replied, then flipped through a magazine
she’d been reading as I first approached.
I put my pen down rather noisily
and she glanced up again. “Why then” I asked,
“do you list instructions on this sign commanding
campers to use the specially designed bear-proof
trash receptacles?” She leaned over the counter,
so as to better see the metal sign I was tapping.
“No shit, I never noticed that” she replied.
Her meaty arms seemed to double in size
as they flattened against the counter’s edge.
I backed up a step. She continued to look at me
while her hands rolled the magazine into a
tight little baton. “Is there something else?”
she asked. I shrugged, trying to regain some stature
without giving in to a sudden urge to flee.
“No biggie” I said, “but this sign
seems to have suffered an H-ectomy.”
I smiled and pointed to the spot where
a letter was missing. She smiled back --
a malicious grin, really, that allowed me
to count her teeth. “Maybe too many campers
tapping that sign” she said, “in that particular
spot.” I nodded, as if her explanation made
perfect sense, turned in my forms, took my
little sticker, and got the H out of there.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Weekly Worded

Instructions for Counting Cows

Remember, calves can be invisible
tucked into the shadow
of their mother’s udders

or napping in the tall grass,
so it’s best to start after
the rancher splits the bales,

with all the animals lined up
like beads on an abacus.
Begin by counting tails,

not heads, since rear ends
serve as primitive metronomes.
Cows also tend to drift

like clouds as they return to
grazing, so don’t let whimsy
dictate the animals you see.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Weekly Worded

One In Ten Fireworks Is a Dud

I arrived long before the crowd
of 4th of July enthusiasts could
spread itself out over the prime
viewing real estate. After three
trips to the truck, I unloaded my
folding chair, blanket, picnic basket,
shade umbrella, cooler full of iced
beverages, and the spool of electric
fence wire, insulators, battery, and
stakes necessary to enclose my spot.
Instead of a single strand along the
top of the stakes, which is sufficient
for horses and cattle, I decided on
three separate bands -- top, middle,
and low, the lowest strand at shin
level in case any crawling infants
or small dogs invaded my space.
The sound of insects or butterflies
catching a few volts is almost
imperceptible, but humans tend to
yelp, more out of surprise than pain.
Stretched out on my blanket with my
eyes closed, I could hear people say
“Look at that!” or “I dare you” or
“Weirdo” -- that kind of running
commentary, but I felt secure,
unthreatened by the masses.
Then what I thought might be
birdsong turned out to be a voice
I recognized. “Bob?” it chirped.
I opened my eyes. “Well Marjorie,
yes, it’s me.” I sat up, took off
my sunglasses out of courtesy
and for a better look at this gorgeous
woman who often sunbathed
in the backyard adjacent to mine.
She approached the wire to give me
her usual hug. “Watch out” I shouted,
“you’ll be shocked.” Marjorie froze,
puzzled by my alarm. I turned off the
power, then stood to reach across
the top wire. We superficially embraced,
she standing on her tiptoes, still avoiding
the wire I’d turned off. “What is this,
some kind of prison camp?” she asked.
“No,” I laughed. “It’s more like a
panic room. Want to come in?”
I could see her bikini under the gauzy
shirt she wore, a large towel draped
over one arm. “Nah” she replied,
“That makes me a little nervous, and
besides, I want that big open piece of sky
right over there.” She turned and pointed.
“But if you want to grab your stuff
and join me, well, that would be real nice.”
She walked off, waving, looking real nice.
I watched her go, sat back down,
reconnected the battery, and reached out
to touch a wire with my bare finger.
“Ouch” I said aloud, then touched it
again and again, “Oooh...ahhh...yipes...”
and it was still hours before
the fireworks were scheduled to begin.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Weekly Worded

Birdsong Translator

Birds understand each other.
The Killdeer thinks kindly
as the Finch produces a cheerful warbling.

The Cowbird’s dark pleasure
is to hear Red-winged Blackbirds
chirping from the cattails.

What bird would deny a goose
the embodiment of aggression
despite such a soft sloping neck

and Meadowlarks
bearing no relation to Larks
sound exactly like them.

The Mockingbird is an act
of mimicry, like a comedian
doing impressions

but it’s the night owl whose
simple vocabulary
first taught the animals to listen.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Weekly Worded

Solstice Tricks You Can Learn At Home

Summer’s official,
the beans will start

anytime now, climbing --
radish heat

just below the surface
erupting like

solar flares.
I’ll stoop

in the garden
pulling bind weed

like the boy
next door

snapping his yo-yo
so the sun

spins lazily
at the bottom of its arc

before getting tangled
in this length of day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Weekly Worded

song of the siren

at first it draws you
to the balcony
the sense of tragedy unfolding
emergency vehicle
lights flashing
four floors down
pedestrians watching
from the curb
traffic resumes
the siren fades
but you follow it in your mind
through cobblestone streets
the heart attack
car wreck
here in the city of lights
where you have traveled
without incident
discounting inconvenience
your hotel
the latin quarter
small but clean
hovering a quarter mile
from hospital
island in a foreign land
the words you don’t understand
but the melody

