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
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.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
The ghosts take the bus into town. They board quietly. Perhaps silently. But that’s hard to believe. They collect transfer tickets. Take a second bus to my door. They arrive in the evening, these ghosts. Before bed. A few slip inside as I let the dog out. The rest as I let her back in. I feel their pull as I go up the stairs. Kiss my sleeping daughters. Keep myself awake. I almost see them around the bed as my wife climbs in. When I fade into sleep they cover me. Clench my jaw. Roll my body. I feel their chill through a scrim of sweat. By morning they’ve risen. Clouds of a grey day. A threat of rain. I’m tired. Clammy. My jaw aches. Am I getting sick? I’m awake to dreams and nightmares of the past. And questions. The ghosts aren’t talking. They hang in the air quiet as memory. Perhaps silently. But that’s hard to believe.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
First, resist the urge to just point it at students. You are a teacher. Aiming at students is a mistake. They’ll expect you to fire and be disappointed if you don’t. To have any authority, you'll have to take one out. Preferably without aiming. Choosing targets is too difficult. The obvious choice is that big pain in your ass of a kid. But he’s kind of funny. Shoot him and the classroom will be dull. That’s no good. What about the girl who won’t put down her phone? Tempting. But she tests well. If you take her out of the equation (so to speak) the whole school suffers. Really you shouldn’t aim. Just let loose. Fire a few times if that helps. Order must be maintained. Respect too. Fire away. In this manner, you can be a good guy with a gun at school. And if anyone argues the point, you know what to do.
(Okay, here's the obligatory note saying that this poem is ironic. It's mocking Wayne LaPierre's suggestions that teachers should be armed. Given all the pressures on teachers, the volatility of students, and the stupidity of Wayne's idea, I'm not a fan of guns in any classroom.)
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
In fact, most of us can. It’s sherbert flavored, of course. But not rainbow sherbert. It’s some kind of berry. We don’t know which one. Tasting it is easy. Finding it is tough. You find rainbows out there but can’t track them down. Some people—scientists and meteorologists mostly but plumbers and social workers too—claim that one can’t find the end of a rainbow. The point where it touches down. And they’re right. One can’t. But if you travel in pairs and threes and fours, most anything can be tracked down. I’ve been on expeditions to the dividing moment between day and night and the point at which fog ends. Finding the ends of rainbows is easy. And when we do, we eat up its berry goodness as though it will melt away. Because it does. Leaving just the hint of some berry on our tongues. We don’t know which one.
Monday, December 3, 2012
My brother assures me that the trees overhanging the bedroom are just fine. But what does he know? He’s an architect. We need an arborist. My wife and me. Because at night I hear things. Wind. Falling leaves. Branches breaking over our bed. At night I fear that the trees will crash down on us. A collection of maples. Mistakes that grew for decades. Chances. Now overhanging the house. Casting shadows on our bedroom. My brother says, they’re hardwoods. Strong. They will last forever. Almost. But he lives by himself. No wife beside him in the night. No trees over his bedroom. The interweaving of our trees is complicated. And the way they hang suspended over us is more than I can understand. The dark is deep and the wind is strong. I lie awake some nights wondering what will happen. I hear branches whisper, til death do us part. The wind roars. My brother knows nothing.
Monday, April 2, 2012
At the bookstore I send my children on their way. Stay together, I tell them. As if together they can face the dangers of this world and their futures. I linger near the front. Holding a book about a woman who has fallen apart. Her father died. Her family scattered. She married. Then divorced. She broke down. I begin reading, trying not to flip to the ending. To the solution. Trying not to cheat. The urge is so strong. The door behind me opens. A woman with three children. Stay together, she tells them. They scatter. She watches for a moment then looks at a book on the table we share. Her hair is dyed blonde. Bobbed. Her face is tan in March. She is lip-gloss moist. Her body is tall and thin. She has sensual fingers. I swear it. She puts down a book and walks away toward new fiction. I write her story in my head as if it were mine to tell. I’ve forgotten the book I hold in my hands. My children run toward me, books in their hands. Can we buy them? Can we? We walk to the register. I pay for three books. At home, I hold the book in my hands and wonder why I bought it. The ending seems so obvious now.