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 International Journal of Poetry and Art in July, 2017. Deep thanks to then-editors Veronica Golos and Catherine Strisik for selecting it.
Once, numbed and split apart
with all the casualness of a letter-opener
firm against the fat contents of a long-awaited envelope,
my body revealed a face,
the face of my son about to be born.
The doctor was startled to see his eyes,
already open, intent upon him,
eyes that spoke of other worlds,
of a reason for being, being here, being now,
his seven pounds a screaming missive from most high.
For ten years past, night after night,
he keeps his eyes open as long as he can,
thoughtful dots in the dark, for the day
could never extend itself enough to please him
nor to hold his magical masterly plans
and too, there are worries: of earthquakes,
a friendship gone wrong, a love that might
disappear unintentionally, like a mom
mowed down by a car or a dad who worked
too hard, a stammer that won’t, and more.
Eventually, my own body weary from the effort
of imposing a sleep he does not want,
I come to turn out his light and find
his eyes closed at last, limbs limp, seeming
grateful for the slow and slower breath, the
weight of them against the hockey stick
sheets like four pucks landed in their nets.
Sometimes the curtain lifts a little, letting in
the gasp and sigh of the world he’ll inherit,
and out skate his dreams.
This poem was first published in an earlier version under the title “My Son, Unable To Sleep” in CV2 in 2001.
Waking up in the night
before the bugling of birds,
no child’s screams
tracking the 3:00 a.m. train,
no trucks or buses
bellowing into the valley
from the mountain highway,
no siren, for once,
gathering all who can hear
into its grief,
to your stammering
sinking past the debris
washing over you
like a river-rich sea
Your family sleeps, unaware
you are stealing eternity
for an hour.
By the time they rise
you will be ground into sand:
a beach that can hold
the jump and jaunt
and slow toe-kick
of all their footprints,
until evening’s flood-tide.
This is the title poem from my chapbook, “Stealing Eternity”.