Braving the Wilds

Field Notes from the Suburban Jungle

Hourglass Figures

“It’s my marry ‘em and bury ‘em suit,” he replied dryly
to the earnest woman seated opposite us. She was sipping a beer
from an amber-colored bottle when his quip motivated her
to smirk through her compliment, wrist to her lips, and cough the reply:

“Well, l’chiem! to that…” and took a more leisurely, feminine gulp.
I looked down at my own repeat appearance, a black crepe shift
that ably held me during my own celebrations. I made the requisite
calculations in my head: thirty years of cocktails,

a little snug for that first post partum evening out,
a bit loose for the memorial of a life-long friend whose loss
made us all appreciate our own longevity. We were gifted
more time to savor this world in slow, savory bites.

With wisdom, we are left to feel unexpected joy for our daughters
who complain, wrapped in a towel in front of their closets,
that they haven’t a thing to wear.

Finding a Nest the Day my Daughter Gets her Driver’s License

The oldest noticed the nest first,
the one who is in love and realizing
what it is to care for another human being,
attached, vulnerable, responsible.

We couldn’t see the eggs, the ball
of twigs and twine out of reach,
but I imagined it was lined in red dog fur
as the ones in my childhood had been.

The youngest noticed the mother a week later,
feeding worms to sparsely-plumed,
enormous beaks, orange and pleading,
perched atop impossibly thin necks.

The middle, sick of clipped wings herself
acknowledged the fledglings with boredom,
asking for six points of identification:
birth, security, education, a passport,

While Robin flew off, inciting a tweeting chorus
of conflict: Stay! But give us the keys.

Trompe L’oeil

Our image, bent and distorted – stuffed
into a convex mirror we purchased
on the Parisian streets of our adopted home –
is a funhouse version of ourselves propped

In a real-world museum, where art
and artifice harkened back to a
grammar school skill: landscape drawing
with a vanishing point, indoctrinating

The youngest students of life to pave
imagined paths to an invisible,
inconceivable possibility. Un oeil de sorcière,
the eye of the witch, sees us smaller than

We are, a necromancer’s attempt to
squeeze us all into an oval, molded frame.
We’ve missed so much obscured in shadows
at our feet, Grace hidden in all that we

Ignored at the curb. Truth is a near-sighted
vision, learn what one will,
prepare as one may, for which one feels
grateful rather than blessed. We are not small.

We are here, today, as ourselves,
ignoring regret and hope, remembering
that objects in the rear view
are larger than they appear.

Rites of Passage

For Lizzie

Snow fell in gentle waves
caressing the banks of a river,
singing a lullaby in steady whispers
over a harnessing, ancient dam.

Inclement warmth and winter rains
melt the icy duvet that draped the native
mountain laurel surrounding a lake
that knows only one outlet –

This channel that ushers its bursting waters
to an entirely new place
where there is room to spread
their anxious liquid wings:

An ocean, limitless, starting at its delta,
its alpha, autonomy, possibility, under
the warmth of the sun that raises weightless clouds
and will guide our waters home, again.


For Tom

Aspen trees, symmetrically
Growing along an Upstate property
Catch the mistral-like winds,
Wave their leaves like celebratory

Sparklers, their silvered, shimmered
Undersides catching the light to
Twinkle in our dulled eyes and applaud
Respite from the dry July heat.

It’s confetti-like shimmy is uncannily like
That of the Eiffel Tower, on that nail-
Biting first night, when we all
Wondered if the world would

End, as we do now, locked down
On our porches looking for ways to
Quietly memorialize all that we
Neglected, took for granted,

And lost.

Ode to the Man who Airbrushed My Face on Social Media

A painter with scissors!
A regular Henri Matisse are you, a
decoupage with a blinking cursor:
you’ve resurrected my youth!

Glory! Be the erasures you’ve
been kind enough to pixilate
all evidence of the lives I’ve
Lead, won, or better, assimilate!

