Hospital Room Visit
Mostly silence followed learning about
too many lesions to count.
My reclusive cousin, of the same age, has thin hair,
except for his beard.
Several tubes import and export slowly.
A patrician nose (I never noticed before) holds no glasses -
they rest on a food tray.
From time to time, he opens his eyes –
“I am still here,” and “You are still here,”
or maybe I misread altogether.
He blinks twice to tell his nurse about his pain,
eyelids as signal lamps.
He accepts a spoonful of blended
peaches with crushed medication.
On his bedside, photographs of grandparents
and parents beckon.
The present spreads out, during the visit,
like soft sheets and a hospital blanket.
On the way home, I remember a week ago,
when my cousin had his voice.
I spoke of how, as children, we rode sleds down a snowy hill;
he called me his friend.
April forsythia surrenders yellow to backyard breezes.
The expected and unexpected gnaws,
as I return to work and adult children depart.
Mother was ninety-one.
Nothing goes as planned, despite preparations.
The burial plot needs readjustment to receive remains.
Insurance policies require legal advice.
My brother orders twenty death certificates.
Pictures, never noticed before, get culled and shared.
Stillness marks each next unseen step.
Cookies and cheese cover church tables.
I hear condolences, and yet do not.
My ears brim with silence -
early morning breaths stretching
and fading into the dark.
Sweat and Stars
Sweat seeps into ground and seasons over generations.
Heat bakes freshly mowed grass into sweetness.
Geese traverse the sky in the last traces of the sun.
Black crows and white-tailed deer sample the field’s cuttings.
Dusk reaches the side steps, where my father used to sit,
after a day of mowing or gardening.
He would sip a beer in a sleeveless T-shirt.
A tired afterglow may have linked my father
to images of his father, tending horses,
And further to pictures of his grandfather,
arriving prairie wagon-worn.
I shower and transition through dinner.
Earlier spirits depart by the time stars wink.
Now or Later
Entropy breaks down life into unmanageable pieces
in the light of day, for all to see,
or late into the abandoned night.
Fragments lie in the street and capillaries.
Traumas come from far away and next door.
Evening news and reality shows broadcast it.
It blinds in lunar brilliance,
or remains obscured for years.
ER doctors and nurses see it
in the fragmented and ravenous eyes escorted by police –
poets of the secluded, reciting their Dante or Pound.
Papers announce it in headlines,
or hospitals keep it hidden, personal, confidential.
It is the algorithm of triage – transfers to higher floors
or rolling out the back door.
Healthy crumble and rebuild.
The bodies, of those not felled by trauma,
line up with the assumed sane in slow collapse.
Over time the living and diseased
imbibe and swap chromosomes.
Cells, transmuted, hold a Donner Party.
Families make trips, witness needles,
wait in empty halls for X-rays, surgeries.
All are seared with indignities, rare intimacies,
the radiation of moments, glowing
and parceled out in smaller increments.
Beside the Road
Made for durability and protection,
a grey canvas work glove,
lined in blue, with wide cuffs,
reminiscent of railroad engineer attire,
lay flat on the road.
It probably fell from a truck.
It will be missed.
Half a pair of work gloves –
The article may be reclaimed,
by carefully retracing the route
from the previous day or so.
Might belong to the owner of the lawn
abutting the road?
Or a workman who maintains the yard
or services the furnace in autumn?
Loss, being half a pair,
lies in the first longing;
the catalyst for the lessons of love.
Without knowing it, language gets stored away,
unseen, until brought out and polished.
Words on the page surprise.
Thoughts, untouched for seasons, find their place -
a pattern, repeated,
knives on the right, with a spoon,
folks on the left.
Settings, familiar and new, locate repetitions.
Etiquette serves, flashes consume,
course by course,
line by line.
Even a half-prepared meal sustains.
Elegance cleanses the mind’s tongue.
Scattered utensils are embalmed –
read or forgotten,
buried in felt repose.
Acorns scatter where children used to play,
where long-sleeved shirts wrapped
around waists by lunch recess.
Summer foliage lingers.
Shorter days promise, “Just not yet.”
Geese honk near dusk.
Evening rains portend the earth’s shift.
Before any shotgun, before the first frost,
deer slip into the field’s darkness.
There are no crops to harvest, the land
no longer a farm.
Brambles conquer the former garden
and I am no longer a youngster.
Each autumn redeems the past.
Memory in oak roots,
vibrations of all who pass,
drop to the ground again
and feed the squirrels.
My dog considers each acorn a rose.
I long for the forest’s campaign ribbons,
yellows, reds, and orange -
dress and ceremony before winter.
Moving Later This Year
The house’s first owner suffered from allergies,
grew roses without aroma.
I trim wild strawberries, clinging to the porch’s first step.
They do not get to flower or bear berries,
unlike irises thriving beside the house.
The flowing creek behind the house attracts small
barred owls, deer, raccoon, and opossum.
Sun streams through sky lights in the living room.
Upstairs balconies, where a couple of adult children
smoked years ago, hang over a forest.
The family laughed, slept, and ate in this house.
We lighted fires in winter, kept company,
celebrated holidays and birthdays.
Walls hold tears and laughter.
Stairs know the footfalls of each of us.
Bathrooms reflect individual images.
Family pictures in the hallway,
like furniture, wait for re-location.
How will three cats and our dog adapt?
What parts of us will get broken,
no longer carried with us?
On the week of mother’s ninetieth birthday,
Strong winds knocked out electricity and left a large oak limb,
With green leaves and young acorns, across the backyard.
After a party at the nursing home, mother, too, fell;
Her third in three months. With nothing broken,
Her physician recommended a pneumatic leg sleeve;
Wind contained, not to hold her up,
But to limit the flooding in her lower legs.
Over the years, severe storms thin the woods behind the house.
During the same period, Alzheimer’s neurological tornadoes
Create vast areas of affective flatness.
Gaps take over memory.
Mother’s somatic universe tilts without warning.
Cloudiness shadows her sterile clearings
That contain less and less sunlight.
Previously published by Aquillrelle, a site supporting and publishing starting poets.
Grief Dreams in the Cold
The collie walks with me to the snowy woods.
Town lights sparkle through bare branches.
Pastels of the aurora borealis dance in the sky.
Words from my father, dead eighteen months,
come to mind:
“The persimmon only sweetens with the first frost.”
Next morning, I share with my wife about the northern lights,
but fail to mention the recollection of my father.
What would it be like to carry
the weekend into Monday?
Or at least tuck it into my coat pocket,
accessible as a handkerchief -
when I need to remember
that weekend moment,
brimming with fullness.
Or like words written
on the inside lapel
of my mind, indelible.
Or inquire at the lost and found,
holding whatever I think.
A Few Minutes in a Parking Lot
Arriving early to work, I wait in the pick-up.
A January wind stirs the grass,
dry leaves across the parking lot,
pen on a note pad.
My mind replays snippets from earlier in the morning.
A reader on the radio recites a poem about lovers.
A newspaper headlines: “Herons Return to the James.”
Two grandsons prefer bacon not overcooked.
Young couples and families leave for work or school.
Retired walk their dogs or stare from windows;
I can almost smell the steam from their coffee.
The temperature drops.
Limbs of the pine trees rustle.
Birds do not stay long in the cold sky.
Well-wrapped workers swiftly enter in solitude.
I shift to join my cohorts,
welcome the warm office.
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