FEBRUARY

I remember early thaws

shirtsleeves and kites

despite lakes still frozen or half frozen

and cut-out Valentines taped to the window

 

my grandfather died in February one bleak year

and our very old cat followed

many decades later, all that

long ago now

 

I remember when we drew

our pictures of George Washington

who could not tell a lie scribbling

round red cherries in a felled tree

 

and the birthday of Abraham Lincoln

whose anguish carved crevices in his face

and how we gave each his day of honor

 learned their stories, their lessons

I remember the ice slides my father made

 pouring water over heaps of shoveled snow

 one layer to the next until the slope

was smooth and slick and some years

 

he made a small lumpy rink as well

under the clotheslines holding idle until spring

my father with his buckets of water

making a small lumpy rink we barely used

 

I remember staying outside longer each day

 marching high on six-foot banks until

 the horizon shifted from afternoon gray

 to what we called suppertime

 

THE VIEW AS IT IS

I won’t say it’s cluttered, though all factors overlap –

just as I won’t say it’s wanting (I can, after all, see the sky)

but it’s only a city backyard

with few inhabitants, such as

the rabbits that live mysteriously underground, such as

one monogamous pair of cardinals in all seasons

and their offspring which come and go

(as offspring do) such as 

chipmunks that eat my tomatoes with wild abandon

never finishing the meal, scattering their leftovers

like yesterday’s picnic, not to mention

the broadtail hawk that swoops down now and then

just to see what is what here amidst the clutter and want

 

In its own way it’s a grand view

out the dark French windows handmade new to look old 

the roof of my daughter’s abandoned playhouse 

with its Paris Pink floorboards and curtained windows 

the crooked Serbian spruce lurching skyward 

and, of course, this cherry tree planted decades ago by a lonesome Southerner

now without cherries but rampant and ancient

which is what I mean by grand, the dark wood

these branches in all directions, winds now and then

the sun coming and going (as the sun does) 

and as we do and the seasons and whims of light in those seasons: all vagrant as the backyard creatures who seem to disappear just when we would like them to stay

 

Your Kitchen Like A Poem

 

Because surprises abound, a drape of white fabric

crisp as a verb across the doorway 

 

and the see-through refrigerator door

not clear but illusory and almost clear and next to that

 

the window out to a tangle of garden, trays of wispy seedlings

like little similes, beginnings, the new season and all

 

and from the ceiling your long row of hanging pots

copper and tin, old and seasoned, the subject of every line

 

about cooking, those pots hanging in their long row, 

and three mixers standing as girls at the dance

 

awaiting their turn, their full flagrant moment to perform

and all this life, layered like a cake

 

and reading like a poem, not a taut haiku

in numbered syllables, but a rambling, raucous poem

 

of love and travel and the rumble of heat when the water boils and how the disorderly order of that has meaning

 

and ultimately begs us to read it all over again

Happy Birthday to Me

 

You might think the years would be a cold stone

pressing us flat to the ground

 

a burden of one loss after another

certainly no one is left to remember

the day I was born, except my old dad

who is very busy today and old

which truthfully does not matter so much

because the years hold their own in the oddest way,

 

nothing like a burden

more like tiny birds,

kinglet and nuthatch type birds,

with their knowing eyes and light touch,

 

with their hop hop from branch to branch

seeking something

 

finding, oh maybe, maybe not,

and we are the gnarly tree

that supports all that commotion,

all that seeking and finding that goes on

 

from one season to the next

the way you think you’re not up for it again

 

and then –

 

the miniscule heart begins to beat

and the eyes find you

 

and you’re lost in the life you’ve grown into

how you happened to follow this sun and not that

or let one ripping wind break you and not another,

and that’s what it means, the birds are trying to say,

 

find a seed and nibble it down,

then, here’s the thing, find another.

RESILIENCE 

My mother’s shamrock plant lived for decades

 in a painted ceramic pot hung by macramé

 from a hook in the back entry

where she kept all her plants until she died

and my father’s care killed most of them

and my Uncle Charlie advised walling in

one whole side to bring down the heating bill

but blocking the kindliest light such that

 

only the shamrock survived

keeping company with vases of fake flowers

that women liked to give my father in those days

when he was an attractive widower

who loved to dance and putter in his own house

all by himself for the first time in eighty-some years

that sadly charmed era when my mother’s shamrock

lived on no matter what, it’s roots woven tighter

than the macramé all around it

 

which was all before my father had his stroke

not final like my mother’s but trouble nonetheless

and we moved him far from his home

but close to ours

in the way that well-meaning offspring do

and in the taking of this and that

from one home to the next

I rescued the shamrock

 

and gave it new soil in a larger clay pot with ruffled edges

placed it on an antique blue and white plate from England

and set it near a southern window where it blooms

in constant tiny white flowers amidst dark green leaves

that do what shamrock leaves are meant to do:

that is to open and close

 

and open again.

Found Poem 1

Xiphias  Gladious

           

You’ve never seen

a color blue on land

like the color of a swordfish.

 

If you ever met a girl

with eyes the color

of a swordfish

 

You’d leave

whoever you were with

and go to her.

Fishing captain in Nova Scotia

Nature Conservatory Magazine

Found Poem 2

Surveying the Room of World War II Veterans

My 91-Year-Old Father Says:

They’re all old.