"I pledge allegiance to air—
and the liberty for which it stands"
...signed, birds (ready for spring)
I was in.
maine I was.
I DiD not Like it.
So I got out.
of my chaier.
and then …
His name was
Wene I hugt.
Him He souNded
Like a. cat.
and wene I poot my
hand up He poot His
—Jack McKenzie (6 years)
Where My Brother Went
“Do you think about your brother?” my daughter asks me.
She means, do I miss my brother?
“I do,” I say. “I think about him often.”
“Where is he now?” she asks.
“I don’t know,” I say,
though some unworldly possibilities occur to me.
“He’s in the ocean.”
I remember pouring his ashes off the side of a boat
a mile or so off the California coast,
as the boat crew marked the coordinates
on a certificate of burial at sea.
“He’s with the whales and dolphins,” she says.
A beauty so rare
It shears our thin skin,
Sends snowdrifts shivering
To the warm black earth.
These windows we’ve built
Are perfect squares
From which we wait, and watch
The world go by.
Your luminous eyes now
Peel me back
Till, layer by layer,
You see the spark
Of my cells igniting,
Quiet with night.
Our bodies buried
By the antique quilt,
Stitched from feathers
Of strung-up birds.
And on slate sheets,
On walls of stone,
Our shadows dance
We ran into Mike today
Heart on his sleeve Mike, said my wife
In the moment, I ran through the alphabet in my mind
Trying to remember his name
But then he reached out his hand as he was leaving
Saying, “It’s Mike,”
And I said,
Yeah of course, M for Matt M for Mike
It was February but felt like May
Future weather we joke, not funnily
He told us about his divorce
“I’m thinking about moving back to the city,”
“Taking my boy,”
And I recalled afterwards that he played baseball
May have had a shot
He wore hiking boots
I stared at an inch of seam that was ripped
As he said the public schools were hard
Hard for a boy that sees color on a blank page
And I noticed Mike’s hair was similar to mine, cut short on the sides
And I noticed how gently
Made for polite conversation.
In the Last Days
In our last days of eating meat
I wanted to savor every part of
Every soul. My teeth gnashed
At the eyelids of faces who had
Killed and cooked the first beast,
Fish or fowl.
We switched off on who would
Boil down the bones
To make broth for the dogs and
Babies. Bones were the second
To last thing to go.
On the very last day
We gathered around and
Laid down our desire to kill,
Cook, and consume.
We ran our fingers down the
Table runner, cleared the table
And sat together to savor
That one last bite.
We prayed for protein shakes
To taste better
And smiled knowing that now
We would be harming no one
With our diets.
We proudly took pictures and flaunted
Our dissent into compassion.
Then, lovingly cursed the ones who
Still had not found their way.
The Black Birch
A year after the black birch tree
in the backyard died, the tree man
asked me what I wanted to do.
He had come to estimate the cost
of tree work, pruning some oaks,
cutting away dead branches, etc.
We had already decided to try
to save the ash tree in front
rather than cut it down as its
companion had already been.
I thought about it for a little while
and then said, "No, don't take it down.
Let it stand there as it is."
"But it will fall anyway, branch
by branch, twig by twig.
You'll be cleaning up out here often."
"That's all right," I said.
“Let it stand. The birds will use it."
"And the insects," the tree man added.
And the birds have used it, as have
the insects, and I, too, have used it
in my way, picking up branches
and twigs, branches and twigs.
Under the Overpass
Rt. 300 & I-84
under the overpass
(vow spray painted by one vandal lovestruck)
i carry your heart
a line from e.e. cummings
the poet and rule breaker(known to spurn
the period and br/eak up with capitals)
who young women came up to(on streets of New York)
to offer bouquets of flowers;be my darling and carry my heart;
for you I will b r e a k
all the rules
against the concrete pillar one day
below therumblingoftraffic from the overpass
the graffitied love note is ROLLER PAINTED over;
this smitten driver obsesses obsesses obsesses
questioning did lovers
erase the words
did a god hand of government prevail?
[exhausts blow by so who can see what isn’t there anymore]
tonight[under the overpass]headlights flare
the stars plunge through a dark called night—
(the concrete pillar reflects) a fresh pairing of words beams
: carry on
—Mary Louise Kiernan
Once Upon a Time
During the sun’s
What if the
Barren as the
No wonder the
Can make us
The meaning of compost
Two people in the coffee shop were discussing the matter
of faith. I listened with my dark roast, the price of admission.
One seemed to be softly for & the other sternly against.
She insisted that the question of what it all meant was open
& up for grabs so that one should be careful about trying to
know too much. He reckoned that knowing was meaning.
Later on I checked the compost pile behind the barn. Early
spring frost surrounded it but not under the cover I’d placed
last summer. Old food bits now looked like spring soil.
I turned it a few times before letting it rest again but
then realized it was not resting at all. Nothing was resting or
still though the coffee grinds seemed most stubborn.
A Piece of Nothing
And then, again, you decide
to look at the sketches
of domes in cities
you've never visited,
and probably never will,
the domes having
into your reading
and into your life.
You don't even know
the names of the cities
and towns but they're
pleasant to look at,
and spark images of travel.
There are moments
when the armchair
you're sitting in
by the window
overlooking the park
seems to lift off
and float above
the canals in the cities.
You strike up conversations
with strangers in languages
you don't even know.
This could be a wish,
or a piece of nothing,
connecting you to the world.
I like my toast light,
my coffee dark,
my men well mannered
I like my sunsets pink and orange
my clouds fluffy,
men who can still dream
I dream of beaches
I see pain
I'm flattered that you think enough of me
To share my opinion on something so important,
But in the interest of full disclosure
I once thought that peanut butter and jelly
On white bread, with Fritos corn chips and
Nestle's Strawberry Quik was the perfect meal.
Now what was that you were saying?
The live oak matriarch spreads her branches wide,
two hundred years of catching the rising sun.
"Come," she calls to a passing mockingbird,
"Come sit amongst my thousand leaves
and talk to me.
Tell me of the world's motions,
while I teach you of stillness."
Mental Illness Awareness Month
I like to feel unique,
it's good to remember
that there are millions of other people
just like me.