for Chris, without whose love - Western Connecticut State University

We Are What We Have Loved
(for Chris, without whose love and support this book -- and all of my books -- could not have
been written)
The Artist
Man Fishing
At Night, in the Cove
The Man in the Yellow Kayak
The Carpet
Bearskin Neck
Night Flight
Above Stirling,
Alexander and Bucephalus
Fishmarket Close
Walking the Darn Road
The Grey Horse
Subway: Green Line
(from) Monet in the 20th Century
"Eh! Eh!"
Watching Aidan: Salem, MA, August, 1996
Judge Corwin's House
Hunting Lodge
Lines Written for the Irate Fishermen
The Mind Plays Tricks
What the Pesticide Said to the Apple
The Apple's Reply to the Pesticide
The Penguin Sentry
The House Seen from the Rose Garden
Lines Started on the Porch of Frost's Farmhouse
"Struggle for Survival"
Pemigewasset River
On Cannon Mountain
Both Going and Coming Back
Easter Morning at the Black Dog Cafe
The Bed
Through the Binoculars
The Pillbox
Leaning on the Plaque
Why I still Write Ocean Poems
In the State Woods
Temple Street
Journey Home
60'th Birthday
How the View Changes
The Lights are Off
Nikos and the Gull
Still Life
80'th Birthday
The Ferry
The Real Thing
Waking First
Castle Rock III
The White Beetle
Athens Pizza
The Artist
with his easel planted in the narrow
strip of lawn between Sea Ledges and
the rocks overlooking the Atlantic
is facing the wrong way -- looking not
at the birds flying above and around
their Straitsmouth Sanctuary, or the twin
lighthouses on Thatcher Island or the rock
ledges, or the wide horizon of open sea,
but at the calm cove, with only two
deserted boats moored in it . . .
Oh! Now
I see! On his canvas, the curved shoreline -a sunlit smile on a serene blue face,
that bright red buoy, a clown nose,
the white single masted boat -- an eye
wide open, the smaller inflatable, orange
rubber dinghy -- a wink.
Man Fishing
6:00 am, at low tide on the far point,
in the midst of green wrack covered rocks -he stands, balanced, bent slightly forward,
unearthly white sprays of wave -- blossoms
at his feet; with a neat flick of the wrist,
he casts his long thin line into the sea,
then reels it back in -- he flicks and reels,
flicks and reels, again and again -- his own
line into the sea -- behind him the vacant
twin lighthouses -- above him the sky lit
by the just risen sun -- at 7:00 am, he
carefully packs his gear and climbs back
up over what must be, what must be
slippery rocks, into another day -- didn't
catch anything -- as far as I could see.
At Night, in the Cove,
the multi-millionaire's rock, appears
as a Picasso original, glows phosphorescent
in the light of the street lamp,
a reclining figure, an oddly angled female
head and disproportioned torso -- sharp scars,
slashes for eyes, everything below the hips
trailing away . . .
We sit on a stone bench
and look at it long and long -- we watch
our too human shadows darken his bone white
stone, we raise our arms, flap them, become one
four winged flailing creature, then fall back,
embrace . . .
nothing he can do or buy -- no paint, no tar
will stop our shadows merging, or erase
the etching, the natural,
well rounded form of love, engraved
in his now precious rock.
The Man in The Yellow Kayak
barechested, barebacked enters,
paddles deftly from the upper right
corner of the landscape -- the twin
lighthouses towering behind him -across the cove he glides between
the ledges and the island sanctuary -rests for a moment -- his black
two paddled oar lies quietly across
his knees -- he turns, takes it all in -the cormorants, the gulls, the island,
the open sky and sea -- the reality
of yesterday, in the same kayak, at dawn,
poking around the island's inlets -with a favored companion . . .
he resumes rowing -- left, right,
left, right -- the yellow daub
moves slowly, steadily across
the deep blue canvas -disappears
behind the line of orange rock
voyeur heads in the left margin,
thinking next weekend, perhaps,
the kayak again . . .
The Carpet
the tide's out -- what was ocean
rippling in bright May sun -- appears
as a large pebbly beach with pools
of varying shapes and shades of blue
with an occasional white speck of gull
sitting or flitting in the view . . .
walking on it -- the pebbles are not rock, and
the beach is not beach, but a soggy, crunchy
carpet of clam shells -- hundreds of thousands
of blue clams -the slime darkened,
sun bleached shells laved by hundreds
of thousands of waves -the flesh gone
to feed the multitudes of flitting tourists . . .
still later, walking halfway across the harbor
for a different view -strolling along on
the backs of hundreds of thousands of millions
of billions of others -- the sweet flesh gone -their homes, their bones, their poems -lost -- crackling under our heels.
Bearskin Neck
outside the parked car, with gloves on,
writing clumsily of the dark cluster
of sea birds floating in the dark,
cold, cold water, in the same way their
harsh cawing cries float in the gruff,
howling wind
and of the whitecaps
dousing over and over again
the large seaweed matted rocks,
the dark green to black fur covering,
while at my feet, more rocks, bare,
cold and getting colder -- glazed
with white ice, jagged polar bear's teeth -weapons hanging at their sides,
an icicle fence marking the boundary -how far the sea got today, how far
I may go tonight,
this night -sun just about down -- darkening layers
in the east -this mid January
journey of the mind,
which ends here, before the cove's
yawning mouth -wind chill,
way below zero.
Night Flight
In our isolated, elevated cabin,
looking through glass into darkness
at the ghostly wraith clouds writhing
above the geometric patterns of lights,
rows of houses, the city, civilization, and
the snake highway trailing away
along the bank of void river -- the lines
of cars weaving, one pair of glazed eyes
after another, home to the suburbs.
At 20,000 ft, approaching 30,
the sinister curved figures, ponds,
dark patches of water with lights
curled along the shore, clusters
of lights shaped like strange animals,
coiled to spring -or maybe a large intestine
glowing with radioactive waste.
Above the intersection,
a mast of light
in a black pitch sea,
a crossroads,
that is just that,
a lit cross
with roads, a body
outlined in lights,
arms straight
outstretched, trunk
branching into road
legs, and around
the head -- a halo of
more florescent light.
Cruising now, the lights
are small points, stars,
glowing embers in the vast
universe, in a dark bed,
a necklace of white pearls
on a dark dress, small dots
to be connected with
a child's crayon to form
an outline of something
in the surrounding nada,
an outline of a cross,
a breast, a beast, a crust
of bread, a glass of wine,
of wind, of anything,
of whatever
you want it to be.