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Weekly Worded

closed door

buried forty years
only twenty-eight
retirement, early --
a rock star's rock
a paris grave
lining up
as if
one glimpse
of his name
from this world
to the next
lead singer for
the song the
song the

downloaded prayer
eternal flame

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weekly Worded

the history of anywhere

survive if you can
grumbles the rubble
pushed into a hole
another layer of civilization
built on ruins
in the crypt outside notre dame
roman roofs
arches and walls
stones fleshed feet worn smooth
beneath roman homes
pariisi bones
gnawed by a penetrating cold
old as the blood
the seine’s ebb and flood
city of lights
lit from below

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekly Worded

Bilingual Drama at a Tiny Patisserie


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weekly Worded

At the Louvre Nobody Cries

Loud voices are not permitted.
Along the gallery of agony,
the gallery of gore,
the gallery of unspeakable horror,
couples stroll
pointing out their favorite saints
shot by arrows,
beaten and brush stroked with blood,
nailed to crosses,
gashed by spears,
hanging in the air
five hundred years.
Everybody wondering
what is art.
Nobody asking
why is art
obsessed by such masters,
persecutors of the persecuted,
exhibition without inhibition.
A niche in history
to stand and stare,
a few in disbelief.
The holy mother holding her baby

Friday, May 7, 2010

Weekly Worded

Noah Fills the Cow Pond

I’ll start with ducks,
most common of fowl,
then add a goose and its mate,
a couple Blue Herons
for the dignity they bestow,
two egrets
and two gulls.
Next I’ll import a brace of otters,
rhinoceros and elephants
to remind the neighbors
how exotic the old testament could be.
Maybe a hippopotamus
because I like the sound of its name.
For the sake of drama I’ll include
a pair of alligators or crocodiles.
Crayfish, snakes, and slugs
by the bushel, since I want
something to survive.
Frogs for the crocuses that blossom
at sundown and a basket
of worms to aerate the soil.
These days I just open a valve
and water arrives from the mountain --
enough for the cows, more than enough
to share with the animals
that don’t belong to me.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Weekly Worded

Only Seeing What’s There

Geese on the pond gliding
like geese on a pond.
Nothing else

to compare them to.
Materialized by memory
or chance, a downward glance
during a fly-over,

a flash of light reflecting off water
exactly like light
reflecting off water—

this, the reason they are here.
Had I landed a comparison near the pond
it would
swim like a sailboat,
float like a lily pad,
dive like a submarine.

So complicated.

I prefer a flock of wild geese
arriving in formation.

They know what they are,
not what they’re like.

A simplicity,
more surprising.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Weekly Worded

Why Mallory Fell

Even at a distance
Everest explains nothing.
What it wants

is not to be there,
sticking its 29,000 feet
into the thin air.

What it wants
is to be done with snow
that keeps falling.

Glaciers so old
gravity lies down
to count the stars.

What it wants
is not to be blamed
another hundred years.

The moon is Everest's kin,
nothing else so close
as to understand

how the largest
ambition is to
be small.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Weekly Worded

Galactic Tourism

Tomorrow we’ll drive
to the crater where 50,000 years ago
a meteor struck the earth.

There’s no reason to rush.
Sleep late, eat a hearty breakfast
then get on the road

so we arrive at the visitor center
before noon. Who cares if the weather
reports cloudy.

We’ll be standing at the edge
of a moment as if the day
just arrived -- the sun

temporarily obscured --
with the two of us so close to being
vaporized, thinking

WoW with capital letters
on both ends and a smaller o
seven hundred feet below.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Weekly Worded

Community Service

Nobody knows
where driveway gravel goes.
Every spring another load,
cash for stone
spread out to fill the holes.
By the next spring only mud shows.
A few pebbles in the grass
to be flung at window glass
by the lawn mower.
Little else.
Supposedly it sinks
into the soft ground,
gets caught in that enormous convection
between the earth’s core
and this melting snow.
Nobody knows.
It could be
thanks to people like me
the path to hell is being paved.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Weekly Worded

The Way of the Cross
(for T.S. Eliot)

If wind can be said to moan
then sadness slips into my house
between the window frames.

Snow plasters the screen
so I can’t see out. It’s Good Friday,
a raw day for moveable feasts.

In St. Louis where T.S. was born
there’s flooding. In England where
he lived and converted, eternal doubt.