With a power mightily assigned
to your clicking little mouse,
You’ve smoothed the tracks
upon my temples, and cleaned this earthly house.

With a stroke of an airy brush aligned,
Over the grayish orb, each eye,
You chivalrously took my bags, without asking,
And carried them off, without a sigh;

Alas, in those bags are frets, and reveillons;
a lady, wise, am I; knowing that I take, alight:
this land has stones, the meat has bones.
Thanks! I’ll make it home alone, alright.

He who wants a mule without fault must walk on foot. -English proverb.

Memorial Day, 2020

For Peter and Suzanne

Dusk extinguished the day,
its wicks of pink ignited clouds
burned to carbonic cords
of grey, while the birds quieted

their melody leaving only
percussion to the peepers,
the hyla crucifer,
to dismiss the band, and

call to other cross-bearing
frogs, a love song to their betrothed
from greater than six feet.
The female will lay her eggs,

after a socially intimate
rendezvous-vous, in a near-by pond
on an antique farm, while we mourn
the dead of our wars, avoidable,

those fighting a virus, perhaps
not as avoidable, and
slug the dregs of what’s left
of the rose-colored wine.

We long to embrace our guests,
two kisses on the cheek goodnight,
bid adieu; but instead, we
retreat to our homes to join,

at leisure, from across state lines,
those incessant, blessed frogs.


“Any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde.”
John Donne, from Mediation XVII

Motherhood is a Mary Cassatt painting,
we women are fooled into thinking:
rosy in hue, rounded, warm impressions,
of notions, of natural strength;

yet as soft as any human touch, the
introduction to the world seems as
painful to the newborn child, who
howls like an animal in the new

cold light that hits his coated skin
like a shock wave of truth, stings
his senses once easily lulled to
sleep in a warm amniotic bath.

My experienced sister told me, as I nested in place:
consider the first three months of a child’s life
a personal emergency. Keeping him alive
will require one’s personal liberties to be

stripped as convicted, to return later in
glorified pieces that merely resemble what
we once knew. What I once knew was
a lost woman who trod a path she thought

was clear; I mourned her, buried her, tipped a hat
to one who now understood her purpose,
in her milky quarantine. Life was not her own,
nor was it ever. For mankind, we begin again,

one body at a time, a collective. The infant in arms,
in a nursery, where frost on a pre-dawn window
blooms a silver bouquet, spreading its cold
branches illuminated in moonlight,

cradled, one of many new beginnings,
his skin flushed pink where it touches mine.

Faith and Hope

Lefty loosey, righty tighty I reminded her,
under my breath, as she struggled with
the battery panel to a toy house built for model people
that looked liked Prozac-laden versions

of ourselves, perma- grinning, plastic and
maniacally unaffected by the struggle that
ensued at the hands of their master, their animator,
who remained a few paces ahead of her developing

fine motor skills. The screwdriver shook
and slid from the star-shaped groove
of what should have been second nature, until
the emotional hose of her countenance,

kinked and sharply twisted, violently
burst forth a stream of blood to her cheeks,
the tool thrown against the wall, chipping the paint
that needed retouching anyway.

Inhaled through the nose, in one
frustrated stream, exhaled again, with
catharsis, she returned to the task at hand:
to illuminate an imaginary world

in electric light, where doorbells
chime a pleasant welcome and all is arranged,

just so.

Come Again

A hand-painted piece of pine, perched atop
your double-hung sash, is a vintage sign
with shaded letters, “hello” on the opposite
side. An antique is something older,

one hundred years or more, yet a
generation? A mere thirty. I had a great uncle
who used the phrase as a request, cupping his
hand behind his ear, squinting both eyes,

he’d shout, “Come again, young lady…?”
which would make my sisters giggle and
cover their own mouths. We’d bark what
we had just said, louder, trying to keep

a straight face, as I do so today, overwhelmed
with contentment. We have returned to this place
we knew so well, finding it hard, still,
not to laugh, to ignore the innuendo,

the triple entendre of joy, of grabbing
a hold of what was lost, now, for good.