Above Stirling,
on a rocky crag of a sheep pasture -the evening sky still typical Scotland,
light and dark, cloud and sun contending -as if we could just step out of one world
into another -rays of sunlight streaming
from behind grey clouds on the city curled
cozily around the loops of Forth and nestled
between the castle and the Wallace monument -but not on you and me, arms round each
others' waists, on the rim, in the midst
of green fern that looks like a bishop's
crook when young -the cold wind fluttering
our light jackets, streaming our hair,
the fiddlehead fern, shivering with us
in the wind, vibrating to the same tune,
to the fierce, piercing, high pitched music
on the edge.
a small speck above, a ways above us,
the crags, the hillside covered with miles
of fiddlehead fern covering thousands
of wild rabbit holes,
riding the gusts
of wind, your little peeps and tweeps,
your high squeaking, bubbling champagne
song descends like fine mist, seeps
into the pores of the rocks, the ferns,
the rabbits, and us,
like fine wine
going down slowly,
as delicate as
the late evening light from the head
of sun not quite out from behind
a vaguely human cloud,
lit up from within,
glowing on all edges.
Alexander and Bucephalus
A statue just off the Royal Mile,
before the Edinburgh city chambers,
presented by the subscribers, 1884 -Bucephalus is rearing on his hind legs,
head tilted upward and to the left,
eyes wild, rebelling -- as if repelled
by the touch on his near flank
of Alexander the Great, the man
who would be God, the son of Amon-Ra,
with robes flowing over the bent knee,
and strong muscular right arm held back,
poised as if to throw a discus further
than any man the world has ever known,
or smite the satrap Bessus, the historian
Callisthenes, the innocent father
of a conspirator, or, if he dared,
his own untamed horse.
Fishmarket Close
walking back to the hotel in fading 10:30 pm
summer Edinburgh light -- walking parallel to,
if somewhat below the Royal Mile -- looking
up the close, the narrow medieval stone alleyway,
at a scruffy young man sitting just this side
of the halfway house, not that far up the dirty
stone steps, playing his Irish whistle,
his cap with a few meager coins
on the bleak stone before him -a young man with stubble on his chin,
a hustler's quick smile, who sees me writing
in my notebook, "come up and chat" he says ...
not Irish himself -- from the north of England
and living in London -- his luggage is in a locker
at the bus station -- planning to hitchhike
back tomorrow -he'll sleep outside
again tonight "good thing it's warm,"
he says, pulling a "Regal" cigarette
out of a crumpled package,
"I like to talk to people, find out
where they come from. I like to
what you call 'communicate'," he says, . . .
and playing for the three slightly drunk
young men who appear mysteriously, like genies
out of the mouth of an old urn, appear and
unsteadily descend the damp medieval steps,
the men weaving like cobras, dancing
to his lively, lilting tune. . . .
'til the sound of glass shattering breaks
the spell; the view darkens; we are in a late
twentieth century city of random violence,
of fragments, of shards and splinters scattered
on dark beer, urine, and blood stained stone
with night coming on -night that
neither the tilt of this spinning earth,
the thin high pitched notes of the tin whistle,
nor all the charms of music and song
can hold off for long.
Walking the Darn Road
that follows the Allan Water upstream,
thinking of Robert Louis Stevenson
over 100 years ago walking this trail
that has been in use since Roman times,
walking the same different trail that
is included in Kidnapped, pausing -perhaps somewhere near here, near the
abandoned mining shaft, the origin,
of Ben Gunn's cave in Treasure Island -and watching the same different water
splash in curls over rocks, listening
to the same different music that seeped
its way into A Child's Garden of Verses,
pausing myself, sitting on my poncho
on a rock above the musical waters,
thinking of the same different verses
I read to my children 25-30 yrs ago
and now read to my first grandchild
and also, I imagine, to my second who
will be born and I will fly to visit
in California before I get a chance to
work these notes into a poem -- sitting
here two miles downstream from Dunblane,
from the schoolyard where the teacher,
the 17 children, and the man who
insisted he was not a pervert died,
downstream from the debris, the dead,
the parents of the dead, downwind
from the debris of the PAN-AM flight
over Lockerbie and TWA flight 800
off Long Island -- thinking of the small
global village, with all those parents
with children the same different age.
The Grey Horse
on the bright sunlit green hillside, his
hind legs higher than his front, his eyes
the same level as his tail -- a straight
line -- his tail, his eyes, mine on
the Darn Road below, my human mind
thinking of him chewing the buttercups,
amid the pink and white clover, savoring
the taste of mini-daisies, and violets -the tiniest, even smaller than the daisies,
violets with the thinnest faint yellow veins
branching out from the center -- veins
like grains in the bottom of a cup,
in which we read the future or the past
or the present which contains them all.
The deep orange ball rolls along
the horizon at 70 to 75 mph -- slices
through the branches of grey February trees,
appears for a brief second as background
to an astonished evergreen, then dives
into the rock ledge and comes so quickly
out the other side -so smooth the ride,
as if the trees were air,
the rock water, and the racing sun,
the head of a swimmer in the fast lane,
breathing when he can.
Subway: Green Line
the college professor type, clean
shaven semi-sensitive face, with plastic
scratched and battered glasses, looks
cautiously around him -- seems cramped
in the bustle, unsure about it all . . .
the older woman, overweight, scraggly hair,
sad craggy weather-beaten face, not bothering
to hold on, lurching one way, then another
as the train swerves -- eyes closing,
opening, then closing again, wondering
what did I do, did you do, did we do
to deserve this . . .
the pleasant enough young man in suit
and tie on his way to the medical convention,
gives instructions to the tourists, the way
to Monet in the 20th century, the Museum
of Fine Arts "it's great, really great,
all those water lilies" he says . . .
the thin gaunt man, stubble chin,
splotched irrelevant clothes,
vacant assassin eyes . . .
the young woman, dark close cut hair
framing oval locket face, her forehead
pressed intently into the vertical chrome
pole, receiving and sending vibrations . . .
the curved indentation, I imagine,
still there.
(from) Monet in the Twentieth Century
Houses of Parliament: Sunset: 1904
(Catalogue # 24)
gothic blue black turrets, one long
silhouette in London fog trench coat,
the angry sun burning through, spreading
ripples of fire in the pool above -- bruise
purple flecks around the edges, dripping blood
and the reflection below -- the same tongues
of light in the cloud grey sea -- as intense
as the shrouded source -- the boundary line
between water and sky dissolved -only the jutting graph of empire
remains between the two masses
of burning gasses -between
the burning eyes of heaven above
and Monet below.
(from) Monet in the Twentieth Century
The Grand Canal: 1908
(Catalogue # 51)
the slightly diagonal piling
dividing the canvas, his beloved
Alice dead, his life two thirds,
three fourths gone
the two thirds to
three fourths to the right of the piling -the vague shimmering two domed palace
and other buildings -- in sunlight
and shadow -- memorial vault structures
with their sunset reflections
burning on the water
and what's left -- the foreground -third or fourth of the canvas -- clearer,
more direct lines, paintbrush stalks
rising out of the grand canal -- bright
fire sticks -- glowing orange, red
with magenta-purple brush heads
smoldering . . .
and the curls of
green black shells holding the precious
yellow light -gondola ferries
rocking in the distance.
