Braving the Wilds

Field Notes from the Suburban Jungle

The Wizard of Dreams

Tucked comfortably into
Our vie quotidien, we live
Not so much in monotony
As swaddled in a warm blanket of
Perceived certainty.

Inevitably, the three AM phone calls
Jar us from lullabied sleep into a
Racing heart, a dry mouth
Requiring us to get out of bed
And board airplanes, soaring through
What feels nothing like cruising altitude:
Where the temperature is an
Inconceivable -70 degrees fahrenheit.

The flight time gives us
Ample opportunity to stare out
Of tiny windows, contemplating
The unreachable, a vapor, a quilt of clouds,
Analyzing the daydream
In which we’ve been sleeping.

As children, dreams of flight
Roused us with the same
Startled thrill, bells that rang
Just as loudly as that of a telephone,
Sprinkling snow on poisoned poppies
By a wizard of dreams,
Like our wide-eyed children
Who re-introduced us to faeries
Which we had sworn –
If only for a moment or two –
Were real.

Qu’ils Mangent de la Brioche!

“You can’t have cake!”
Exclaimed my youngest daughter
To my former mother-in-law,
Seated at the dinner table of
My broken home, as I blush
With embarrassment over my
Child’s id-ridden stage
Of development.

I quickly cleared the celebratory
Dishes of my daughter’s setting,
Explaining, as we made way
To one of life’s sweeter rewards, only
Jokingly withheld from tardy guests.
“There’s more for us!”

Even Marie-Antoinette was misunderstood,
While those of a lesser standing –
Peasants whose most deadly sin
Was being born of a situation
Lower than themselves – shrouded their
True human nature. Brioche was
Ordered, by a century-old predecessor:
Bland, basic, nutritional.

My disillusioned guest, now
In a station of sisterhood, whose truth
Lay blended like bitter powders,
A pinch of sugar, stinging salts:
A sweet yin yang swirl
Of ingredients, of human realities,
Concurrently benevolent and cruel.

Hiking the Shepaug on the Autumnal Equinox

The riverside trail was sprinkled
With the first leaves of Autumn,
Gold, like nature’s first green,
Shades of day that had sprung from dawn,
And tinged with shades of orange-red,
Like last summer’s coral lipstick.

The banks of the river
Eroded, exposing a tangle of
Otherwise hidden roots, the
Infrastructure of trees, naked
And longing for the earth that
The Shepaug had taken,
Turned into silted memory
And deposited into a delta, a mouth,
A place unknown.

Male field crickets hummed a
Lullaby, a subtle harmony,
A last-ditched, encore performance
That would be followed by the
Silence of snow, white and
Unable to refract light and
Bend it into any semblance of color.

For then, the weakened sun,
Distancing itself, warmed
The faces of walkers now
Free from the shade of leaves
That clung precariously to their
Steadfast branches. Treading
Upon an old railroad bed,
Groomed, stretching not to vanishing point,
But to an abyss, a tunnel, a passage,
Where it was almost impossible
To resist the urge to run.

Walking A Second Mile

“…each person had their moment when they assumed the skins of wild animals, when they took responsibility for the story…”
From Michael Ondaatje’s,  In the Skin of A Lion.

Arguing an idealistic view,
The younger jaw, set in self-righteousness,
Sits across the table from elder eyes,
Softened by his own altruistic one.
With the advantage of hindsight,
The body that had slipped into the
Skin of a lion to protect, disguise,
In windfall shed that of a seal,
A selkie, wearing another’s moccasins,
Bridging two worlds with the divine mind
Of a philosopher: empathetic, passionless,
Developed human longing and
Outward peace. That familiar jaw,
Tired from talking and stronger from listening,
Would unlock on a Celtic rock, where they
Would meet as equals.


Woodcut style image of the Celtic mythical selkie in the ocean. ‘Selkie in the Ocean’ image © xunantunich-



To the White Horse in the Passing Lane on Route 684

Not yet coaxed to the median,
Where grass grew a foot high,
Bedded down under your
Capsized chariot, wheels spinning
Like the legs of a belly-up beetle
Waving for the cloudless sky
To touch your eyes, humanely blind you,
Now shrouded in a terry cloth
Of Turin, of New York, reeking
Of oxybenzone and coconuts.

An eight-inch gash
Across your ribs didn’t bleed:
Your coated skin split, an open eye lid
Revealing fibrous tissue and
A barrel of bones, creamy
Next to your bleached hair: a proud
Piece of flesh revealing
Where the light had
Entered through your broken window.

A stranger in a foreign land
Of pavement and metal and voices
Unlike your own. Human hands
Knotted your mane in
Shakespearean elfknots,
Placed riders of the apocalypse
On your back, created an
Avatar of Visnu, ushering in
An end, wisdom, and the sardonic
Truth that they unite
In your majestically wounded package.


Kalkin, Visnu’s Future Avatar, Sandstone, Pre-Angkow Period, first half of the 7th Century, Collection of the National Museum of Cambodia, Phenom Penh (Ka 1642).  Photo Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.



