Day of Days
He slaps cold water onto his face—
eyes break up with sleep,
the taste of iron assaults his tongue.
The sun is weak. Sky gray. No help there.
Through a crack in the bathroom window,
he hears the winter chorus,
the mournful cheep of the stay-at-home birds.
Over coffee, he’s head-to-head
with the repetitiveness of mornings.
His mornings at least.
His father fought in Vietnam.
His elder brother’s travelled to Egypt, Israel, Russia—
probably even Samarkand.
Bitter cold out, his car’s no more eager to start than he is.
It whines as traffic crawls in step with the frozen river.
He glances at the other drivers,
a man chomping on a donut, a woman fixing lipstick
in the rearview mirror.
It occurs to him how “other” other people are.
Who they are strikes a level below indifference.
Where they’re going is of no import.
He turns into the parking garage,
figures maybe he should have kept track
of how many times he’d done exactly this,
like a prisoner scratching days and months and years
on the wall of his cell.
He slips his access card in the slot
and, for the only time this day,
a door opens for him.
He greets his way to his desk,
a dozen perfunctory “Hi”s.
The woman in the cubicle third from the front,
left centre aisle, died three months before.
And she still says hello.
He knows he doesn’t have it made
but he has something—
after all, his father did bring shrapnel
and trauma back from the battle-zone;
and his brother … the last postcard
said, “Awesome time here.”
Not this will be the last you’ll ever hear from me.
It’s time to get down to the job at hand—
with the people at hand—
a reach has to start and end somewhere.
You saved some guy’s life,
saw him leap from a bridge into deep water,
jumped in after him,
swam up to his sinking body,
pulled him out onto the bank,
gave him mouth-to-mouth,
pumped his chest,
until dirty water sprouted from his mouth
and his airways freed.
He didn’t thank you,
but your “It can’t be as bad as all that”
did, at least, give him pause,
kept him in his life a little longer.
Avoid loved ones,
was what you should have said to him.
Hang out with strangers.
You’ve had the training.
Naturalist and Dog on Lichen Excursion
gets down and dirty
Her dog chases
what it thinks is a rabbit.
That mutt is all the silence has
going against it.
And their companionship
is a prolonged cuddle
this side of remoteness.
Echoes of city life,
a second-floor apartment,
reverberate through woods
than cannot know beyond
a root’s refuelling,
a canopy’s sun-graze.
Night closes in.
The relationship tightens.
The moss samples
are more revealing than expected.
This mix of high and lower life forms
that rippling Rolodex of waves,
rough white wings of gulls,
heat cruising off the sea,
skimming over bare flesh
to burst white on the dunes beyond.
Sand is ground zero,
the grains of a willing fool’s paradise,
where foaming water
bearing tales of the deep below
tickles toes in a language misunderstood,
but after millions of glorious summers,
still keeps that conversation going.
Some images are fleeting.
Others have much to give
far beyond their ties to time.
I am a beach
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