(from) Monet in the Twentieth Century
Weeping Willow: 1918
(Catalogue # 82)
Gnarled old tree, elongated neck, head
and open jaws of an angry dragon being, rearing,
breathing yellow flames and fumes -- slight
trace of red dripping from the forked
and flicking tongue -trunk dark,
with burning orange rind and red
rage at the core -- intense flame
consumes the surrounding bark
the exposed, lacerated heart
pours forth phrase after phrase,
note after note, strand after strand
of willow lashes,
lemon strokes,
commas, squirming runes of yester-years,
a rain of tracer fire, yellow worms,
peering eyes, tears, sperm cells
settling into a ghost figure
in the center -a man or god
descending into or rising up out of
the infernal bloody pond,
his hands raised
in benediction or despair -conducting
all the phases of pain and praise,
the audience rise
and be seated -take in the whole view.
(from) Monet in the Twentieth Century
Panel: the Water Lily Pond, Evening: 1920-26
(Catalogue # 88)
The same motif as earlier slighter work,
cascading light in the center flanked by
lilies, darker flower shadows -- here
entire panels: in the left, a purple strife
flower being, flailing, drowning, praising,
swimming on and beneath the blood dimmed tide
and in the right panel an aqua, cooler man
floating on his back -- blues, but mostly
muck -- browns and olive weeds around -entire panels abound with stories, poems
of their own on both sides of the cataract
of light ducking under the pad bridge -- here,
in the center, the yellow mist -- spirit
steam rising off the surface of the pond
becomes charged, transformed -- ignites
as it passes beneath, comes out above
the bridge -glowing sunset peach
and orange in the shape of a man,
arm extended in friendship -a man who has looked clearly and deeply
into the revelations of the universe,
and borne witness -- a man who says:
"put your hand in mine
and let us help one another
to see things better."
his words -- mine -- ripples fading away
from the paint's splash.
"Eh! Eh!"
says Aidan, standing
on his own 1 yr old legs
in front of the door, "Eh! Eh!
Eh! which means he wants to go out
and look at the flowers . . .
we pass the dandelions, the baskets
of impatience, the gardens of zinnias,
of gentians, of sunflowers, and stop
before the black eyed susans,
to examine a sprig of buds -- hard
tightly wrapped, firmly packed ovals
at the end of stalks, some all green,
some with a small yellow tongue
escaping through the pursed lips
the next day I show him -- look, look,
less green, the buds a bit softer,
more yellow emerging from the cocoons,
the shape of the flowers, the petals
appearing in the most advanced -and then the next day . . .
"See, Aidan,"
I say, "See how the flower blooms."
Watching Aidan: Salem, MA, August 1996
His parents need a break, time to unpack,
to tidy up their new house, so I am watching
Aidan sleeping, small, peaceful
in his stroller,
and peaceful myself
on a wrought iron bench at the corner
of the "L" shaped narrow one way street
away from the tourist attractions
in the center of town -just looking up
the spine of newly paved black asphalt
between the rows of 2 story stucco ribs
rising directly out of the narrow sidewalk -stucco ribs in bright sunlight showing
through a skimpy ivy print summer blouse,
with hanging baskets of blooming impatience
on the porches, the flowers covering
the most private places -just another street
in another town on another summer day -another boy 13, perhaps, dribbling a basketball,
practicing his handle, shifting hands,
left to right, then back to left as the ball
moves smoothly between his legs -- another
white picket fence enclosing another lawn
with a small plastic swimming pool of a family
with two kids and a dog named "Plato" -another sidewalk covered with curls, swirls,
mysterious pastels, runes in colored chalk -just another street, breathing, alive -while around the corner of the L,
on the side of yet another stucco house
thin vine branches without leaves -a skeleton without flesh -- arteries
without blood -- crawl from right to left
across the bare wall -the entire front
of that same house covered with ivy --
the windows pale glass eyes in a scaly
green face -300 year old gravestones
still glinting in the leaves that would -if they could -- cover up history
the witch trials, the death by hanging
of Aidan's 9 times great grandmother
in August 1692 -"Oooh!, look!"
out of nowhere, "a baby!"
a girl's voice says -"Ya! a baby -a sleeping baby!" I reply,
feeling a bit woozy, myself -- you know -the curious infant sensation of waking up
and not knowing where you are.
Judge Corwin's House
Judge Corwin's Best Room
used only on Sunday
and other special occasions,
the four walls -- made of clay
and sun-dried bricks, covered with plaster
made from clay dust, animal hair
and assorted grasses -against the back wall, in the far
corner -- a chest with a secret drawer
for silver and important documents . . .
the centerpiece -- a long thin trestle
table 9' long by 2' wide (the English
taxed all wider boards) appears as
a plank designed more for walking
than for eating on . . .
and on the wall near the door -a 17th century needlework sampler
with bluebirds flitting in the margin -created by a girl before the age of 13,
akin perhaps to something done by one
of the Judges 10 children, perhaps by
one of the three that lived,
the room where, in the spring and summer
of 1692, over 200 accused, sat, awaited
preliminary hearings in his chambers above.
Judge Corwin's Kitchen
large beams, white plaster walls -and pewter dishes on a Venetian red table -the top of which turns over into a chopping board,
a brass pot, a churn, and butter molds
with hand carved wooden heads, a cheese press,
and bowls with beans and corn,
a huge black stone fireplace
with large hot coal oven in back,
iron cooking utensils hung on a rack
above -- with a musket and powder horn,
the fireplace -- tended in succession
by each of his three wives -- the folds
of their long muslin skirts swirling
dangerously close to the hearth
(more women, many more colonial women
died from burns when their clothes
accidently caught fire than were hanged
as witches)
and there -- in the far corner, yet
on the other side of the depression,
three centuries away from the trials,
rocking in its toy cradle,
a rag doll, a poppet,
with a strange stitched smile.
The Flax Break
painted Venetian red (iron rust mixed
with sour milk) -- beside the larder,
among the odd, old things,
in Judge Corwin's kitchen -a wooden contraption for treating
the rough, unruly Flax -- in 1692 -a dual process in Salem -- first pound
with hammer, into mush with no name,
then comb the crushed material through
the sharp points of the carder,
and voila! the flax is fixed,
stretched harp strings
under duress on an antique frame,
strings ready to sound, to resound,
ready to make fine linen.
Judge Corwin's Bedroom
on the second floor,
the most private, the warmest
room of the house -a loft
with the huge three door
captain's chest, that held his socks,
his shirts, his shorts,
the antique (even then)
black well preserved Bible box -saving for generations, the news,
and the canopy bed
with hand sewn quilt
and feather mattress -so soft
where he sat, erect,
an authority on guilt,
in Salem, in 1692, a head,
a chairman of sorts,
fiddling with his vest,
conducting interviews
of the chosen,
the candidates-elect.
