Nothing is moving today.
Neither the trees nor the grass
not the top parts of the ocean
nor the blacks birds over the path.
The heat falls onto us mid morning and
lose interest in torturing the dog.
I think I hear
the Good Humor man’s truck,
an echoing television from an open window,
the hiss hiss of the sprinkler whipping
around its three pronged medusa heads,
over the damp, soft grass.
Inside, a white eyelet nightgown’s
rustle, moving metal treasures in my
Grandmother’s drawers while she napped
with her eyes open.
Our Front Hall
Our front hall had a very tall grandfather clock at the foot of the stairs keeping watch over the household. No one could wind it but my father and the clock defined the nights in regular chimes reaching everyone’s ears in everyone’s bedroom.There was a front hall table made of lustrous mahogany where mail and packages were placed daily.The legs of the table looked like a young girl with four legs curtseying all at once. I know because I spent a lot of time under there waiting for God knows what. My favorite part however In this wonderful area of our house was the front hall closet which no one could put anything in except for my father. It was his personal closet for his overcoat and his hats and his umbrellas and his galoshes. I don’t remember hearing we weren’t supposed to go in the closet so I went in the closet quite a bit. There was a shelf the hats were on that had a thumbtacked piece of decorative ribbon that was ruched: something I had never seen before. I took some delight in pulling a piece of it off and seeing what it felt like. My father had four or five coats in there and most of the coats were some range of the color gray. There were cashmere coats, and wool coats, and cotton coats, and canvas coats. The coats had a big life and seemed to go out a lot. Sometimes alone, and sometimes in pairs the coats went out in the world: across oceans and in airplanes, office buildings, and houses not ours, down inside boats, outside on sidewalks. They always came back home slightly different than when they had left. I knew this because when I went in the closet I would stand up inside each coat starting with my head going into the bottom because they were buttoned up, you see, and I would shimmy myself up to usually just the lowest button because my father was very tall and I was still short. I would stand there and breathe in the outside world imagining where he had been and who he had seen and the smell of old Spice would anesthetize me against the real world. In the closet I created whatever I wanted sometimes for hours. No one ever looked for me. I stood so still inside a coat I became a part of its life.
If I hadn’t asked who you were having dinner with that night
I wouldn’t be crazy lost now and you wouldn’t have moved to
Connecticut with an eyebrowed cooking woman: something I would
If I hadn’t asked if you liked sleeping alone maybe
we would have grown accustomed to each other sighing
into our dreams, a hip teaspooned into a hip, yours so much
fuller than mine, sailing on into the night, no navigational devices needed.
Bacon for breakfast.
If I hadn’t read her emails maybe I could have forgotten the alert messages
coming almost daily into my cerebral cortex. Messages telling me the ice was
thin though it was late summer.
If I hadn’t asked why you were leaving maybe I would still believe you
did love me though now I see all I need to do is be silent and I’ll
never learn that.
To be published in the Cape Rock
The Coming of the Snow
The hard, cold snow is here,
The kind that makes you wince.
The great, crackling steps one takes that sink unexpectedly,
Mother earth reminding you she’s but a heavy footfall away.
So a morning walk becomes impossible and the dog, depressed.
Your husband reminds you how he loves the winter but
You remember how warm sun feels and how each morning contains freedom.
There are those who live outside and those who live inside.
The watchers and the livers
Each needs the other to remind them what they miss
Not better or worse
I was thinking about the loyalty of the round gray stone outside my front door this morning. Preparing patiently to be washed by the rain. Not objecting to an occasional kick and the resulting change of side to the light. The stone sits outside my front door for as long as I want it there: it suffers movement silently, hears word it shouldn’t have to hear, and feels the hot sun and the cold evening chill. The stone is an object, this is true, but you can count on it every day and every minute to remain there where you placed it. Unlike the brown palm tree who sheds its leaves and is reborn each spring. Unlike the rose bushes that flower and die and flower again, unlike the spreading moon lighting the bleak mountain, the stone has no such cycle of life. It simply sits in wonder and allows the world to happen all the while retaining its dignity: all the while retaining its loyalty and most of all, its truth.
Once, long ago, I wrote a poem on Thanksgiving about a couple who were standing on a stone wall outside their house. They were wearing matching Fairisle sweaters with wreaths around their necks and were in their fifties. A bird swooped down and took the husbands sweater in his mouth and flew away with him. The wife was too embarrassed to explain what had happened so she spent the rest of her life ignoring the fact that he was gone.
Why am I telling you this story? I have no idea. I think I am telling the story because on these overly loud and food filled holidays I wonder if I made the right choices as I find myself not surrounded by family but surrounded by friends. It seems more peaceful this way. I am staying at a wonderful hotel in Half Moon Bay where the ocean pounds the shore constantly and it is impossible not to stop and look in wonder every minute one is outside. I am grateful to be here with friends having a good time and enjoying my life. I see many families here who are apparently happy with three or more generations of family milling around. Some of these families are noisy and some are quiet. I like the noisy ones. I have always longed to be Hispanic as those families seem to have the most lively fun.
Our Thanksgiving as children was generally over in one hour. My parents won the contest for the fastest eaters in the east. On Thanksgiving there were butter shaped turkeys on the butter plates and ice cream in the shape of a turkey. The butler carried all the platters to our table where we were each served in turn. If we went to my Grandmother’s things were usually more interesting as there she set up a children’s table where there was much less supervision. I was still sitting at the children’s table when I was 40.
I sat next to a lady at lunch whose husband was playing golf so she was lunching alone. I like to chat up strangers. Out of the blue she told me she and her husband had run away from Sacramento to escape their families. I said I understood and commented that there were many families who tried to escape each other even when living in the same house.
I love the clear truth of Thanksgiving and the comments of strangers. Hope all of you are enjoying a calm and peaceful time whether alone or with a group.
Daylight Savings Time
Winter’s claw is upon us
In the local parking lot at five in the afternoon
We scuttle for the supermarket doors
Sliding open and closed
And back hurriedly out of the marked white lines
Heading for home.
The dark mountains sigh and fold into their crevices
While the roads narrow even further
Making the trip home longer.
A reunion .
A hurricane is coming.
People behave as if they were members of an ant colony
Industriously hauling water, batteries, duct tape, condoms, and Cheerios.
Unlike the ants, they are not cooperative;
The rise of the wind is commensurate with the level of greed.
All the fresh water is gone already and it is only 2PM.
By 5 PM there are barricades in front of the A & P.
The ant people have adopted military dress and are bayoneting steel belted radials
The queen ant is directing the sand bag people
Who are erecting a barrier between Greenwich and Port Chester.
All the mid level ant people are instructed to remain in the center of the lot
And await being chosen.
(Just like dancing class, but no white gloves).
George Bush has declared a state of emergency
And organized a foot race for all presidential candidates
From Washington to New York.
Arnold Schwartzenager wants to participate but
Is told he is not right for the part.
As the hurricane crawls up the coast
George crawls under the table in the White House kitchen,
Looking for plutonium.
Laura tells him he traded it to Tony last month
For some toy soldiers.
The axis of the world has shifted
As if someone hit us on our heads and
Our eyes can’t refocus.
We are all walking sideways.
Our perspective is so short.
We have let go of hope and its golden rope of sunset.
Our desolation is in our bodies.
Our souls have been eaten already.