Nonet

Natural for me to fear lost life,

this lightning flashing above me.

Terrified in the green chair,

rain dripping off shutters—

blue St. Elmo’s fire.

I am alright,

but feeling

jitters,

God!

 

Lookout Tower Attendants

Some people called us Forest Rangers,

though really, we were the lowest GS

in the USFS. Not the highest tower either,

certainly not as tall as a skyscraper,

but at three stories, 45’ Corral Hill’s cabin

was high enough that our heads were

in the clouds on late summer days.

When socked in, I made bread from

the sourdough starter Mrs. Bayes gave

us. It lofted like a sail at 6,000.’ On other

days, thunderheads spread across

the prairie like a coming gale. On those

days, we watched the prairie like hawks.

On the tower, we were often scared, lonely,

or stir crazed. We’d been struck once,

which frightened us badly, and some storms

were much more dangerous than the

cumulonimbus cloud we’d been hit by,

which made us sensible to fear for our lives.

Thanksgiving, 1991

Mother stroked and I cried in the bathroom.

I was acting so strangely, trying not

 

to yell at the kids. But I did, and my sister

yelled at me. We did pull it together,

 

roasting the turkey and mashing potatoes.

There was gravy and the candied yams

 

she loved so much. The ones with 1/2 C. of brandy.

Don carved “the bird”, that’s what Mom called it.

 

And, we drank wine, toasting our mother who loved

her mashed potatoes and gravy. And her vino.

Lost in Spokane ~To get lost, is to learn the way.

Outside, it’s 91 degrees, which

reminds me of the time I felt lost

but wasn’t. I was at the movie

theatre in Spokane, River Park Square,

waiting for my sister. We would

see a movie together and then eat chicken

sauté with peanut sauce afterward

at the outside restaurant. While I waited,

children raced about and shoppers

strolled past—everyone tanned and cool

in the air-conditioned mall. Suddenly, I felt

lost, panicky…which didn’t make sense.

At last, my sister showed up, all bubbly

and full of fun. That moment, imperceptibly,

the feeling left me. We bought popcorn

and Cokes and found our seats. I told

her what had happened. I don’t remember

what she said, but perhaps it was something

like: Did you drink enough water?

 

*It’s 100 in Spokane today. 112 by Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

 

Almost!

 

There was a party…adults drinking,

LOTS of flirting.  A little girl facedown

in the fountain. Across the street,

a grouchy old guy was about to fall

down the stairs and die; he’d seen

the little girl in the water and was

trying to warn someone. The woman

cellist…the girl’s mother and one

of the flirters…was favored by the

host, a Russian guy with an ex-stripper

wife. The wife was offering the cellist

a lap dance when the girl

in the water was discovered.

Although the stripper said she never

slept with her clients, she lied. It was

her daughter who had pushed

the girl into the fountain. That remained

secret. The best friend of the cellist

knew CPR and saved the little girl. She was

trying to have a baby and had asked for her

friend’s eggs a half-hour before the party.

Her friend thought it was disgusting

to ask for someone’s eggs. And why,

if you did ask, would you ask just before

a party over wine and cheese? There

was an ambulance and a helicopter

and a traffic jam. There were terrible

nerves and tears. Turned out the best

friend’s mother was a hoarder. And

the best friend was a bit of a thief: a shoe,

a necklace, other things that went missing

from the cellist’s house. The cellist changed

her mind after her little girl came home

from the hospital, and she found the

missing shoe. Puh! She would give

her best friend, the dummkopf, her eggs.

There were no more parties at the Russian

guy’s house. The stripper confessed.

The Change

When you say normal                you think about                         the past

& the things you depended upon        & the things that stayed the same

then you              learned that change         was the only thing    that you

could depend upon            you learned that you could resist        or  you

could let go               & be thankful         when       isolation arrived again

you had to adjust     to change           alone in your room       you worked

the new norm                  people said when you met                 on ZOOM

some said the weather was never this hot         or smoky &       they said

they were scared                         & again                      you recalled what

it used to be like         & thought             this is a new life            move on

be the change       make art        read        write       make  love       adapt

The Pond Trail

Along the path, the dog stops to smell oat grass,

rose bushes, and the trail crossing from pond to lake.

Ducks cross the path after dark, or early in the morning.

Daily, I follow this same trail past the lilies, past the cattails,

past the open water where the Virginia Rail has been

spotted by birdwatchers with long-lensed cameras. Often,

I hear its chattering call and have seen it pop out of the reeds

for a quick viewing more than once. Life birds, some people

call our winged friends they’ve been hunting for a long time.

Finally a spotting…or not. There are other perks on the path:

eating a pink rose petal, a Indian plum, or a Salmonberry. Soon

the thimbleberries will be ripe. This year I may try making jam

from them…like my grandmother once did.

Hidden Things

Twice, while peeing in the woods, I spotted a geocache.

In one box, I found a pair of haircutting scissors. It was up

near a lookout tower that I’d hiked hours to. That hike about

killed me. I had to rest all the next day to get my electrolytes

balanced. I rolled out my sleeping bag on a metal frame and

mattress. One should stay away from metal in a lightning storm—

there was metal all over that tower. Once when I was young,

I was in a tower when it was struck by lightning. It was the loudest

noise and brightest light I’ve ever seen. I was terrified. If I hide

a box for someone to find, I would put in it a booklet of lightning

rules, a notebook and pencil, a pocket knife, and a compass.

I would leave a note that said, write your dreams and find your way.

Remembering Jack            

~On a line from The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

 

“No eye is on the sparrow but he did tell me that.”

Even when the dew was on the grass, he rang

with the clear air of morning. The heat of noonday sun,

the cool lake water reflecting his presence.

 

You keep him alive in a photo, in an article of clothing,

in the way he relished green olives…your granddad’s

favorite. Grief will drive you mad. That is why you must

come to terms with life being precarious. No eye

 

on the sparrow…just on the greater flock crossing

the horizon. It isn’t too late to change this missing

of calm peace…someone told me that.  Once you went

to a funeral and the speaker said the dead was

 

a curmudgeon. You thought, is this okay, this irreverence?

You have made something of him that he wasn’t…but

it’s for my daughter and grandchildren, you argue. Yes

it is for all of us to recall his good, not his drinking,

 

his rages, his rudeness, his greediness. He was one of those

people who didn’t have an eye on anything but himself.

Not the dew droplets on the tomato leaves, not the smell

of warm pine pitch on the path, not his tired family.

 

Ghosts Look My Way

Ghosts look my way

a menagerie of them

floating above the bed

at night, perhaps my father

communicating with me

from beyond the grave.

 

Ghosts look my way

in the morning when I walk

past the pond, drinking in

lilies and red-winged blackbirds,

my mind empty with the exception

of a memory of my mother.

 

Ghosts turn to look at me as I

busy myself chopping vegetables,

while painting a lily in the studio,

as I nap in the afternoon.

I recall the time my brother appeared,

a smoky sheet of glass.

 

 

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