The Children's Bedroom
where each or any or all of the ten
children may have slept in the one bed -painted that same Venetian red, with springs
of interlaced ropes,
they all made do without closets,
which, like the too wide boards,
were taxed; their clothes they kept
in one or more of the many chests
and trunks,
and one at a time,
the surviving three wept,
and sat
at the writing chair with a drawer
for pens and papers -- a model
for our grade school desks,
while another one or two
worked at the spinning wheel
with coarse thread -(no fairy tales,
no Rumpelstiltskin, no gold,)
just two, four, ten, perhaps twenty
small fingers at that enormous loom,
which covers two thirds of this last room,
weaving homespun fiber into blankets,
for warmth against the cold.
Hunting Lodge
a large log room -- magnificent heads,
over 35 trophies: Moose, Cinnamon Bear,
Scottish Red Deer, Black Bear, Caribou,
Dahl Sheep, Kodiak Brown Bear, Bighorn Sheep,
Prong Horned Antelope,
and a small mountain goat
so out of place amidst all the big game -all killed by the same man on more
than twenty hunting trips to Alaska,
Scotland, the Rockies, and God knows
where else I imagine this man,
this William Beach in this room,
so comfortable, amidst the hides,
the rugs, the antlers,
amidst these seventy odd, liquid eyes
looking down on him,
this man, so rich, so powerful, this friend
of Teddy Roosevelt and the Vanderbilts,
sitting here, stuffed, content,
his glazed, glass eyes reflecting
the bare bone surface -this man sipping his brandy,
imagining he is alive,
a model of life
for us all to aim at.
Lines Written for the Irate Fishermen
who slaughtered all those Cormorants
on Little Galloo Island -- the sanctuary
in Lake Ontario -- nearly 900, it appears,
you killed -- so you were tired of cursing
those graceful black birds, and took down
your guns from the racks over the back
windows of your pick-ups -- what were you
not thinking of? What have you been
not thinking of all your lives? How many
times have you been told that cormorants
feed mostly on small fry -- don't touch
the trout or bass, but you know, you know
what you know -- like the congressman
from Indiana who wouldn't be confused
with facts -- you vote with your guns -how many other times have you used cold,
methodic violence when reality frustrated
or frightened you . . .
you don't have to answer -- the exact score
doesn't matter -- you are what you are -where you are, lost, too far gone
down the wrong trail, the ruts
are too deep -- with every step
you take, new blood oozes
in your wake.
The Mind Plays Tricks
like when it's convinced it's
travelling west, even though all
the traffic signs say east,
like after angioplasty -- the pains,
the twinges under the left armpit,
the pressure all around the heart
that won't go away . . .
the mind -so sure (even though the doctors
all say "No!") so sure the stents
collapsed as they did on that guy
in the bed next door, that poor guy
who had the same procedure and was
feeling pains (8 or 9 on a scale of 10)
when they wheeled him back into the lab
at 2:00 am -the mind, so concerned about the stents -it knows, at the very least, the blood
must be starting to clot around them . . .
arteries clog to fit the maps
our minds design,
and faces
grow to fit our anguished masks.
What the Pesticide Said to the Apple
I am your friend.
I help you grow.
Grow large, my friend
grow round, grow red, grow ripe,
grow baby grow!
Grow moist, my friend,
grow full of sweet juice,
grow baby grow!
I am your friend.
I keep away those pesky insects
and worms that would burrow
into your luscious flesh.
I will take care of you.
I am connected to the most powerful
politicians, the richest businessmen.
I am your friend. I cling
ever so tightly to your skin -the most violent storm,
the hottest water from the faucet
cannot rinse me off.
Rest, relax, nothing, my friend,
nothing in this world can harm you
and me, relax and grow, grow slow, rest
and grow slow baby, rest, swell, grow
delicious, trust me, I am your friend,
relax, rest, grow sleepy and succulent,
go on, nod on the bough, its so nice
to sleep now, with your friend near,
to sleep, sleep with me, that's it, sleeep,
my friend, sleeeep, sleeeeep,
sleeeeeep ...
for as you sleep, I seep
ever so slowly into your pores,
become one with you, more one
than even the most devoted husband and wife.
and when together (you and me) we fall
from the tree, we will poison something
much bigger than worms.
The Apple's Reply to the Pesticide
Hey Pesty, my friend, just a note
to say that you are not as seductive,
nor as strong as you think you are.
I know your mind; I know you only too well,
you are sneaky, despicable, and testy,
and I allow your glistening slime
to seep into my pores while you think
I am under your spell -- in some kind
of hypnotic, romantic trance,
but I am wide awake, my friend,
aware of levels of poetry and dance
you can not even begin to guess at;
I see you are persistent and dangerous
and impossible to wash off the surface,
so I let you become one with me,
uniting husbandry and eros, the white
flesh and the dark core, the right
and left sides of jungle and farm,
for it's the only way I can disarm
you, my friend, create an antidote
for your poison -- dilute it
with my sweet juices until it works
like a morning after vaccine, provokes
merely a mild morning sickness, until,
lo and behold, my friend,
all who partake of us will be
immune from you forever.
The Penguin Sentry,
standing so still, so stiff
and formal on the rock, a statue
in cap and gown, jagged white
streaks on his black back -- a pure
white front, the tight fitting
orange rubber gloves on his webbed,
pronged feet, the curved matching
beak, the decorative, black clipped
and fluttering wings extended, and
a tuft of whiskers -- wild sprouts
in all directions -- a full professor
and mad, contemplating the real -the incredible shrinking world:
the curious tourists, the attendants
scraping layers of excrement off the rock -the left over possibilities: a splash,
a swim, a stale fish, or two, again,
for lunch -- against the kaleidoscopic
background, the refractions in black
and white of cold sunlight glinting
off icebergs, free flocks, the memory
of flight.
weathered rock toad, at home, sitting at hawk's eye level intrigued by the patterns of predators and
prey meandering around and around -- over sacred ground,
looking down from your ancient bluff 1000 ft above the Mississippi River -- observing the hawks,
rattlers, weasels, etc., lured thither by the faint odor of flesh and blood -looking down as you have for thousands of years, checking out the earliest people to walk on this
continent, their warm, then cold relics, the ever fainter traces of their civilization, the dwind-ling
burial mounds in the shape of a hawk, a mama or baby bear -ursa major or minor,
small sandstone toad with white scratches all over your back, your poison sac and left paw
chipped, now sitting on top of my computer staring at the swirls, the ripples of Monet's Duckpond
as if your permanently bent, cramped stone legs were -- at long,long last -ready to jump.
