Friday, December 5, 2014

When the River Ices Over

An old woman goes walking. Early morning. Before dawn. Her husband sleeps in his bed. She leaves hers. Goes out silently, remembering the dog that raised such a fuss. Woke the whole house. Now she goes unnoticed. No fuss. She crosses the yard, steps carefully down beside the dock. Out onto December ice dusted with November snow, she walks. And dreams of a thin coating of ice over the river under her feet. Of listening to the spiderweb of cracks pluck one against the other. The feel of gravity before it pulls her down. She breathes easy. Holds herself still. Lets the ice of dreams collapse and black water swallow her, carrying her away. But this ice is too thick for her dreaming. No cracks. No openings. Just a silent expanse of emptiness upriver and down. The wind blows and she wishes for her scarf. A long rope of yarn she made long ago. Left on the hook up in the house. Too far to go back. She walks upriver. Against the wind, the frozen current. An old woman walking. In frozen darkness long before day. Above her head a billion stars swirl and eddy down onto the ice. Beneath which some mysterious life goes on in the impossible cold and dark of December. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remember This

Remember Senior Ball. You’re with the girl who had to ask you out. You were too scared of yourself to risk dating. And you'd never have thought to ask her. Of all people. But here you are. Your tux looks good. She looks great. An ivory dress. It’s antique. She makes it look new. You’ve got your arms around her waist. Your hands on that dress. On her body. And those are her arms around your neck. Her fingers brushing spasms up and down your spine. Her favorite song plays slow. Romantic to high school kids like you and her. You should kiss her. Now. But you’ve never kissed a girl. Senior year and you’ve yet to taste lips and tongue. Not that you haven’t dreamed. You’ve dreamed alright. Other than self-doubt you think of little else. You sway with the girl in the antique dress to her song. Her lips are perfect red. Her eyes say, yes. They say, I’m waiting. For you. You sway. You want to believe. You say, it doesn’t get any better than this. But she says that it could. You haven't kissed her, but now you've decided to. And you pull her just that much closer. You lean across the distance between who you have been and want to be. Remember that moment just before you kiss her. Don't you ever forget.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Buried Treasure

I’m still digging holes in the backyard. The dog sits on the steps. She can't figure it and wants to go inside. I've lost count of the holes I've dug. The map in my back pocket is stained and ripped. An ancient thing. Like the maps I drew as a child having buried some thing in a corner of the yard. Long ago. Far away. I walk off paces. Make turns. Follow vague directions. Arriving at an imagined X on the ground in a pirate font. I spear the spade into the ground, jump on with both feet, lean back hard, pull up the sod. I dig slowly now. The first holes went faster. Dirt flew. The dog was delighted. She stood close. Her whole body shook. She imagined me knowing something. Now, she tries to sleep and I rest after only a moment. Leaning hard on the shovel. I close my eyes and pass my hand over my face. Rub dirt into my eyes. The yard is a field of holes and heaps of earth. I keep hearing that Beatles song. The holes. They had to count them all. And now they know. I push the spade in again. The ground is frozen cold. Too hard. I’m getting nowhere. I sing the song to myself. Going back to the beginning, about a lucky man who made the grade. The dog whimpers. She wants out of this. I tell her to hang on. It’s alright, I say. I know it’s here somewhere. But she knows better. I consult the map. My fingers spoil it with dirt. Another crease becomes a tear. I count twenty paces in a direction that might be east. Turn ninety degrees. Walk to a patch of unturned sod. I sing the song. Dig in. Push. And pull. The dog shakes her head hard. Her tags jangling like an alarm. She lies her snout down on the steps. Sighs. We both know I'm doing it wrong. It’s getting late. And dark.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thurible, You Say

That pain in your calf. That’s a candle. You know, the kind on your birthday cake. So is the crick in your neck. The outward curve of your belly. Your carpal tunnel too. And the feeling you get around seven o’clock when you’re more than ready for a drink. Candles. Striped birthday candles. Lit. Dripping wax all over the brown frosting. You blow and blow, but why bother. You’re short of breath. And those migraines. You can’t seem to sleep and your bladder is a walnut. All those candles. And the song. Listen. It’s your friends gathered around your bed, singing “Happy Birthday.” They carry you out to a field. A priest walks ahead. He swings a thurible, trailing clouds of incense. Thurible, you say. A special type of censer. A word you just learned this morning. You say it again. Over and over. You imagine a wind carrying the incense up toward heaven. Blowing the candles out.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Story I Haven’t Written


In the story I haven’t written a man is killed. He reads a newspaper as he walks. The Daily News. A story of a boy shot dead outside a school in White Plains. The man reads and walks and is shot dead by a bus. A local travelling from Manhattan out to Queens. Moving fast. Through a construction zone. The man appears from behind a concrete barrier. The bus strikes him in profile. His body explodes against the bus. Slams into a concrete barrier. It is far behind by the time I understand that it was his glasses I saw. They picked up the light of the evening sun. Flashed as they tumbled and flew. The bus slows. My body tells me that we have hit a man. I feel it in my spine. There is no blood on the windshield. No crack in the glass. The driver says, no, no, no. My notebook is open on my lap. Today’s date. The words, I am riding on the local. That is all. No story. It just happened. There is no story. Just a man and a paper. Walking. Reading. Then a physical shock to my spine. Transmitted through metal, fiberglass, and plastic. A bus causes the sudden flight of a body. A pair of glasses. The evening light. Perhaps there is a soul floating away. A spirit telling the story of life and afterlife. But that’s a different kind of story. Not the kind I can tell. Not the kind I even know how to hear.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Man Goes on Knocking at a Door


It might be a metaphoric door. He might be me. The man goes on knocking at a door. Not pounding. Not banging it down. Soft knocks. Like clearing his throat. To say, I’m here. There is no wall to either side. No ceiling above. Just a frame, a door, a stout lock. There are probably hinges. He is on a path that led him to this door. He is sure the path goes through. To somewhere. To someone. He’s sure. As sure as he’s sure of anything he’s not sure of. He goes on knocking. Waiting for any answer. He thinks he called ahead. He remembers a letter he wrote or a vow he swore. Something. He remembers, but not clearly. Not how we expect to remember words we recite in whispers to ourselves or speak with hand on heart. He keeps knocking. Whispering again. Saying, it has been so long. His hand is cracking. He is hungry. He thirsts. He closes his eyes as if to sleep. But the man goes on. Knocking at a door.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Lull Complete


I am a child. In a too hot summer. No wind, only sweat and burning skin. This is the shore of Maine. Blue Hill Bay. The tide is far, far out. I sit with my mother on rocks. The gulls have taken the day off. But not the sailors. A sailboat race is stalled on the still ocean. In the still air. A lull complete. Our neighbor is out there. His sails slack, hanging. Sheets without wind. Others pull down their canvases. They start motors and are gone. But our neighbor is steadfast. He waits on the wind. Mother admires this. Sings his praises. She says amen. But I see a boat unmoved. A man stranded. The sun drips down the melting sky. It fades. The heat does not. The tide comes in. Mother and I move to high ground. The sailor waits. I watch. My mother sighs. Hers, the smallest breeze. My skin is crisp, roasted. I am thirsty. I blink into the setting sun and the boat is gone. The sailor too. And also my mother. Time has passed and passes. Yet there is still no wind.