Morning in Maine

Morning in Maine, the angry waves, the mist,

The patient stones, the pines a safe distance

Above the churning sea, and my love’s

Sweet pressure at my side, swirling steam of

The day’s first coffee, sharing it just as 

We share Monhegan in the distance, 

Sun coming up behind her in the haze, 

The ease and simple awe of northern days.


I could wait here with you a thousand years, 

Listening to stories the ocean tells,

Our blossom love enduring like the river 

That feeds the hungry bay, or like the swells

That rise, crest, and fall on the rocks below,

Unceasing as the summers come and go.FB_IMG_1565714958603

Out of the Country

This is the best that I can do.

A gesture of remorse.  An eye that listens in a language you half understand.

You take the classes. You practice in the mirror.

The sounds come rushing like a waterfall.

You stammer in your confusion while someone points.

The trust fall canvas black admonition of stars in metronome.

Ah, yes. Of course. I’m so sorry. I should have—I know.

They bring you the café. The little spoon rattles one the saucer

As they walk away, exasperated.

Across the street, students loaf and smoke.

They are angry about something.

Tomorrow, I will go to the chaotic airport and hope for the best,

Return to a job I understand but don’t love,

Watch the angry people on television,

Fill my car up with gas, buy cereal and beer,

Let another few more unremarkable years go by,

And try again.

Everything is broken, everywhere.

Moving Day

I will miss those tired pines that catch the sunlight

And pour it down to earth in golden stairwells,

To the empty streets where Mrs. Coleman walked alone,

Her husband having left her years ago.

I will miss the barking from behind the rusty fences,

The tiptoeing cats leering from behind a tire,

The human faces peering down from porches as I pass,

Dodging divots of asphalt broken by the years of traffic,

My bike swerving and creaking across the cracks.

I will miss the gnat-haloed streetlights kind enough to ignore

My sneaking home in early morning,

My neighbors’ rotting roofs sagging in the sadness of dawn

Like an old woman’s shoulders. Goodbye, too,  

The house, an eyesore now, where my friend’s daughter was born,

Her long since grown now, and the house forgotten,

Bittercress where flowers used to grow, bushes browning in blight,

The slow and silent, flaking death of paint,

Dying and fading like memory does, until it just hangs on

In splotches of white against bare forgotten shingles.

From the highway, as I drive away, I pass the falling barns,

Leaning impossibly against the moon,

Fighting oblivion and gravity and regret

With fierce but doomed determination.

What should I tell the buyer about the ghosts?

Full disclosure of haunting spirits that emanate from memory?

Sign here to acknowledge a succession of Labrador retrievers

Baying at distant deer or possums in the woods, or in their minds.

Please know the ghost of my father turns on the tv and chuckles,

Eating popcorn every 2AM then disappears at dawn, like Hamlet’s father,

Without waiting for coffee, or for my questions.

But he was certainly there, Horatio, not in armor, but

In his recliner, his feet raised after a hard day striving, and shaking his head

Now at fictional crimes and punishments of Chicago PD

Or San Francisco vice.

Should I tell the buyer about the sacred space

Where my mother taught my son to read in her lap?

Or would they care?

And should I tell them that the back bedroom is stained

With 6 months of tears,

That paint can never cover the times I nearly died,

Or longed to, with the determination of rust?

How our foundation crumbled in grief and had to be rebuilt,

Brick by brick and stone by stone, to the eternal indifference of the trees.

But soon the locks will change, and movers desecrate it all,

Like bulldozers on an ancient burial ground,

Some 40 years of living covered in new carpets and cabinets,

While the trashmen take yesterday from the curb.



Put away the camera, set aside the cup.

The car is backing away. 

Take the sorrow, pick it up; 

Tomorrow is always waiting. 

I see them only in picture frames now.

The faces I have touched so many times. 

The hearts, the arms, the souls,

The lives once all tangled up with mine.

Memories warp and fade

Like the photographs that remain.

Purpose evades me relentlessly.

Outside the window pane,

The raindrops collect, 

And run down the glass

Turning the window putty into rot.

As it rattles, I catch a glance 

Of decomposing lilies in the yard,

Another winter is on the way,

So many will have passed that I lose count.

I have to check the birthdays 

On a calendar, now uncluttered by 

Appointments or reminders. 

I have nothing to keep track of

Except this emptiness of hours,

The silence of the rooms and halls,

A cupboard keeping just enough for me. 

Yes, a phone will ring sometimes, 

And I will have the family

At certain holidays,

Gatherings that end too soon, 

With long goodbyes after which

I sit in silence in my kitchen, 

Sipping concentrated coffee, 

As the cat stands on the windowsill.  

What happens to the purpose 

When the purpose is fulfilled? 

I keep a simple house, now. 

No voices, few decisions, or none at all,

Just wind chimes and blankets, 

And the pictures on the wall.

Good Fences

Cade’s Cove, Tennessee

Good fences

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

He said, but something there is that craves one, too,

That sends a human groundswell, spills the water

Left for nomads in the sun.  Malicious elves, you say,

But that’s not it exactly, more like the kind of man

Who’d leave a bag of rattlesnakes on the front step

To keep anyone from coming in,

Or train coyotes how to circle on command.

Oh, I think he knows what he is walling in and walling out,

The old stone savage that he is, the apples

And the pine cones have nothing to do with it,

Just another form of taking for yourself

That which has been taken time and time again.

To Winter and Back Again

Miami River, Hamilton, Ohio

The sparrows and the martins—

Fly back and forth–to spring

They feel no icy footprint–

Or any unwelcome thing

If any leaf–turns less than green–

They turn their eyes away–

They must have color–in the view

They loathe the white and gray–

My heart’s a different traveler

That tends to fly–alone–

Seeking cool reception in

Less comfortable–zones

Brightness fools it into feeling–

a lonely thing to say–

Turn off the green–turn off the blue–

And then–it finds its way.