From Monet in the 20th Century
The House Seen from the Rose Garden: 1922-24
(Catalogue # 87 )
in what's left of receding sunlight -- bright
yellow, intense, spirit breath squeezed out
of the open mouth of the foliage head
dreaming back through eighty years . . .
puffs of sunlight floating across the valley,
the faintest hint of arm outstretched -reaching, painting . . .
yellow puffs,
balloon bubbles above the artist's house,
the pair of young, thin stick figures,
arms extended to each other, on the edge
of the precipice:
vague distant view
of Claude and Camille, his first wife,
who died in 1879, age 32,
or Claude and Alice, his second, died 1911,
or Camille and Alice, or Monet and his easel
or all of the above . . .
the yellow smoke breath, the cliff, the house,
the figures, the head itself -bubbles
and solid earth tones -- rust, dirt, blood,
and mold -- the composition cracked with
fault lines -- the cliff crumbling -the foundations dissolving
before our very eyes
the foliage head
straining wave after wave
of pulsing red -- rage
emerging from
roiling clay -- swirling pigments -the molten pool -- the burning bed -the strokes of flame -the sweet hell
of dying light.
Lines Started on the Porch of Frost's Farmhouse
in Franconia, New Hampshire, sitting on the wicker settee
with the faded yellow cushions, looking out over the bed
of orange day lilies, the milkweed, the larkspur,
a lone pine,
the deciduous forests
at the foot of Lafayette Mountain, the mountain, itself,
and a shadow of a cloud in the shape of a man, mischievous,
bent over the mountain, peeking from the other side,
the "v" of recent rockslides appears as a plain earthen chain
adorning his neck . . .
suddenly, an opening
in the clouds, a spot of ray, a laser beam
of the brightest sunlight exploding
in the center of the forehead,
where the brain might be.
"Struggle for Survival"
reads the placard attached to the post in front of this giant Golden Birch
at least 3 ft in diameter -- this birch grown from a small seed
which took root in a patch of lichen on top of this large appliance sized rock –
his tentacle roots slithering over and around the sides of the rock,
then entering the ground.
The inert hulk of boulder appears as a growth in the gullet,
a lump in the throat which cannot for all of its bulk stop
the sweet sap from flowing -- or, if you take the long view,
as a guinea pig bulge in the python tree, a bulge that is slowly
ever so slowly dissolving in digestive juices.
This old gnarled tree endures it all: the tourists, the poet with the worn notebook,
the biologist with binoculars peering up into his leaves at the three toed woodpecker
that makes its home high in his limbs and finds nourishment tap-tap-tapping into his bark -over 150 feet high and still growing, his leaves still opening in praise to the sun,
still finding nourishment where he can, shading out, starving the younger trees -even his own offspring.
But once in a great while, in the quiet of a summer evening,
when the tourists have gone and his leaves hang useless in the dead air,
the tapping becomes a minor irritant, a dark hint, a reminder
there might be a better way to live.
Pemigewasset River
my fresh water flows over and around the assorted rock creatures
in my 100 ft wide bed -- smooth thin clear sheets gliding over rumps
of rock into valleys of white foam -- different drops, same foam for sages and peons –
different names, same flow for ages and eons, -- each valley remaining constant,
bubbling, attentive, at the foot of its lover,
my liquid flux caresses all the odd rock creatures, a whale,
a camel, a walrus, an elephant, an otter or two, and the rest -like nothing on earth or in heaven -- all unnameable creatures
with lumps, bruises, and scars -- some blind, some with crack eyes
squinting into the sun,
my drops pooling, reflecting both the evergreen and deciduous trees
bending over my shanks, then flowing past those two strange pale
skinned beings perched just out of reach on a lichen covered rock
in the shade of a hemlock -- I gurgle and coo;
I present to them
this artificial cropping for their eyes and poems in which I am
simply water rushing over rock, and I appear only to disappear
at the base of mountains, both upstream and down,
this stretch,
this reasonably straight line, this work of art in which I am
fixed for eternity, cut off from them, from myself, my banks,
my journey to the sea, from my lovers' cousins on whom they sit,
this stretch which offers no hint, no hope ever
of changing form, of rising as vapour
into the heavens, of condensing,
and falling again to earth as new
and as fresh as rain.
On Cannon Mountain
looking across at the side of Frost's favorite,
Mount Lafayette, with its wounds and scars -its years of drab beige scratches
and slashes of rockslides (the latest
in '83) -- looking across at the bell shaped
Mount Liberty tolling for all of us,
and down at the squeezed toothpaste ribbon
of parkway winding through the notch, down
at the thousands of tiny evergreen
pikestaffs standing small and helpless
points against the shape changing cloud
shadow creatures, oozing over the green
blanket of sunlit tips spread for miles
and miles over the landscape -- and over
the arching horizons, range after range
growing bluer and blurrier, as they drift
farther away, then greyer and lighter before
thinning out, evaporating in the heat,
the distance, the slight early August haze -thinking, in passing, of Frost, across the notch
on top of Lafayette, bellowing at the heavens,
thinking of Lear, of Ahab, weathering
their respective storms -suddenly there I am,
in sunlight, flinging my arms wide open
to embrace the ever widening scene, the all
inclusive mural of the ever expanding universe,
moaning, imploring softly, yet clearly:
"Take me. I don't care what you've done
with others. Take all of me. I'm yours!"
Both Going and Coming Back
the philosophy professor remembers,
on Hawk Mountain near Hamburg, PA,
after a sweltering day, a red tailed hawk
entering into the thermal updraft -- being
lifted thousands of feet -- his wings -outstretched, still, no movement
no effort at all -- just gliding
in the stream of steam rising from
the earthen hawk bowl -- joy riding
further and further from the vague blur
of green and brown, forest and town -then exiting into rarified, cold,
thin air, and glancing down -- stepping
off the elevator with the same feigned
boredom we exhibit when we step out
onto the observation deck, casually,
as if the wide lens panoramic view
of life in this world were nothing,
he steps off
and glides back down again.
Easter Morning at the Black Dog Cafe
with my lucky poetry hat on the chair
beside me, I savor the wide panoramic scene,
the breakfast with scrambled eggs, sun-dried tomatoes,
broccoli and feta cheese, the homemade peasant
sourdough toast, the bottomless cup of coffee,
this worldly man at the deli -- an authority
on bread -- "you get the best bread in the world,"
he says, "just below the World Trade Center
in Manhattan,"
the friendly four and 1/2 yr old,
his bright inquiring eyes, behind thick lenses,
with his scruffy beige bunny -- its long
two textured ears, cream cotton swab tail,
black dot eyes, pink threads of nose -"Pinky" be his name -and the one yr old
brother, with a pacifier in his mouth, jealous
of the conversation, the attention -- screaming -Wow! Imagine! the noise he could make
if he were not sucking on that placebo,
think of Bill, our fearless father
buying the black dog "T" for Monica
in the gift shop next door,
and out of somewhere, the other kid,
totally unrelated dark skinned boy about 7
comes over, sits in the chair next to me,
picks up my hat, fingers it, smiling -the spontaneous communion,
"Hi there!" he says,
"Hi, yourself," I say as his pleasant,
not that embarrassed, mother gently disengages
her son from us, leads him into the foyer.
