Braving the Wilds

Field Notes from the Suburban Jungle

Category: Poetry

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.

Pandemic

“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.

The Myth of the Moirai

Revisionist historians have
nothing on this ninety-nine
million year-old insect, locked in
Burmese amber, whose

triangular head could
turn 180 degrees –
shattering our own ability
by a full right angle.

The great horned owl,
sagacious-eyed hunter,
evolved, can pivot its own
close to a full rotation:

looking back without
repent or regret,
forward with no expectation,
other than the next repast.

No Tolstoy parable could
illustrate the point better,
frozen in natural resin,
no underwriter, no physician.

Let the ink hold fast, for
all we have is now.

Bonne Nuit

The beat, which unruly hearts do break
in obscurity of night, for all time’s sake
the moon, who has robbed the day of light
tampers with shapes the eye does take;

thieves and lovers, in obscure dance,
twisting bodies on a blue-beamed trance;
curse the fool, our unruly sun,
arrived through curtains, sans chance

to burn the skin and squint the eye,
eclipse the dream and quiet a sigh;
for nothing dark is desolation.
Solid rock, in absentia, tried:

guilty of nothing but deflecting light
and mirrors Her love, with all its might.

Chez Nous

Çe n’est pas un truc;
Çe n’est pas un lieu.

Not tasted from the
plate set with care
before us, or in a
bottomless cup of

butter tea, bitter
and pungent in its
reality, warm and
encompassing in

concept, an endless
envelope: like music
felt at the base of
the neck, that eases

the strain, taut with
burden, numbers, words
the stark concreteness
of life outside this

Place.

Not a brush stroke or
a structure, to dwell,
but a wave of warmth
where the melody

is felt, understood,
the notes left unread.
So pull up a chair.
Stay a while. Stay an

Eternity.

Loft Living

For J.S. Weaver

In a true Colonial, chopped, cornered,
center-chimneyed, puritanical walls
create charming nooks in which to
hide, with antiquated mechanisms.

We preferred loft living, a space
without the cordoned compartments, open:
where moon-faced children,
reflecting light, can hear

our shared soundtrack, a Joy
of Man’s Desiring. Clutching
fistfuls of color, they’ll
recognize me as I stumble

over their boots, left in a
row by the glass-paned door,
as I peel root vegetables
sweetened with dried herbs

which will sustain us through
this sinful New England winter.

First-Person Narrative

Seem, feel, look, taste,
sound, appear, become:
verbs of being, a personal
reality, whereby red is not

scarlet, amaranth, carmine
or falu; but a stitched letter
of public shame, a rose,
a stain on the lips or

the façade of a New England
barn. Living is largely a
solitary, hopeful,
human affair, whereby

perception is dominated
by bleeding colors.
Fearing no god, vulnerably,
one blazes a unique path

in search of another
with a similarly mysterious
sensory process, who sanguinely
has none of the answers.

Voluntas Vitae

The meaning of life? It lies
in the discovery of one’s own
bequest, a pearl in a shell,
an ability, a benefaction:

the willingness to refine it,
cultured, every shimmery layer
of opalescent nacre, held with
care, simply to be given away

with prudence to a worthy
steward, held indefinitely,
on permanent loan until passed
to another necklace, more precious

than Mikimoto. To be retained by
one, lacking recipient, is to grieve
like a lover with unrequited affections,
like a traveler without destination.