EARLY MORNING AT THE DINER

There’s a human warmth in diners, especially
at breakfast, when sleep still sits on shoulders
slumped forward over plates of eggs and hash
browns, steam rising from cups of tea and coffee
like sleepers’ breath. There’s not much talking, just
the rustle of the morning paper as the day
is opened up. Yawns are issued without
apology, and the waitress, with her small pad
and pencil, her hand touching your back as she
rounds the corner, is love arrived. No one
cares if you’re still wearing pajama bottoms
or haven’t bothered to shave. The slow munching,
the sound of forks and knives, the audible
inhalations of liquid: the words will come later.

TAIL

I can understand that sitting would be
more difficult, and the sleek verticality
undone, but imagine the wag of happy
anticipation, the shimmy of pleasure,
ease of balance across a log above
a gorge, the prehensile joy of flying from
tree to tree. Vestigial bone, I know you
only when I fall, the runt of memory
shocked, the wild days of prehistoric thrill
and exhilaration coursing in my shrunken end.

A PRAYER

seem right when another’s lost to words, to look,
and touch; when her suffering’s so acute she can
barely move. You gather your heart-thoughts and say them

silently, lofting the supplication upward
with the million others intoned that second, hoping
that a source starward and more potent than earthly

agency can bring help. And each time the pain comes
you pray again, until you resemble a medieval
monk, the plea for succor in every breath.

JUNGLE

Today it’s so cold
it’s hard to remember, the frigid
air slipping in through collar, up pant
legs, feasting on the exposed
nose, searching out fragile fingers in
and out of tight pockets, finding
scalloped ears beneath a stocking
cap, keeping lips a thin hard

line against the day, that inside is
a jungle, steamy and a steady
ninety eight point six, where every
living creature, naked and
glistening, luxuriates in a tropical
heat and fecundity, a prelapsarian
paradise of plenitude, where cold
air and shivering bones are never known.

WORDS

(1)

There isn’t a word you can say, not
one, no matter how heartfelt, no
matter we both see and touch its
impulse at the same time, that
isn’t, and won’t be, misunderstood.

(2)

My mouth and tongue are dumb. They pucker,
lick and swim to yours, trying
to tell you what they can’t in words.

(3)

I have a mouth full of marbles
that garble the clear meaning I
want to express. I choke each day
on inarticulate display.

(4)

When I speak I feel as if the wind has found
a way to make me sound, like moving a bottle
top around at different angles, high
whistle, deep bass, staccato bursts. I’ll loft
my voice sometimes when hiking: holler, whoop
and imitate the call of birds, the grunt and clack
of animals. What joy in wordless talk!

(5)

I like to savor, when I can’t understand,
the meal of vowels and consonants served up,
the way lips shape an uva, so round and fresh
I can almost taste the juice; the outward push
of flesh to smooth, to move the euphony
of love along; the strike of tongue against
the battlement of teeth when sounds go rock
hard and talk sticks in the throat and won’t go down.

(6)

Between the cry and rasp the heart must find
its way. How strange that sounds first filtered through
the mind and made of air will have to do.

WIDOWERED

No one to call ten times a day, to share
the random thought that washed to shore brings in
its tow a memory that no one else

but she can know, the castles of delight
built one by one on sun streaked beaches where
young bodies exulted in their play. No one

to come home to, no waiting, vibrant, smiling
face on the landing, no familiar flesh
that fit so well, that folded in gave peace,

no perfume, no chatter, no cooking smells,
no flowers. How silent a house can be
alone, a mausoleum echoing

footfall. No one across the kitchen table,
meals for one at home or out are stale
and tasteless times without the zest of her,

communion without sanctuary, a look
electrifying belief in self, dull steel
made hot and tempered into blade, the cutting

edge of possibilities she gave,
refired, rehoned, a man’s a fragile thing.
No idle wanderings down lanes and alleys,

summer picnics in fields of lavender,
the silver piece found in a country store.
No more the lilt and laughter of surprise,

the search for gift, the wrapping paper, bow,
the scribbled feelings on the card, the touch
to face, her box of mementoes. The joy

to have her near, the ocean swell of pride
watching, walking by her side. The ten thousand
discoveries, the secret history

of years come end. No one to shorten night,
soften hard realities of day in yielding,
answering flesh. No one to soothe, to knead

old pains and doubts to rest. No one to put
an arm around, to draw in close, to breathe
in hair and skin, no one to dream about.

RABBIT

You spring
so far
twenty feet or more
holding in the air
gliding
the world
beneath your bounce
oh the arc
the zig zag of desire
the coiled strength
the leap
toward unknown ground
and when down
back up so fast
air seems home
more than ground
the impassable thicket of bush and bramble
sailed over
thorns, pricklers, barbs
no impediment
to sky bound imagination
the perfect trust
in the hop
upward and away
into the day
the landing
a springboard
to the future
the hind leg joy
the flopping ears
the windblown whiskers
the twitching nose
the large eyed stare
fur furrowed by breeze
front paws dangling
where
will you go
next
no map
can trace out
no pattern
to your idiosyncratic
leaps and bounds
too alive
to be patterned and captured.

DIDO

Scar the flesh of sky with my funeral pyre
So every woman at close of day will remember
When overcome with love’s brilliant fire,
That causes her to swoon in rich surrender,

That the sun which glories never slows career
And goes from gold to purple to dark night
As quickly as your lover disappears
To another world. lighting up another’s life.

RUNNING IN RAINSTORMS

You have to like the ping of drops striking
neck and legs like buckshot, trail so pocked
with puddles shoes and socks soon water logged,
the swerving path you tread defeated by
hidden cavities and earth that caves
in with your weight. You have to like the splatter
of mud that dots your legs and arms and face
with brown measles, the wind that blows sideways
blinding you, the stumbling, near falling.
You have to like to be alone, no birds
in howling wind, all deer, raccoons, and skunks
found shelter, just the rain and you. You have
to like to shout, to laugh out loud, to howl
delight back to the day. You have to like
being drenched as water finds its way
from chest to gut, inside your pants, your face
so wet, the water flowing down your cheeks
you’d think you were weeping, not out running.

GRANITE WALL

The way a drop
of water finds
its path down the face
of a granite wall, patiently
following the vein
of descent, leaping across
a fissure when
one furrow ends
to find another,
sliding in
the channel
of etched stone,
smooth or rough-hewn,
slowing in a cavity,
stretched out then gone
again in dizzying pace
that only slows
but never stops
until the ground
is finally found,
reminds me how
I fell that time,
the moment when
I couldn’t catch my grip,
the world sliding
out from me, free falling,
still clutching,
until I knew
that I could let go,
let go with you.