Tuesday, April 08, 2014

On Birth… And Death…

Rain falling on daffodil tips,
running like tears on darkened windows
soaking thawing mud
flooding culverts choked with weeds
raising the level of Drew’s Lake
where, as in so many other places,
you left your mark in nails pounded
by hands calloused over time—
hands that once held six children
who miss you now so deeply.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chance Encounter

The trio of little blues waded in the morning fog,
their bodies  a stark contrast to the dark of the mud flats.
All around, heavy mist rose in wavering bands
that filtered through the red fingers of the sumac. What chance
that I’d be here at this precise moment. That I’d coast
on my bike toward the head of the tide, round the curve
and hear the still-rushing water of the stream
bordered now by purple asters. That I’d catch
 a glimpse of their elegant bodies, so still as I approached,
then graceful in movement as they combed the tidal pools.
I stood in silence. A runner passed. My camera caught
the mirror of herons against rippling water.
Something to take with me.
To prove my good fortune.
Reluctantly, I hoisted a leg over my bike
and pedaled homeward.

The man behind the deli counter—

the one with the helpful tips
about stuffing pork chops
and steaming sausages--
that man was my favorite.

He was a Norman Rockwell kind of clerk,
someone who provided comfort
in an often uncomfortable world,
a good example of what most people
would say they like about life in a small town.

That man, according to the Maine State
Sex Offender Registry, weighs 165 pounds.
is five feet, seven inches tall,
and is a lifetime registrant.

I had already noticed that his eyes were blue.
They smiled back at me from behind the counter.
But I didn’t know that he is my brother’s age,
or that he lives in Monroe and celebrates his birthday in May.
I didn’t know that somewhere there is a child
who wakes up most nights remembering his touch.

He was just the friendly man at the deli counter,
and now I’m wondering how to feel about him,
this one who was my favorite,
how to reconcile the words in his record
with my sense of his kindness,
how to watch his hands cut and weigh
my grass-fed hamburger
without picturing those same hands
in a dark room on some child’s body.

Tuesday is the day they make the sausages.
I wonder if he’ll be working.

In the darkness

he makes his choice,
and her life turns in the same moonlight 
that has always silhouetted  the clown
dangling on a swing above her bed
where the hearts-and-flowers quilt
matches the paper I pressed
to the walls of her bedroom
when she was not quite five,

but she is twelve now,
with a body that both confuses
and frightens
as he runs his hands
over her budding breasts.                                                                                                 

He moves in silence
while I, unknowing, lie sleeping down the hall
in a bed we’ve shared for sixteen years.
Each morning, he sips his coffee.
Each night, he takes his seat at the table’s head
intoning the prayer of his father’s homeland:
Alle guten gaben… kommt o Gott von dir…

Through years of oblivion,
I believed there was goodness,
that God did, indeed, bring gifts,
and I made my way, hopeful
that stepping carefully ensured a right path,
that keeping peace staved off the bite of his anger,
that loving my children well offered them sanctuary.

Now, in each moment of surfacing,
I feel the burden of his choice,
and the illusion of overcoming 
slips away.

Too late, I realize that life always follows choice,
sometimes in ways one cannot imagine,
often in ways one cannot control,
and that anger ripples outward
in ever-widening circles.

Life holds sorrow like a weeping willow,
like the trunk of a plum tree
fractured by the weight of heavy snow,
its fragrance forever erased, all these years later,
by the anger that strips bare my fragile heart.

The Ferocity of Grief

A keening cry—
incomprehensible truth—
a father’s fading voice—
regrets felt in the fog
of dreams where,
over and over,
you make mistakes
and  someone is watching.

In one dream, it is your job to prepare
a room for your father’s body.
Somehow, you’ve scratched the floor
into an unholy mess—
hardwood marked by deep gauges.

In another, a woman stands before you,
scissors slowly snipping the threads of your clothing.