Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Armadillo

For Robert Lowell


This is the time of year
when almost every night
the frail, illegal fire balloons appear.
Climbing the mountain height,

rising toward a saint
still honored in these parts,
the paper chambers flush and fill with light
that comes and goes, like hearts.

Once up against the sky it's hard
to tell them from the stars -
planets, that is - the tinted ones:
Venus going down, or Mars,

or the pale green one. With a wind,
they flare and falter,, wobble and toss;
but if it's still they steer between
the kite sticks of the Southern Cross,

receding, dwindling, solemnly
and steadily forsaking us,
or, in the downdraft from a peak,
suddenly turning dangerous.

Last night another big one fell.
It splattered like an egg of fire
against the cliff behind the house.
The flame ran down. We saw the pair

of owls who nest there flying up
and up, their whirling black-and-white
stained bright pink underneath, until
they shrieked up out of sight.

The ancient owls' nest must have burned.
Hastily, all alone,
a glistening armadillo left the scene,
rose-flecked, head down, tail down,

and then a baby rabbit jumped out,
short-eared, to our surprise.
So soft! - a handful of intangible ash
with fixed, ignited eyes.

Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry!
O falling fire and piercing cry
and panic, and a weak mailed fist
clenched ignorant against the sky!


- Elizabeth Bishop

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Heron

Whenever we noticed her
standing in the stream, still
as a branch in dead air, we
would grab our binoculars,
watch her watching,
her eye fixed on the water
slowly making its own way
around stumps, over a boulder,
under some leaves matted against
a fallen log. She seemed
to appear, stand, peer, then
lift one leg, stretch it, let
a foot quietly settle into the mud
then pull up her other foot, settle
it, and stare again, each step
tendered, an ideogram at the end
of a calligrapher's brush.
Every time she arrived, we watched
until, as if she had suddenly heard
a call in the sky, she would bend
her knees, raise her wide wings,
and lift into the welcome grace
of the air, her legs extending
back behind her, wings rising
and falling elegant under the clouds:
For more than a week now
we have not seen her. We watch
the sky, hoping to catch her great
feathered cross moving above the trees.

by Jack Ridl

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Big Bang

When the morning comes that you don't wake up,
what remains of your life goes on as some kind of
electromagnetic energy. There's a slight chance you
might appear on someone's screen as a dot. Face it.
You are a blip or a ping, part of the background noise,
the residue of the Big Bang. You remember the Big
Bang, don't you? You were about 26 years old, driving
a brand new red and white Chevy convertible, with
that beautiful blond girl at your side. Charlene, was
her name. You had a case of beer on ice in the back,
cruising down Highway number 7 on a summer
afternoon and then you parked near Loon Lake just
as the moon began to rise. Way back then you said to
yourself, "Boy, it doesn't get any better than this," and
you were right.

--Louis Jenkins

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pleasure

I remembered what it was like,
knowing what you want to eat and then making it,
forgetting about the ending in the middle,
looking at the ocean for
a long time without restlessness,
or with restlessness not inhabiting the joints,
sitting Indian style on a porch
overlooking that water, smooth like good cake frosting.
And then I experienced it, falling so deeply
into the storyline, I laughed as soon as my character entered
the picture, humming the theme music even when I'd told myself
I wanted to be quiet by some freezing river
and never talk to anyone again.
And I thought, now is the right time to cut up your shirt.