Birds singing an incessantly hopeful
Dawn chorus, a springtime declaration
Of their collective intentions
To live, to thrive, to endure, or,
Scavenging cawing crows,
Ominously cleaning up after those
That could not: this was my
Vernal alarm clock, deafeningly
Absent on this drenched morning,
When the downpours whispered
In my ear, a white noise, a snow
Following a late night TV test pattern,
A gentler, wiser reveille
Less frantic than adolescent
Birds, raging in their desperation
For aviary love.
Beyond the fogged window pane
A torrent, a rambling street river flowed
Over parked tires like wakes
Washing away the sins of
The neighborhood: streaks of
Color, plastic, scrapped paper
With its faded words.
Still rumpled and stale
With sleep, I remained in my
House, my ark, on my horse
Swimming against the tide,
Therapeutically working an
Injured hock. Welcome,
Solitude, allow me to travel in
The company of no one to the
Love of my life. My leaves,
Wet and waxy and
Impossibly green,
Are thriving with the life blood that
Is your water. Protected from
The burning rays of a fickle sun,
My creamy threadlike roots,
Stretch in the damp soil
That surrounds them,
And keeps them free from harm.


Fifty-Two Card Pick-Up

“…a game is indeed a clear instance of a process wherein obedience to common rules by elements pursuing different and even conflicting purposes results in overall order.”
-Fredereich August von Hayek

“It is not certain that everything is uncertain.”
-Blaise Pascal

Black suits, smoke, where
There is a red suit, Fire!,
Heralding an unforeseen shower
Of plastic-coated playing cards.

Unfurled, twisting mid-air:
A confusion of butterflies
In transition, in migration,
Suspended in uncertainty.

They fall in a shuffled flutter,
Bent and creased from its
Squeezing projector, in chaos.

Yet each card in perfect design
Symmetrical, rests,
Having lost its mates to
The radiator, the couch cushion,
A rabble of once air born dust clouds.

The deck, useless for solitaire,
Is incomplete, but suitable
For a game of war – or –
As building blocks
For a new house of cards.


27, rue de Fleurus

For Elizabeth

“You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.”
-Italo Calvino

A decade has passed since we lived here,
So we delighted in the fact that the new tenants kept
Our curtains, our finials,
Our terra cotta pots on the distinguished,
Haussmannien balcony. It was in these
Containers that I cultivated a
Smuggled Martha Washington geranium,
Double bagged in A&P plastic tucked
Deeply in a canvas duffle bag that
The sniffing labrador retriever
Gratefully ignored. He instead
Sucked in the moist air around
My ankles, swollen from flight,
Expectancy and pregnancy
And moved along with indifference
To the next foreign traveler.

I suppose I thought I was being provocative
By the gesture, yet disappointingly the
Red blooms never thrived here. They grew, but were
Choked out by the native sort, with which it shared
Soil, lived but never showed her
True, showy blossoms, which stay contained
As the french, split variety spilled over
And welcomed passers-by
On the rue de Fleurus,

Where now a shadow of a sentry
In front of her own personal Picasso
Lays fixed, a mark on the cobblestone
Where her formidable human form
Blocked the terrorizing radioactive light
Of a holocaust.

We were barred entry,
No code de porte; the keypad
lacking in letters which were once permanent,
Offering nothing now but an
Unknown digital sequence.
A less emotional being would remember
Exactly: there are 3,621 miles from
The sidewalks of New York to the
Ville de quelqu’un d’autre,

Where sirens’ foreign screams
Woke us from sound sleep,
Disoriented until I regarded the
Familiar curve of your newborn lips
Blistered from nursing and puckered
Exactly the way they do when you rest,
My own Moveable Feast,
Here, years later,
At home,
Wherever that might be.


An innocent, gob smacked

In the middle of the

Cone of uncertainty,

Beyond the ignorant base where

The line of sight disappeared

To a vanishing point, the

Imperceptibly omniscient terminus,

Where the storm, played out,

Revealed its aftermath: a force,

An indelible impression on

The landscape, by which only

The eye, centered in learned clarity

Perceived without foresight

Its context, its significance.

Setting the Table in the Age of Reason

“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching…I have been bent and broken, but I hope into a better shape.”  From Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.

A dinner fork with a bent tine
Serendipitously landed
At my place setting most often,
It seemed to me.
Flanking a flea market find,
A Wedgewood drabware plate
Crackled and chipped in earnest,
Antiqued sufficiently to suggest
It could have held the roast chicken of
Thomas Paine himself.

The northward tine was at first
Jarring, startling the smooth
Maneuvering of this thrice-daily
Task, sustaining, comforting,
Unifying, at the table
Of those I have borne,
Rendered, after more than a decade of
Sycophantic childhood, as imperfect in
Their teenaged eyes.

The slide of stainless steel
Fits with precision in the
Space between my upper incisor,
My canine, a whistle, never repaired
For a series of human reasons,
Leaving a photo documentary:
A trail of Jaconde-like portraits,
Seemingly confident, omniscient
Expressions, hiding the gaps,
Revealed only to a handful of those
With whom a shared, altruistic,
Symbiosis feeds divinely flawed,
Earthly love.