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.

Frames

Frames 

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