~Katie Peterson

Sandy

I want to tell you a story. There is a dog and sunlight in it. My sister is driving the car. My tall taciturn kid brother is sitting next to me. Our grand-aunt just called,sobbing. Her huge ancient dog has collapsed. We are driving along the beach road toward her house. You wouldn't believe the light this morning. Our grand-aunt is a bigot. It is tense whenever she comes to family dinners, because she will say things like The Yankees went to hell when they hired niggers to play the outfield. There are men on the jetties fishing for striped bass. Our grand-aunt is blind. Her dog shepherds her expertly from couch to kitchen and back, her hand on his shoulder. Our grand-aunt keened at the wedding when her brother, our grandfather, married our grandmother. Keening is wailing for the dead in the ancient Irish tradition. Our grandmother never spoke to our grand-aunt for the rest of her life. How stupid Irish is that, as our dad likes to say. The dog's name is Sandy. He is a great dog. We think he does the laundry. Our sister drives slowly and cranes her neck to see the street signs. My kid brother isn't saying much. The men on the jetties are also hoping for bluefish. Our grand-aunt always says she can tell if people on the radio are Negroes or not. She says there are more Negroes on the radio at night. When we get to the house, we can hear her weeping inside. The front door is locked, so we go around back and let ourselves in and ask for her in the dark. There are piles of newspapers like you wouldn't believe. Why exactly a blind woman would continue to get the paper is a mystery to me, our dad likes to say. When our grand-aunt come to family dinners, she sits at one end of the table, and our dad sits at the other and grinds his teeth. You can hear him do it if you sit close enough. The dog is sprawled on our grand-aunt's kitchen floor. There are dirty dishes piled so high in the sink that if you sneezed there would be a calamity. Our sister knows animals the best, and she kneels down and asks Sandy how he's doing, and he pants and stares at us in a friendly fashion. He has the thickest whitest eyebrows you have ever seen. Our grand-aunt is sobbing on the couch. She tries to explain, but she is not using any words that we know. Sandy is such a huge dog that he takes up most of the kitchen floor. One time at dinner our grand-aunt said that the Negroes were taking over the government, and I bet people in Peru heard our dad grinding his teeth. Our sister stands up and says Sandy is dying and we have to get him to the vet. Our grand-aunt cries even harder. The dog stares at us.
I remember there was a long pause while Sandy panted and our grand-aunt cried and we tried to calculate how we were going to get this dog out of the house and into the car. And then my tall kid brother bent down and picked Sandy up as if the dog weighed no more than an ounce, and he straightened up, with his arms full of dying dog, and there was this look on his face that I just cannot find the words for. That's the story I want to tell you. There was love and pain and fury on his face, but then the words run out of gas, and all I can say is: See his face all twisted and shining in the shadowy kitchen? See? This is the biggest, heaviest, oldest dog you can imagine, and it would have been a miracle if all three of us had managed to hoist him up and haul him to the car, but somehow my kid brother has lifted him like a feather, and now the tears are sliding silver down his face, like water over a rock, and I open the door, and the light comes pouring in all wind and careless and impatient.


~ Brian Doyle

Monday, September 16, 2013

A New Law

Let there be a ban on every holiday.
     No ringing in the new year.
No fireworks doodling the warm night air.
     No holly on the door. I say
let there be no more.
     For many are not here who were here before.

Greg Delanty

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dear Miss Emily (by James Galvin)

I knew the end would be gone before I got there.
After all, all rainbows lie for a living.
And as you have insisted, repeatedly,
The difference between death and the Eternal 
Present is about as far as one
Eyelash from the next, not wished upon.
Rainbows are not forms or stories, are they?
They are not doors ajar so much as far-
Flung situations without true beginnings
Or any ends--why bother--unless, as you
Suggest--repeatedly---there's nothing wrong
With this life, and we should all stop whining.
So I shift my focus now on how to end
A letter. In XOXOXO,
For example, Miss, which are the hugs
And which the kisses? Does anybody know?
I could argue either way: the O's
Are circles of embrace, the X is someone
Else's star burning inside your mouth;
Unless the O is a mouth that cannot speak,
Because, you know, it's busy.
X is the crucifixion all embraces
Are, here at the nowhere of the rainbow's end,
Where even light has failed its situation,
Slant the only life it ever had,
Where even the most gallant sunset can't
Hold back for more than a nonce the rain-laden
Eastern sky of night. It's clear. It's clear.
X's are both hugs and kisses, O's
Where stars that died gave out, gave up, gave in--
Where no one meant the promises they made.
Oh, and one more thing. I send my love
However long and far it takes--through light,
Through time, thorough all the faithlessness of men,
James Augustin Galvin,

X,

His mark.