You drink the cool clean water and smack your lips, refreshed.
Elsewhere, in this same country, the water is not clean, must be boiled, then drunk.
Elsewhere, you might be dying to drink it as is, and damned if you do.
Elsewhere, water means business. It thickens wallets. You will pay for it.
You could ask whose future is being spent down to the last hovering drop.
You could ask about thirst—who thirsts for a better life and who for just a life to grow all the way up in.
But you don’t. You drain the glass and turn on the tap for more. There’s never not been more.
This poem, written 20 years ago and finally published in The American Journal of Poetry in 2019 (with deep thanks to editor Robert Nazarene) unfortunately addresses a continuing and current situation (I’m thinking of Texas). It was inspired by watching my thirsty ten year old son gulp down a glass of water and imagining this conversation. He must have heard me – he continues to ask all the right questions about this world that he and all our kids and grandkids will inherit.
Thoreau would have loved this dark lining to a stormy December day, the even darker, almost liquid, pooling of night. He’d have loved me preparing meals, doing dishes, my son his homework, all by candlelight, the household machines, loud-mouthed TV standing lifeless.
I find myself spare in the silence, sharpened. My steps count, movement is rationed, the thrust and parry of the world I know— a thunderous dream from which I have at last awakened. In the chill air I light a fire and worlds long gone lick the edges of today, speak of a mind that roamed free, mapping its maker. No outage there.
Here’s a poem published 14 years ago in North Shore Magazine – it seemed appropriate, given the current power outages in Canada and the USA! Here’s hoping all of you affected keep warm, have water to drink, food to eat and oh, get your internet service back, computers and cellphones charged up.
Not your standard guy—put a shift kit in the automatic transmission of his Boyd Red 1990 Ford Mustang LX 5.0 coupe, changed the seats from black vinyl to cloth: made it turn-on-a-dime crazy ‘round a corner, full-out perfect snort of heaven off a light and down highway 99. No one could catch me, he grins, unless I wanted them to.
Nothing mechanical in the way he bends over the lifted hood of my car or lays back on a creeper and slides beneath the undercarriage, one foot sneaking out. Maintenance is key, he says, and starts the engine, pulling a rag from his pocket to wipe down the dipstick and check the level and colour of fluid.
His hands are stained and scarred, look like they would labour all their life to love a woman the way they love the complicated innards of a car: with brains in his fingers, and ears that can translate rattle and whine, deep knock knock knock under a hood, reversing the strange or troublesome into something familiar, worth repair.
Many thanks to The Writers’ Cache for including this love poem for my husband in the just-released anthology “Joyride” (Pg. 40), available from Amazon (US) and Amazon (Canada)!
In the cathedral of this forest while birds sing unseen from the vaulted shadows, I sit in the hand-carved pew of a sawed-off cedar trunk and think about last night’s
argument, a congregation of notes falling, rising, coins of light clinking into the basket: the dappled adagio that ministers a tight staccato heart.
Century-old trees stand like mossed-over crosses unbroken in their silence, upholding the climb of secrets: the whispers about living on what’s left over from
the cacophonous demands of a day, the scraping of those plates to give again what is left over, love quietly shrinking from the beginning to the end of a word, pursed lips praying but little abiding as prayer.
Yet here, in a green profusion the curling ferns, the pungent earth and the soaring branches cannot hold all the love that grew them, nor can the birds so tirelessly singing, nor my dog chasing a squirrel chasing a squirrel.
The math is simple. There is no subtraction. Love’s pulse is steady and it loads the woodland table, as it must, even now, heap a forgotten room in us.
Another poem that first appeared in the Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art in 2017. My thanks again to editors Veronica Golos and Catherine Strisik for including it.
Always, in returning to the house of my farm-grown summers I come home to the wild oat, the whole grain of me. Riding bareback again through the fields of a long-ago self, who I was rises golden and green in a warm wind: Bud hasn’t gone crazy yet. Audrey and Rose still live. The hayloft babies are hiding in the rafters of first love, waiting to be born. The lake’s so deep you can swim one step out from the bouldered shore. Blind Grandpa keeps his pockets full of change. Cackling, he leans on his cane, throwing every quarter-nickel-dime onto the ground. He listens as we fall upon them like scrabbling crows. Gran scolds but he never stops making us rich. Dad shows Bob and I at 5:00 a.m. how to hook a worm (I’ve been saving them from a dry street death ever since). Later Gran, with a shake and quiver of strong, baggy arms, scales and cleans eight small bass in the kitchen sink. Uncle Jim drives his tractor in a pressed white shirt. I slip out the door, running past rabbit-friendly trees to hide among sky-driven stalks. Lying down, I press my body into sweet conversation with the earth. Here, no machinations of the soul, just secrets told, flitting like fireflies through branches of maple, alder, birch. Who I became is the land that grew them—a defiant wave of long grass beside a paved road, a wealth of open sky, water deep enough for a man to drown in, the flickering light that might save him.
This poem first appeared in the Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art in July, 2017. Deep thanks to then-editors Veronica Golos and Catherine Strisik for selecting it.
I recently had the good fortune to be filmed reading a selection of poems from my chapbook “Irresistible”. It was my brilliant son Stewart’s idea and I really enjoyed the experience! Please do check it out, if you have 20 minutes to spare:
We did this inthe Carcross Desertin the Yukon. The wind was howling and though we found a fairly protected spot, you can hear it gusting here and there in the video (as well as the odd ATV gunning it over the dunes). Many thanks to Stewart for his expertise! Here he is at Bennett Beach in Carcross:
Happy to say this little poem has just been published in the 2020 print edition of “Crosswinds Poetry Journal” along with other finalists and winners of its annual contest. The poem was inspired by an eagle seen flying at sunset the last day of September and the boating memory of another eagle which was carrying a 3 foot long snake home for dinner.