"You're welcome to come back anytime.
If the hat fits, wear it!"
I say to him, to anyone
who may be listening.
The Bed
the large king size bed -- its wrought
iron curls and whirls, dominates
our room at the Harbor View Hotel
the entwined metal vines, the sprawling
hieroglyphic headboard, and four
twisted licorice posts -- each
sprouting four black leaves with
a strange bud, a trinity of piled stones
in the center, in ascending order -like the figures we left
on the rock altar on the beach . . .
looking up at the canopy, the thin
black lines, gently sloping iron ropes -graceful curves, halves of a human form
divine ambling diagonally above and
across the bed, meeting in the center,
forming a small communion table
on which yet another three stone
offering stands . . .
later, when I close my eyes, I see
the well-wrought metal lines -molten heat, light -- above me,
glowing orange-peach -- the color
of the just risen sun.
Through the Binoculars
the sunset over the sound at Menemsha
is even more beautiful, more intense,
the orange, the peach, even more
delicious, the sweet juices spill
from the sky into the wine dark sea,
from our lips into the chilled
April air, a sigh slips (an age old
old age message, in italics and bold -(the nearer the end, the quicker the descent.)
Zoom in on the sun, itself, so ripe, so plump,
glowing, suspended a 1/2 inch above the rim
of this playground world.
Watch it descend gracefully, with dignity,
balance for a split second on the teetertotter horizon, so composed, so radiant,
as it bows to the set -(so easy, I could do it too, if I knew
that tomorrow I would rise again.)
Put down the binoculars -- the colors
in the western sky become an ordinary glaze,
so common, such a lack of blaze, "Ho,hum,"
they say "just the death of another day."
The Pillbox
or part of a lighthouse, or fort
from some 150 or 200 year old war -a cement square -- its left front corner
deeply embedded in the soft sand -this pockmarked cement chamber,
this partially buried burial vault -this random die tossed, perhaps, by
Annisquam, himself, from the top
of his clay cliffs . . .
a relic with a small square trap-door
opening in the roof, the only entrance
you can fit through -climb down
the iron rung ladder, enter this
cement cell, lie down on the sand
inside parallel to the beach, and enjoy
this private nook where you can lie
and look through the same thin tilted
crack that shafts of light or guns
once poked through -- a cell of your
very own where your mind can fire
volley after volley, fire forever
at the always approaching,
ever retreating sea . . .
Leaning on the Plaque,
the official dedication -- the clay cliffs
of Annisquam -- a national landmark -you can see why -mountain peaks of multicolored clay
carved out of miles of cliff beneath
a deep cobalt sky -- beige, black,
brown, and red all looking down
on the long strip of beach with
an oblong stone in the center that
looks like a large freshly baked loaf
of bread, its top a rust brown crust
over the pale flesh body
and at the clear liquid tinted red
from the clay floor, bathing the cliff's
feet, lapping at the foundation -- the water
magically transformed into wine
bread and wine -- enough for one
and all, for each and every peak
of multicolored clay to partake,
enjoy, and live!
Why I Still Write Ocean Poems
and will until the day I die and beyond -- I am
one with the wind, sun, surf and stone; I am one
with the layers of cloud changing the light,
the colors of the scene, the sea -- the view -here and now, close to me it's green with white
foam retreating from the dark pebbles swept
into neat piles -- and seeping into sand while
further out strips of purple and dark olive
merge, the sun haloes the edges of clouds, and
the wind ruffles through the pages of my notebook,
ever-changes the appearance of my hair, always new
and delicious breath vibrates my chords, a mist
always riseth from every small cup of sea which
always runneth over, new music always anointing
the shore, ever singing in the shell shaped ear.
In the State Woods,
looking at the Reservoir,
the sunlight on fresh water waves,
waves rocking to and fro, stroking
the snarled undergrowth shore,
the shore with bare headed, gnarled
trees, the trees lifting their slim
March limbs, limbs with the hint
of buds on their fingertips
so close, so far away -- like that day
a half century ago, from Pine Hill,
the clear view . . .
the reservoir,
so close, so far away,
forever gleaming,
forever full . . .
something clicks, sticks, something
so near says stay, stay right here -- sit
right there in the chair that is waiting
just for you -- something says this
is it -- what you've been searching for,
for over fifty years, the elemental truth
you have been striving to uncover,
to get back to -- the Edenic kiss,
the lips of sun brushing the wave,
of wave moistening the shore, of buds
opening with tongues of bloom
exploring the wide reservoir of blue.
Temple Street
The last leg of my old paper route that began
at the postage stamp Shell station where
I would linger, listening to the ball games -I remember, especially, the playoff,
the Bobby Thompson home run -the celebration
echoing through the spring leaves of Maples
that still line the street -- the buzz
that still hums through the wire
strung across it -the wire where the robin
sat before Ray and his gang (with me
tagging along) shot it down with a B-B gun -pellet after pellet into the twitching mass -me begging for just one shot -- "No,
it's my gun!" Ray said -the wheels turning,
still pedaling down Temple street, past Ray's,
the cramped trailer opposite the apple orchard
where he lived for over five years while
the main house was being built -next to the
state woods where one time on Pine Hill, overlooking
the reservoir, Ray showed me the knife and ski mask
he kept in his pocket just in case he came across
the doctor's daughter who would sometimes swim
there in the nude -the doctor's daughter
who got pregnant the night of her senior prom
and dropped out of Tufts -- got married
in the middle of her Freshman year and lived
in that house on the odd fork off Temple Street -she had made her bed, her father said, and now
she must lie in it -- her twin brother -I hear, graduated from Tufts -- followed in
his father's footsteps . . .
higher education -how crucial (I once believed) delivering the news,
empowering me to choose, to leave Ray's dark
way behind and wind around the curl, the bend
in the road, the comma around the cove
of the res,
the pause,
the sunlit surface, the glittering myriad -rippling -- the evergreen boughs -- greetings
(I still believe) this etching, as intense,
as beautiful as ever . . .
this deeply embedded image stretching
as far as the mind can save . . .
the sentence
within the temple quickens its pace,
the comma turns into a question mark,
moves in a direct line to the cemetery,
underground into the grave, the family plot
where my father sleeps with my mother,
my grandfather, grandmother, and so many more
who have voyaged to this fine and public place,
so many times before -seeps into the dark blot
beneath the question mark, the period
at the end.
