My Nine-Eleven

By mid-afternoon I contacted family
and friends in harm’s way—
Someone doesn’t like us anymore,
so I walk my dogs to a park
tucked in the middle of the city
in which I live a half mile
from my apartment. They tug
at their leashes, nosing the mostly quiet streets.
The park of soft September evening
empty, we walk the paved paths
to our favorite bench and marvel
at a sky devoid of contrails.

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Last Call

Are there bars in Heaven? Lately
I’ve wondered, though not for pressing reasons.
You see, I hear my mother’s laugh
because my arms are no-longer
long enough to read without my glasses.
It’s always been this way. We poke
at our parents’ infirmities until we realize
we’re heir to them, and she laughs
and laughs while I fumble for my glasses
to get at the not-so-fine print.
How is it that in her life I could not hear
what I so clearly hear now?

My father chats with my professor over two beers
about football; not the European version mind you,
the violent American kind. He never explained
the game, and I, dutiful child
of the generation gap, never tried to understand.
It’s always been this way. His biography
of silence and my recalcitrance of stone
add up to an empty set where knowledge
could have flowered. Now, in death, he finds time
for chats his children’s time in life absorbed.
How is it that in his life I could not see
what I so clearly see now?

My mother debates fingerings
of a Gershwin piece with my Bible
teacher as they sit at a black grand
just off the bar in a smoke filled room.
She tried to teach me how once
but all I saw was a set of keys
surrounded by a box of wood. Now, in death,
she finds time for debates her children’s time
in life absorbed.
Folks smile and drink and cheer
as my wife’s parents enter the bar
in time to swing-dance.

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After-Words

Sometimes I see in the shadows
my hands clenched around the neck
of our persisting—
we fall into a dark hole all night.
Our hearts can’t fill it. I think of flying
over a scorched land of dead trees
in the belly of a crow.

What do you see?

So yes, water splits a rock in winter,
and there is a sweet longing
to know why the morning breeze
always starts with goodbye,
but in my dream turned backs
lift hammers and shingle the roof
where light lives.

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Early Spring, They Come For Me

Tonight, lifting toward sleep, looking
through the window, I remember early afternoon
and the orange breast, the brown wings

tucked back, the yellow beak
poking at the grass in the yard, gone now,
the darkened street troubled with cars.

But the window with its broad frame
could be a great painting
in front of which I might stand naked.

Who but a fool would do such a thing
unless the lights were out
and the robins had returned?

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A Story

All night I waited inside my sleep for the sun
to tell the story of ice-fog this morning; forest
of branches gilded white, a sort of bird song
which shoulders the weight of a cathedral.

Deep inside the cathedral a boy crosses the alter
and lights a candle. Did he know then he’d be a father?
Later the boy, now a man, dusts the lintels above the doors
of his house because his daughter’s story arrived.

So many stories unfold—
one voice finishes while another waits to begin
and in the silence between one and the next
lives the ice-fog and bird song and other cathedrals.

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Early Report

Frost smeared the lower left
of my windshield
last night. This morning

the shadow of a Buckeye
leaf glides across
the pavement and stops

just shy of the other curb
where the leathery brown husk
touches down. Real work

finds itself; soon I will pretend.
I turn the engine over, crank one knob
full red and push the button

with wavy lines. Who
fools whom? I push the stick
into first and glide into second
toward make-believe.

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