Pandemic Blues Day 43: In Which I Invite the Germs In
I busy myself making
involving ingredients I don’t have
to shop for – flour and water, and hope
a few sympathetic microbes will fly
into my kitchen alive and ready to work,
leaven this flat feeling that our lockdown
could last what’s left of my life. I’m doing whatever
keeps me from sleeping
all day, drinking too much.
On YouTube the helpful man uses just
a measuring cup, eschews
a digital scale and all its romantic precision.
Just eyeball it, leave something to chance he says.
This recipe for anarchy, his casual approach
suits me fine. I think of all the things
you can do just enough –
like a life – chug along for years without a plan,
dump tinker toys onto the carpet
knowing a few pieces are lost,
make what you can
or take a road trip in an old car
with squiggly-line signs to warn you
of the cliff, but not when you’ll meet it.
A carefree journey marked
by ambiguous symbology, open to interpretation
open to hope –
So when the gloppy mess goes rancid after a few days
I pour it down the drain, mix a new batch of chaos,
lid the jar loosely, open a window,
welcome the air from outside, hope
for a different outcome.
Originally published in the Bay to Ocean anthology (Eastern Shore Writer's Assn.)
Changing Trains in Jamaica
From the middle of Long Island
the train ride took me
for a Broadway matinee
with my grandmother,
meeting in Jamaica,
she guiding me through
the maze of platforms for a
transfer to the subway,
in my flannel suit
hair shellacked in place
all big-boy manners and shined shoes
side to side in the dark
under flickering underground lights.
I would someday say
I saw Mary Martin sing
the Hills are Alive
from the nose-bleed seats,
melodies so familiar
I already knew every note
from the album, already
loved Broadway musicals
before I knew the cliché.
I was growing into
the disparity, vaguely aware,
aching not to be,
starting to regret, to implore
please make it go away,
the birthday wish I’d repeat
A walk to Penn Station at sunset
she kissed me on the cheek,
checked the ticket in
my pocket, left me to get
back alone––finding my way,
changing trains, pleading for
the car to jump the track.
Originally published in the Third Wednesday
Why It Took Odysseus Ten Years to Get Home
We walk around the weekly farmer’s market booths, bleached sails
billowing in the breezes of June, light flitting onto tables, white linen
unfurling like water lilies, glittering bottles of blackberry jam and plates
of peach slices oozing nectar. No one in a hurry, no one in need.
We taste, make a lunch of samples, crab cakes, a handful of popcorn.
Tapping guitar strings try to recreate the 60’s, the pulpy ballads now
squeezed dry of memories. A tepid siren in the distance, but no
heads move. The afternoon slides gently away like a receding
wave, drawing into itself the stillness of the air, the sun-soaked metaphors
of completeness and a lack of care. I can’t think of anything
we still need, so why am I so hungry?
I sneak away to the car and wait for you to finish choosing the perfect corn,
I tidy up the mess, the backlog of half-busy lives. Papers on the floor
reveal the recent weeks, mail opened, placed back into envelopes and
discarded, the receipts from the auto repair, wine store, thrift shop, doctors.
I spread them out on my lap, press out the wrinkles, promise myself
to deal with them later.
Waiting for your return I stare at the passenger seat, I want to reach
across and squeeze your hand, lead your peach-juice fingers to my mouth.
Suddenly you appear, your arms full of green and silk, I pick up the pile
of receipts so you can sit down.
We are on a voyage, it seems, well-provisioned, a hull full
of overdue notices, heavy with the weight of hollow cravings. Under
cloud-covered stars we float, hold outdated charts and scan the horizon,
take turns at the rudder, skim past whirlpools and monsters, and arc
into currents circling the rocks.
Originally published in the Broadkill Review
Under the burning glare of
of the ice cream shop
on a steamy summer vacation night
I cheated the man
out of a dollar or so,
wordlessly accepting the change
in my palm,
when, our eyes meeting, you saw
the look on my face.
You looked up at me,
What did you learn when,
as soon as you got outside,
your scoop hit
the pavement with a plop,
your eyes spurted tears
with instant disappointment,
and we went back inside
to the same man
who gave you
Originally published in the Rat's Ass Review
I’m reading the on-line biography of a famous
writer, a laureate whose language is
so clever it makes me quake,
whose life in academia hovers in the background,
the life of I-have-time-and-space-to-write.
We are both old men now, but
it says that he was born
a few years before me, and I think
“Oh, good. I still have time.”
Then I click on a video where he twangs
so matter-of-factly about himself and
his writing and quaintly blathers about failing and
failing again and I take heart until
I see his country porch on his country house
off a mud dried road and then
just to make me feel worse
he puts a floppy mushroom hat
and plucks a goddam banjo for heaven’s sake.
At least he’s not wearing overalls
doesn’t remove his teeth.
In a close-up I wonder “How did those crags
get carved into his face?”
notice his moustache needs a trim
his wire-rimmed glasses are slightly askew,
explaining his view of the world.
So I go outside and add chlorine to the pool
dive in naked, swim long, under water
start a new poem in my head.
Originally published in Mojave River Review
Once Again, the Flock
Dawn, I lean over the steering wheel, look up.
Traveling, linked invisibly against a grey sky
their outline expanding like a spill
shifting their positions
coupled for life, moving, a still autumn journey.
October, the Chesapeake landscape dim and dull,
a flock above my head, honking
above the harvested fields, corn stalks lie down
against the new chill, brown remnants withered,
like an exhausted traveler collapsing in the dust.
Noon, forty cycles later, I return, drive
the same roads, a few miles and messy tears
from that life, to the route,
watching again these geese gliding overhead.
I quickly close the car windows
to keep the blown leaves out,
heading home, to an aging man’s dry bed.
I peer above the wheel again,
again descendants spreading wide against
a feathery cloud, the same fixed and moving form
I saw then,
in constancy they reiterate.
Dusk, I park beside the fresh sod lawn,
enter a house bathed in falling down shadows
unpack the moving crate - the hallway clock
and hunt for the winding key into the night.
The next morning, swooping over the roof,
not leaving – the warmer days keep them close –
they consider moving on, but don’t.