Journey Home
They start -- the cormorants, dark souls
aiming straight out through the last hour
before sunset -- singly, or in pairs, rarely
three -- they fly in their arrow fashion
skimming the sunset tinted surface of the sea
like black hares running over a charged field -heading toward Thatcher Island -- there goes
one now -- and I follow him as far as I can
until I'm sure I've lost him in the mist and
dusk, but, funny -- whenever I think I've seen
the last of one, I'm wrong -- the first, the
second, and sometimes the third or fourth time -whenever I really try, I pick up a small dark
speck against a whiter patch of wave or sky . . .
now its nearly dark, sun long down -- there
goes one last straggler -- no, not last,
there go two more even though now in fading
light I can track them less than 1/2 as far -and one more, and another black lance
into the mist . . .
I assume, we must assume
each one will arrive at the shrouded island
where each has a nest . . .
60'th Birthday -- Surprise
In the Ash tree
outside the window -stubs of small birds,
sparrows perhaps,
their feathers,
the same hazel color
as the branches -as the adjusting eyes,
that see two -- no three
on the thin swaying
topmost stalks, then
below them, another one,
and three more -- or
is it four -partially hidden
by the hieroglyphic leaves,
while on the other side -still more on yet another
branch, and still more
birds -- there in the center
of the tree itself . . .
27 in all -- including
the few that walk
in the grass at my feet -Surprise . . .
Thank you family
and friends!
Surprise, Surprise . . .
Thank you so very much!
How the View Changes
when the sun comes out
from behind a cloud, how much
brighter, cleaner, the whole world
shines -- how this light reveals
the essential greenness of trees -how bare flesh glows . . .
and how much brighter
when viewed through a lover's eye -as if a sun had emerged
from behind the sun!
The Lights are Off
when Xanthi calls me to the rocker
in the living room -- "Look! Look!"
she says, "Look at your grandson!"
and I see Quinn in her lap, eyes wide
awake, glowing in the semi-light, alert,
wondering, perhaps, what is it anyway,
this best part of the world he's found
his way into -- what is this warm, cuddly,
comforting life without cords, life
beyond electricity, this feeling,
this moment, this connection in time
he must learn to call "love."
Nikos and the Gull
both in white on ecru rock rising
out of the baked nearly black kelp
hung out to dry by the retreating sea -the gulls feathers, and Nikos'
new Addidas shirt, both ablaze
in mid-afternoon sun -- the gull
digesting his snail lunch -- Nikos
his 7 yr old brother's birthday
Nikos watching the gull,
the calm harbor -"It would be
nice to be able to fly," he says,
squatting on his toes so as not
to step on any snails -"Nice,
but not necessary, or sufficient,"
I reply, "you have already flown
farther than any gull
the world has ever known."
Still Life
on the balcony below -- two women
in their 50's, dressed in shorts
and jerseys -- one's solid faded blue
matching the other's stripes -- both
seated on sun bleached green vinyl
slats of rainwashed folding chairs,
facing each other -- across silver/
grey weather-beaten wood table with
oval placemats -- white with faint
traces of lavender -- a lilac design,
and a meal laid out -- sliced cucumber
sandwiches on white plates -- mint green
discs, white bread -- and grapes, clusters
of yellow green mini-birthday balloons
for each -- moist, glistening in bright sun . . .
so daintily they finger their noon repast
while the purple loosestrife curls in a "C"
around the rock beneath them, while kelp
strands sway back and forth on the heads
in the cove, and small gull shaped clouds
float above the trawler barely visible
in the distance.
80'th Birthday
(for Anna and Fred Ridolfi)
Under the tent, in the yard behind
the old nursing home that he owned
for a long time, but sold two years ago -near the weather-beaten barn, the swimming pool -eating nacho chips, pretzels, chicken wings -passing round the album with clippings from
the New Milford Fair days, and the beard
growing contest -- the beard, so profuse,
so weird, so out of place on his usually
clean shaven face -- friends and family
tossing words, an old football, memories
spiralling into the receiver's grasp -- while
a mile or so away, the neighbor's farm -green trees, red barn, the sloping pasture
with horses and some sheep -- or large wild
turkeys perhaps -- you cant tell for sure
from here . . .
startled by the sudden,
vital "neeeigh, neeeeiigh!" close by,
a horse so near, still here
in the old weather-beaten barn.
The Ferry
returning from another state
of being, standing at the rail,
arms round each others waist
looking back at the dwindling
remains of sunset over the lake,
the Adirondacks, the bright
orange long since turned peach,
rose, now deep reddish purple
faint glow in the west.
until -- it's night -- and
it's time to visit the other end, to
face the city -- the rust, the burnt
caramel yellow, and hissing white
squiggly but straight lines from
electric lamps dropped suddenly
into cold water -- direct lines
plumbing the depths,
and shortening
as we approach
the shore.
only of the sun down, safely hidden
behind the peninsula -- only light,
on the exceptionally green lawns,
and glinting in the distant windows -the lake -- for us -- a shimmering sheet
of many colors, with one small black dot
that will turn into a man in a kayak -- but
first looking back and forth, right and left,
down and up . . . See, see them soaking up rays,
bulging, massive storm clouds vaguely threatening,
beautiful grey and orange creatures with
glowing peach underbellies -- Ah! . . . ah! -behind the erect masts of pleasure crafts,
above the dark green, turning black forest,
on the peninsula, a clear robin's egg blue
pool of sky in the orange cloud rock, or
down from that, to the reflections of those
colors -- our minds striving to hold, mold
the wriggling, lines of rose, of peach
and that incredible blue on the dark lake -the wet beach, the lines weaving over,
around and parallel to the wind stroked
marsh grasses, the purple loosestrife rippling
on the shore -- and up again, back to
the creatures now massed together into
a large molten flatiron, steaming a grey
flannel sleeve, that becomes one great
glistening salmon laden with eggs
and swimming against the grey tide, -and forth to the limned shade of once,
this once in a lifetime blue -- now
a stream between banks of clay, between rose
and bruise colored play dough -- the words
"A Rainbow," we hear, so close, so clear -from the man in the kayak, approaching the
nearby dock -- Wow! look behind us -- now!
in the east, he's right, the story teller's
rainbow, a current arcing halfway across
the heavens, disappearing above the golden
cumulus clouds, those two luminous orange
beings twined in a grey bed, one bent over
the other, lips just about to touch . . .
"Do you know what I like," you say, "the wind
blowing on the mouth of my bottle -- makes
a funny kind of moaning sound."
The Real Thing
no models to sit for us, no posing, no
engravings, paintings, or photos, no words,
no craven images of any kind, just you
and me in secluded rocks, just being
in our place at the end of the jetty
with an ever expanding view of the sea,
the slanting rays of late afternoon sun
molding Platonic forms, grotesque broken
shadows on wrinkled walls of orange,
guano stained stone behind us -before us -- small waves lapping,
kelp strands stroking the wet rocks -all the while, warm sun on skin,
your voice humming a familiar, yet
unnameable tune, the silent invisible
flutter of love's wings, a faint, yet
insistent beating in the air -- a pulse
I can't put my finger on.
