The Brush

The Brush



She is an older cat, ill, and failing

a little more from month to month.

Today, she won’t jump down

from her soft cushion when I ask

if she wants grooming.  I show her

the plastic brush, run my thumb


along its spines to make it crackle.

She blinks, blue eyes that never

did see straight, and lifts her chin

to let me stroke a little down

her neck, first on the right side,

then the left.  She leans into it


as much as she can, still in meat-loaf

cat posture that shows she’s between

wakefulness and a doze. We go on

for a few minutes, quietly, bonding.

A few stray hairs cling near her eyes.

I touch them away so they won’t


bother her.  She lets me kiss her head

on the crewcut.  When I stand

to go do other things, she watches me

calmly, eyes already at the half,

peaceful.  I wave.  I can’t imagine

how I could finally tell her goodbye.






Of this daylight lying

across the street, I say

leave it to the squirrel

who will take it to a tree,


let the asphalt darken

until a mole can see.

Let the vine leaves furl

at the end of day,


let both prayers and ravings

turn violet and gray:

in the coyote’s night prowl

there is sublimity.


What’s left in the morning—

if morning there will be—

is all that marks our way,

although it may be spoiled.


Off the List

Off the List



I don’t know the person whose name

has been left off the list, although her face appears


in the photo provided.  I wonder whether

I am the only one who wonders about


her name, how she identifies her role in

this group, where she lives, if that is something


she would say.  Now I begin to doubt

she would have told us that,


I sense her turning to the list

that erased her, then checking back


to the evidence, yes, that’s me, but

what happened to my name?  I send up


a thought into the ether above us all:  I

saw you, I wanted to know


about that slight furrow over your brows,

the smile already starting to fade.




Lumberyards remind me of Dad.
Sawdust like a soft memory settles
On my hands as they move awkwardly
Over fresh-smelling two-by-fours.
I’m weak; he was strong with a grip
That could lift him in chin-ups enough
To beat my grown cousin, years ago.
Dad could trim and mitre, not perfectly,
But persistently, and he remembered
To measure twice before he cut once.
His humble craftings gave my family
Shelves and step stools, spice racks,
Peg boards, workbenches, new gables,
New rooms on the little houses.
I cannot do what he did. He’d spent
So much time at his solitary tasks
That he would gladly talk for hours
With strangers, build rapport as easily
As fixing a simple chair. A loner still,
I miss him now, as I use a few
Ill-suited board scraps to prop up
All the wobbly things that I have made.

A Red Admiral (should have every second line indented)

A Red Admiral



o yes i admire you, black flicker

with white-spotted wingtips      and those scarlet-

orange parentheses      never pausing

to fill in what i would like to say      of loveliness

that astounds me      faster than my hand

but my heart easily keeps up

and i laugh in broken      strokes as your wings

jolly us both over the field      summer’s

this quick     so thank you

and take my blessing too


The Ideal of Books

The Ideal of Books



Writer and imagination and reader

leap together from foot to foot in the dappled shade


of a trail, wanting to become lost

even in this familiar—to become explorers who newly


find this way, to see today in secret

portions under the alder whips.  A sinkhole


has begun under a currant bush where an old tree

has lain dead for decades,


and all those who watch their steps will see

how wild violets push aside the moss.

After “Poetry,” by Pablo Neruda (a type of Golden Shovel)

After “Poetry,” by Pablo Neruda



“And it was at that age, Poetry arrived / in search of me…”



And whether from river or winter, I knew

it came from a spirit walking the paths of a wood that

was within myself, a place I had never seen but felt:

at the hours of misery when branches fall to the ground

that deepens under wreckage, in my earliest

age and again with the seeping frost of years,

Poetry leapt from his lips to my ears,

arrived just as my last fragments were spent

in the wind.  To know now I need no longer

search in endless stumbling toward the horizon

of doubts, strung by the fires and arrows of sky, he offered

me instead all the stars that would come back.



He sang the wisdom of those who know nothing and

still, for every bead of this sad life, will sing it

as if heaven were a waterfall greater than the earthly flood; he was

a hand outstretched to seize whatever fell.  Here, at

the crossed paths of my journey, I too, drank that

ichor from the ancients all around me, and the fevers of this age

left me.  When I looked up into the woods of Poetry,

its mystery, its layers thickening under bark—spring arrived,

burst upward through feet to fingertips and flowered in

my hands.  I hold them out now, for others who search:

here is the fruit, here the universe of

blossoming he gave me.

The Low Ride

The Low Ride (Thirteeners)



As water slides around a stone, borrowing its shape,

our black-and-white cat Sylvester, long and rangy, walks

near our legs but doesn’t want a pat, so suddenly

as he passes, and we lean over with one hand out,

he dips beneath it, somehow:  from his withers to hips

he continues traveling but flows under and up

to return to his original horizontal.


Flexible, mysterious, even magical, he

chooses to be close yet keep his distance.  Cat as cat.

Exhortation to Existence in a Line from Roethke

Exhortation to Existence in a Line from Roethke



Being, not doing, is my first joy.

Yes, it is lazy; yes, it lessens

any likelihood of besting

the early bird at its game.

I love it all the same—


being, but not being the early bird,

not envying that robin its worm,

its need to rustle in cold grass.

But those creatures are being

what they need to be.  Joy


can be pulled out from both sloth and work.

Feathers drop from preening, and worms

fulfill their role, having

briefly seen the light—we

all feel pain in this life—


joy, in fact, comes from knowing what is not

changeable, the life we’re given

in this plot of ground—and still,

when I choose to do, or dig,

I am to do it here.





A snail reached toward the top of a grass blade

from another blade, the three of them curving,

bending with the weight of a desire.


I turned to step aside, but then I knelt

and placed my face down level with the ground

into the smells of fresh herbal green, of earthy


minerals, and a clean unnamed scent I took

to be the breeze in shade slipping between.

It was morning.  The snail’s gray horns stretched


and its neck more so, impossibly, pink,

and at the other end, an appendage spread

from the tubular body and gripped the grass.


The shell was an afterthought, sagging below.

Suddenly the whole snail, shell and all,

snapped across to the taller blade, and clung,


gathering itself once more into snail-shape—

modest, rounded, humble on the lawn.  A simple

lesson from great effort I did not make.