Today

Today the light shone-the sun beaming through a clear, blue November sky.

As I walked I thought of Mary Oliver and her words:

Do you need a prod?

Do you need a little darkness to get you going?

Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,

and remind you of Keats,

so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,

he had a lifetime.

* From Oliver’s “The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac” which is published in her collection Blue Horses, The Penguin Press, New York, 2014

But today I don’t need the darkness.

It has done its job.

It has been my constant companion and I am grateful, for darkness has helped me to see this

this beautiful day.

And all I can think is,  “Live.

Live.

It is the only thing you haven’t done;

not really.

Perhaps you tried, but

only in the space of shadows.”

A lifetime should not be reduced to a blot on a page.

The story is elsewhere

on clean, white paper.

written in a pen that doesn’t bleed.

The Chair Downstairs

The chair was out of place. The design was early American, so it did not fit in with the rest of the room’s Ikea aesthetic. We used to keep it upstairs in our bedroom where I paid it little attention-probably because it functioned as a catchall for our laundry and was usually buried under mounds of clothing. But, when we needed extra seating to accommodate guests, we brought it down to the living room and placed it near the bottom of the stairway where it remained, standing there dignified but an outlier, small and stiff, like something an 18th century scholar would sit in as he pored over musty books, straining his eyes to read by the dim candlelight.

Rarely did anyone choose to sit in the chair-I assumed because it looked so uncomfortable. But there was something else about it-a quality of being already occupied, as if one would need to whisper into the air, “pardon me, but mayI have that seat now?” if she wished to use it. At night, when I’d turn off the lights, I’d dash upstairs, not wanting to be left alone in the dark room with whatever sat in that chair. I could feel its gaze though, watching me take my leave, and when I’d wake during the witching hour, I’d think about the living space below and wonder.

Eventually we moved, but we did not bring the chair along with us. Whatever company it kept, I was finished entertaining.

 

Sleepless

Awake

for no reason, and a thousand reasons.

Hours pass, dull and quiet

this endless night.

Turning inward

I seek an image to cling to

hoping that it will pull me downward into sleep.

There are many.

But there is one.

I set my eyes on it.

Feel where it is.

Where I am.

A warm place that I breathe in

as I sink into the sand

and gaze towards the glare of a yellow light

that obscures a picture

that disturbs

and comforts

and beckons.

Then the house creeks

and the image is gone.

And I lie there

sleepless.

 

 

A Warm October

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I waited for October’s chill to chase summer away

but instead she brought heat

a sick heat, like a fever.

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I watched the leaves, which should have ignited like flames of gold and amber,

shrivel, die and fall to the ground

then crumble under the feet of passersby who might or might not have noticed

that something was not quite right.

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In my lawn I noticed the squirrels

which should have been busy preparing for winter

forget what was their purpose

unaware that nature, although herself unburdened by the dictates of her own laws,

does not forgive those who ignore them.

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And snakes-I saw two on my morning walk.

One, a baby, I would have crushed underfoot

had I not noticed something wriggling across the pavement.

Another larger green serpent had been flattened by a car

at the end of my neighbor’s driveway.

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Night might well have been day

as I lay in bed, damp and awake.

And that thing that was wrong

began to push through my skin

leaving impressions

like slashes of a beast

on my chest.

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And, as the rest of the world rattled,

here it remained still

quiet

hot

October, insisting

like a ringing in the ears

that something was not quite right.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer’s Last Days

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It’s just me

and you

and

the lake, still like a glass tabletop

the crickets, their song both beautiful and desperate

the sky, darkening a bit earlier each evening.

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At last, just us.

After a season of endless chatter, just us

and

the lapping of water upon the sand

the lonely drone of the plane passing overhead

the watersnake skimming the shore, seeking the sun’s warmth upon his back.

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Everyone else has gone.

They’ve abandoned you.

To avoid the inevitable goodbye?

Perhaps ours is a shared sadness.

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Perhaps that is giving them too much credit.

Perhaps they are just selfish.

Having wrung from you all the pleasure they could get,

they have walked away

without a thank you

without a backwards glance-

you now a distant memory

and, like all memories of years past,

soon forgotten.

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But you and I,

we are good.

Let us sit here together for as long as we are able.

I will miss you my friend when you are gone.

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For now, let us enjoy this perfection of

silence and still

sand and sky

water and me

with you.

 

Anxious Days

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Some days, trees are not trees

and I am not me.

I am a misplaced thing-

a small pile of sand on the second shelf of the china cabinet

next to a stack of teacups;

a single goosebump upon the arm of a woman sunbathing;

a nit on a bald man’s head.

I am contrary to the order of things-

a vortex running counter to its designated direction-

and everything pulled into my universe becomes contrary too.

Mothers tell bedtime stories about the souls’ of the damned.

The whispering breeze becomes the discordant notes of the organ master.

Day becomes night

and trees become demons.

*

On anxious days

everything stands in defiance of God

and fear prevails.