Waking First
looking over the flabby bicep
of my left arm at the sleeping
two yr old Quinn -- his coiled
energy at rest -- my 15 lb
overweight body, a useful
barrier -- my mind thinking
about acorns and oak trees -thinking about the child
being the father of the man,
about Quinn's left arm at 15
that will be stronger than my
left or right at any time
of my life, about the organic
nutrients that go into growth,
the making of a man -- sun, wind,
sea, and soil, fire in the sky above
rock cliffs above a crescent shore -sunrise and sunset on a balcony
with you -- or at the summit,
the undulating birds, words, poems,
hillsides -- swaying landscapes,
grasses, flowers and trees -- quilts
flowing with Monet colors, stitched
with bees -- saturated with light,
the light in the eyes of family
and friends -- and you, especially
you, my one wife without end -nothing less, nothing more -- we are
what we have loved!
Castle Rock: III
It's been exactly thirteen years since
your mother died, and here we are again,
sitting on a rough shoulder of a rock beast,
reading our latest poems -- sunlight
still shimmering on the rippling water
like sequins on a fine gown -- water
still leaping up on granite paws, then
running off in small sheer negligee falls
into foam bubbles that dissolve at the foot
of the fisherman, standing, his line cast,
looking with us out over the majestic, the
peaceful soothing sunset scene, the same
soothing rhythm still washing, still
cleansing and recleansing the rock,
each grain of sand,
each moment in the sun.
The White Beetle
about 6, 7 inches long with doors
that open so we can see the driver
inside -- 33 years ago, your mother,
fifty, still alive, with her new car
and her first license, driving for hours,
cramped behind the steering wheel
of a metallic insect, crawling along
winding country roads -- through ever
lengthening shadows, the two hour
detour around the raging forest fire
to be there for the birth -- J. D. ,
your mother's first grandchild -"Let's see what we have here!" she
often said -- you disengage the white
beetle from Quinn, our own grandson;
we get down on our knees and play
like children, rolling the toy car
back and forth on the grey carpet -in the grey mist -- figures loom -parents, children, the proprietor
of the toy store, and Quinn
with a yellow bus.
Athens Pizza
I enter first, see the four people sitting
at the table in the corner: the owners,
John and Maria, their daughter, Eleni
and another woman, somewhere between
the two generations -- everyone relaxing
before the Saturday night rush -they see me first and know who is coming -"Jimmy," John bellows, "Jimmy," and he is up
at my side helping Chris and me help
her father, my "Pethero" (father-in-law)
enter awkwardly through the glass door.
"So good to see you," John says in Greek,
the language so familiar to them, so
unfamiliar to me, the words flying
back and forth -- the old man bends down
to kiss John's hand -- "No, No" John says
embarrassed -- then "more chairs" which
materialize as he offers all three of us
seats at their table -- bustle, laughter,
conversation, and we discover the somewhere
between woman is named Angie, was babysat
over 35 years ago by the widowed mother
of my 86 yr old Pethero who forgets,
sometimes, more and more often, it seems,
but still speaks fluent Greek, when excited -more words -- more laughter at me reciting
one of the two Greek sentences I learned
over thirty years ago on our second, or was it
the third honeymoon -- late at night, walking
down Park Avenue after the Pirandello play
"The valotorporthemu carto," I say, again,
stamping my foot down, still more laughter,
conversation and pepperoni pizza -- John
and Eleni, we learn -- in this country since
1967 -- their sons with degrees from Holy Cross
and Dartmouth -- one with a high paying
electronics job, the other just setting out
with a MBA from BU -their daughter,
just married last year is here -- her husband
back in Greece -"It's good," she says
to Chris and me, "the way you guys tease
each other, so many couples can't do that
after the first few months."
(Later in the car,
he would translate for us the details
we missed about the breakup) -but now
more Greek, more pizza -John helping me and Chris helping my Pethero
get the pepperoni onto the fork and into the mouth -and the words out, so many words, bubbling words,
laughter, everyone joining in -- in one language
or another -- Chris calls me aside to figure out
how much we owe -- "Make sure you leave a good tip,"
she says, but when I return to the table, take out
the bills, try to pay -- John won't take them -the Greek way -- "Here," I say, giving Chris
the crisp tender, "see what you can do."
all the while, the miracle, her father who
yesterday, the day before, and the day before
that was sitting at his kitchen table asking
to "go home,"
the man who woke us last night
screaming "Mary, Mary," over and over "Mary,
Mary," for his dead wife, "Mary, Mary -- Mary,"
so loud we half expected her to answer,
is carrying on a regular conversation, has been
for over an hour -- until he tells his daughter
in Greek, "It's time to go."
"Tell us when,"
she replies. "In a few minutes," he says,
and in a few minutes we push back our chairs,
get up, prepare to leave.
John takes his friend to the restroom, and Chris
tries leaving the money on the counter -- but
the mother whose eyes never left the bills
takes them and stuffs them down the front
of Chris's "seize the daisies" T shirt . . .
"Please, please take it!" Chris says,
half pleading, half begging, "Or else
we won't want to come back -you don't know
how much this day means to me -what you've done for him"
"I understand,"
the daughter says, "he needs someone to talk to
in Greek, someone who listens and understands,
but do you know what he has done for us -how just after your mother died, when my mother
had no license and my father had to work at
the restaurant, he would drive us all
to the Auburn Mall where we would buy our
school clothes, and . . ."
and then the tears
begin -- Chris, the daughter, the mother and me,
the male, the Professor of English, weeping,
unashamed -and Angie, in the corner,
forgotten Angie, whom we had never seen before,
and will most likely never see again, weeping,
weeping most of all . . .
"Good people,"
Chris says, later, in the car, driving him
carefully, slowly, back to his house
in Southbridge,
"Yes, good people!"
I have to agree.
60'th Birthday
10:23 am, sun glittering the cove, and
glancing off fog and mist in the distance, -an other worldly haze bathing Thatcher Island
in grey, the island in the sky, an outpost
of a cloud kingdom -- a distant El Dorado
island floating on light and mist -its curving shore, an Aladdin's lamp base
supporting lumps and humps -- vegetation, I guess,
bushes, trees, and a vague shape on the far end,
a decorative prow lookout staring off
into the glaze,
and the silhouettes
of the twin lighthouses -- goalposts,
a gateway into the mysterious interior -through which I make out a brown/black blur,
as I rub my eyes, see an odd shaped football,
a house, a ferry perhaps, barely visible,
sailing in spirit mist . . .
hints of a city beyond . . .
spiraling wisps
of wish rising . . .
suddenly -a gull swooping -- so low, so close,
so quickly gone, like a thought,
like my vision of the island -yet real,
so real . . .
I could have stretched out my leg
and kicked it had I known
it would be there.
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