You can’t be like a martin

If you have–a human Soul

There is no way to travel–

With a heart–so light–and full

The sparrow rises in the air–

Her Song a holy office–

The human heart–only hears

The cracking sound–of ice

We dream of winds that lift our wings

To heaven, until–but then—

December comes, and takes our Soul

To winter and back again

Suburban White Women

Dog Beach, Huntington Beach, California

Torrey was confused. As she stood with her husband in the line at The Home Depot where they were buying paint samples so that they could decide whether they wanted to paint the bathroom Dove White, Eggshell, or Capistrano Cream, she noticed the ever so slight lift in Josh’s khaki shorts, which she noticed from time to time, if she touched him in the right way, if she bit his ear, the little things that she as a wife knew made him slightly aroused, or when Dena came over to the house, because she was gorgeous and Torrey really couldn’t even blame Josh. But she had never noticed it before with a, well, she couldn’t even say it in her mind. She would not allow herself to admit it or say it. She was not racist. The cashier was just a girl smacking her gum and looking blankly towards the tool department while she tore the receipt and handed it to him without eye contact. She gave a fake smile when Josh told her not too work to hard now and just then Torrey noticed that she had been touching him, hip to hip, and she pulled away, but they were walking away now with their blue plastic bag of canned-vegetable sized paint sample cans. Sometimes just leaning into him did it, she had noticed before, but by now they were walking back to the Pathfinder and it was too late to know for sure if it was the check out girl or Torrey’s hip that made him this way.

When they got in the car she said, “Josh, did you think that girl was pretty?” He practically snorted at the question. It seemed to Torrey that it was a little forced. 

“Don’t be stupid.” 

She hated when he said that. “It’s not stupid. Don’t speak to me that way.”

“I’m sorry, honey. No, I did not find her attractive.” He said it emphatically, slowly, as if to repeat that he thought the question was stupid. But she knew he had a black girlfriend in college. She was a lawyer now in Atlanta.  She was on Facebook.  That was how she knew Josh was not racist. Sometimes people would say if you liked the president you were racist but she knew that Josh wasn’t because he dated her in college. It was stupid to say they were racist and it made her angry when someone said it. They had talked about it at church and it made her feel better.

He had promised her lunch. “Do you want Desi’s or the Diner?” She shrugged.  He drove to Desi’s. There was a short wait. She leaned on him and he held her while he leaned against the wall by the door. She was tired. She felt herself beginning to weaken but she locked her knees.  A few more minutes and she would have her mimosa. Or maybe she would get that thing with the mint leaves. She couldn’t remember the name of it. “Are you feeling ok?” he asked. She shrugged. “Do you want to go home?” She shook her head no. 

The hostess said, “Morales”, and she started to move when she heard the “m” come out of her mouth, thinking it would be their turn. Then she wanted to see who the “Morales” were.  It was an older couple.

When it was their turn, the hostess walked them to their table at the far end of the restaurant by garage door openings that looked out onto the street where it was raining now.  Josh read his menu but Torrey didn’t need to. She sipped her water and looked out the garage door windows. The streets were wet now and the tires were making the whooshing noise on the street. She was trying not to listen to the conversation at the next table about the immigration raids at the chicken plant in Morton. “As long as they come here legally,” someone was saying.  He said “legally” like a child would say please, almost like he was begging. Emphasis on the “le”.  He wasn’t racist. He just wanted it all to be legal. All she could think about was the idea of a factory where they did whatever they did to chickens to make the chicken meat that people eat. It revulsed her. She didn’t want to think about it.

Their server was a young man. She was grateful. His hair was short on the sides and spikey on the top.  She tried to think what it was like. It was like a tossed salad or a bouquet of flowers bouncing around on his head. She liked it.  Was he black? She wasn’t sure. The owners were Cuban. He had a Spanish name that she couldn’t pronounce. He had big teeth and a big smile.  He was friendly and he actually looked them in the eye unlike the hostess or the cashier at The Home Depot in her orange smock. She ordered a mimosa but Josh said “Go light on the champagne, please.” The server looked at her as though for permission and she just turned her head back to the street, ashamed. “Yes, sir, coming right up” the server said. Just then she needed to get away from her husband.

“I am going to the restroom.” She stood up too quickly, maybe, and the room began to spin. There was a piercing noise like a long tone that got louder each moment until it was unbearable. The edges of her sight got fuzzy and then black.  She saw the girl in the orange smock in her mind and the Pathfinder and the wet street getting louder and louder and louder.  She was sweating and then the world came back to her. Her head hurt. She was looking at Josh who was saying her name. “Are you ok?” She nodded.  “Just rest for second,” Josh said.

She was suddenly aware that a crowd of people were around her and she was on the floor. “It’s ok,” Josh said, “She’ll be ok. She’s pregnant. Don’t call 911. It’s ok, really.”  Her dress felt soaking wet with sweat and she was suddenly embarrassed and felt the need to apologize. “I’m sorry,” she said. Josh was trying not to cry.  “Can you stand up? Let me take you home.” The server helped Josh pick her up from the floor.  He was tender and gentle. She attempted a smile. Josh handed the server a twenty but he said, “don’t worry about it, we didn’t even make the drinks yet. Come back another time, ok?” Josh put his arm around her waist and they walked back to the car.  He leaned her seat back, went to the driver’s side, started the car and backed out. The sun was coming back out around the clouds and the brightness against the shade on the sunroof relaxed her.  She was coming back to life.  She had stopped sweating and the air conditioning felt cold on her skin.  She turned her head to Josh as he drove down Fortification Street.

“Can we try the Eggshell first?”