Last updated on March 27th, 2019 at 09:38 pm


It doesn’t take very much
to wash away all we know,
obliterate every landmark.

I went out to a field tonight
just down the way from home
a place where nature is strong,

and I watched a great, dark cloud
form into the shape of a bird
and swallow up the moon.

I no longer knew where I was.
Familiar patterns had gone.
All that remained was wildness.

In this swirling, untamed landscape
none of our cities existed,
none of the world we’ve made.

What I think of as my face
is not on my body at all,
but the face of the familiar,

the lighted, comfortable home
I’ve drawn back from the darkness,
the place I’ve furnished with charms,

all that really keeps me
from the ancient, helpless campfires
men raised in the unknown night.

Out in the field I saw this:
how very fragile we are,
how fragile all our dreams.

Surprising myself, I felt glad!
I smiled down to my bones!
Thank God, we’re more than all that!

Shooting the Sky

Even shooting the sky
with my new bee-bee gun
was a bulls-eye,
as far as the thrill went,

and so I wasn’t even really aiming
at that blue jay across the street
I saw tumble off the branch
and lie there spouting blood.

I ran to it, then to you, Mother,
drowning the whole, fallen world
in repentant tears that lasted
until after the shoebox funeral.

One day last May, it was you
in the box I stood beside,
the two of us mercifully alone
before others entered the room.

I shed a few tears, recalling
how hard your illness had squeezed you,
and then prayed silently,

and was happily surprised
by something gentle, yet vital
telling me, “No, no,
the box is not the end.”

For Peter Robinson, Creator of ‘Inspector Banks’

When my wife Barbara and I
find a detective we really like,
we may settle in for twenty novels;
and it isn’t just the plots,
although each is well-constructed,
a precarious moral order
maintained by a hair.

We come to live in that world:
those rustic Yorkshire villages
and dales; the station house
with its grimy interrogation-rooms,
drab offices and desks.

We join Inspector Banks
in between the dramatic events
for a pint at the Queen Arms pub
and lunch in a village somewhere
on the way to Leeds or York
to conduct endless interviews
with suspects, barmaids, and friends
of the victim and his family.

“DCI Alan Banks”
is a mortal, fallible man
who keeps his integrity
as he does his imperfect best.
His world will be there for us
tomorrow when we pick up our book,
even if it’s a day when our own
doesn’t seem quite as certain.

Indiana Revelation

Thumbing Indiana in my green
early 30s, down in Brown
County where forests grow
instead of corn, a blue
pickup truck pulls over.

I throw my duffel and guitar
in the back, then climb
into the cab. The driver,
in a checked flannel shirt,
accelerates. We ride silently
awhile, then he asks,
still looking out the windshield:
“May I tell you a story?”

I shake my head and smile.
It’s part of why I like
to use this mode of travel.

He says, “I went to business school,
got my MBA, and soon
was hired as an Executive
by the Ramada Inns.
I was happy. But what happened
was, they kept promoting me.

Each new job meant more work
and responsibility. I did
my best, worked my butt off,
scrambled 80, 90 hours a week,
but finally couldn’t keep up.
I broke down like a mouse
in some experimental maze.
They sent me to State Hospital.
I didn’t know a soul there.
I thought that I was finished.

Then one day a Chinese
psychiatrist shows up at my bed
and tells me he can help me.

Each day he comes to my bedside
for half an hour. His treatment?
Why, he tells me stories about
his other patients’ lives and problems!

Unorthodox? Go figure.
But it worked! Not only that:
months later, at my discharge,
he says: ‘You’ll feel a little shaky
for a year, and then you’ll be fine.’
And that’s just the way
it happened.”

image: Blue jay twilight via Shutterstock
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