In Westminster, no matter how quiet,
the usual whisper, that April
is the cruelest month,

but it’s only one out of twelve,
an abridged Stations of the Cross
devoted instead to our

procession of days,
where weather always wants in
while the soul only wants out.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Weekly Worded

Beware the Ides of Idleness

In the middle of the day
reading a book
the spell begins.
Sunlight through a window
warms me.
The sentence I am reading
unravels and slips
to the bottom
of the page,
then drops
and tangles
around my ankles
tugging me even deeper.
Cushion and recliner tip, footrest
extends, and then I levitate like a magician’s
assistant. I’m never sure how it’s done, but for a short time
the earth vanishes.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Weekly Worded


There’s two of us inside me,
one that does the talking,

one that worries
we’re being talked about,

whispers and insists
on a closed mouth policy

so secrets don’t get out.
The first one asks

what you’re up to,
the second suspects it’s bigger

than nothing much.
And it gets more complicated.

The first one opens curtains,
the second installs blinds,

the first one reads the mail,
the second shreds it.

Both leave the toilet seat up
but one does it on purpose.

We won’t say which,
since accusations find

their way like grit into grease.
One slips right off to sleep,

the other lies awake
inventing new pins and passwords

in case the two should separate.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Weekly Worded

A Drift on the Inland Sea

The white sea recedes
as the winter softens.
A week with our heads
above freezing, the brain

drifts toward thoughts
of spring, of soil crumbling,
dry steps down from the porch,
songs from a few lost birds

returning. Even the moon
appears warmer, the tide
and flow of snow
wicked away by the trees

like candles sputtering to stay lit.
White sea of old waves
thinned as the season ebbs,
detritus of leaves in the sodden grass.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Weekly Worded

Bookshelf Opera

Just listen.
There are rhythms
to be told, passages
to be read aloud.
Otherworldly as it appears,
even from the balcony
you may not need glasses.

Turn your attention
to what moves forward,
careful not to crease the spine,
using hands as if lifting a newborn,
cradling that weight like two lungs
as they inhale the air,
opening to every page.

The voices are many and varied
though you really have to listen,
sit quietly in a chair,
allow each word to achieve its tenor,
each sentence to sustain
its own breadth, each story
a fat woman singing.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekly Worded

Iron clad skies lay siege to the valley.
Storms troop in from the north.
A whiteout insists on surrender

but you won’t quit sweeping the porch,
your cheeks ruddy as banked embers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekly Worded


The idea required somebody
older and if not wiser
at least less fastidious
about disappointment.
I volunteered.

They placed a stack of folders
in my outstretched hands
and sent me home early.
I spent the entire weekend
avoiding the task,

carrying the folders from room
to room, setting them on the table
while I ate, placing them in the chair
beside me while I watched the television
and even taking them to bed.

On Monday everyone wanted to know
what I thought. I told them
I could live with it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Weekly Worded

Explaining Baby Moons

His auto eroticism begins
when he pulls into the driveway,
hot under the hood after a long drive.

He’ll shut the engine off, listen
to its ticks as if they were sighs,
a bucket of soap already coupling

with the dirt. Unwinding the hose
to rinse the car, he’ll flash
on that last pothole and shudder,

how close he came to ruining everything.
When he inspects the wheels and fenders
they’ll be wet so he can chart

the old dimples and dents
he's memorized like constellations,
anticipating the next disaster.

He’ll wax nostalgic -- ah, 1965,
polishing chrome and cleaning glass
until all that’s left is to step back

and see himself in his pleasure.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Weekly Worded

Jerome David S.

For half his life he got it backwards,
hiding out so nobody could ask
what was going on inside him.

He was like a rural mailbox
with the outgoing flag
permanently disabled.

Half a century of seclusion
because he invented a boy
that talked too much.

Said things in such a way
people were shocked
and at the same time curious

so the real Jerome lived
as if he were a character
while the boy he created

that wore his innocence
under a goddam red hunting hat
still lives a full New Yorker’s life.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weekly Worded

The Distance Between Two Beings

Time machines collect in the yard
like salvaged cars, travelers arriving
but forgetting where they parked.
Generally the sky streaks
with meteoric splendor
when another machine shows up.
The boy who hands out
receipts never sees
his patrons’ eyes. He’s afraid of
that far away look,
so he stares at his own feet
holding his ten toes accountable.
No valet, he leaves the machines
where they land, shields
his eyes as a silvery light
stitches the moment closed.
Above the yard constellations
like jewels in an old pocket watch
cradle the gears of longitude,
calibrating the distance between
one generation and the next.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Weekly Worded


The gas powered auger churns
snow like a espresso maker
whipping froth for a latte.

I am clearing the driveway again,
thinking about a hot cup-a-something
when I’m finally done.

But it’s still snowing
and the blow-back threatens to bury me
alive, one hand, ungloved,

sticking out of a six-foot drift.
I’d be the last of the five-fingered shrubs
from a garden of humans beings,

white blossoms against a thin limb,
icicle leaves. In the numbing
twilight before drifting to sleep

I’d recall how the snow used to fall
all pretty, like in a globe,
stirred when gently shaken.

The flashing snowplow thunders past
and I’m roused from my reverie,
the snowblower still gouging a path,

me in its wake with the fumes
of burning oil trailing
like the perfume of dinosaurs.