It is one of those inescapable realities
as your wheels begin to lose traction
and spin with a slow certainty as you drive
deeper into your life, that each
happenchance encounter with one
who has figured in some small
or large way in your life
is always opportunity for each of you
to do a quick visual survey,
a compare and contrast with imperfect memory,
to judge the measure of how
each of you have fared
the terminal weathering of time;
from which you will either walk away
delighted and grateful, in the face
of the other’s mounting infirmities,
especially if you happen to be the elder;
or with a touch of envy, that the other
looks fit and trim enough for a marathon.
There is no half-way, no waffling here:
you either measure up or you don’t.
Morning Meeting with the Birdman
I met him on this morning’s path through Lakewood Park—
spotted him at a distance, poised with his binoculars
as he studied the waterfowl on the pond. Then we met
and paused to exchange news of sightings.
“It’s nice to have the birds back,” I was saying
the obvious – for him, but also for myself. Who could I
possibly exclude but some contrarian?
The birdman mentioned having driven out of the city
to look for birds and they had stopped beside a large pond
animated with tundra swans. By the time he finished counting,
he said he’d reached 118 swans. The number, in his mouth,
almost reverential. I could see him, binoculars trained
on them, calling out the numbers like a bingo hall caller.
I kept thinking how tough a task he’d set for himself –
count all those beautiful swans without missing a few altogether
(since birds, even on water, are seldom stationary),
or doubling up and counting the same swan several times.
But he happily reported 118 swans, and why would I
doubt the number? I also considered whether he may
have held some fascination with the numbers themselves?
Perhaps he had an orderly mind, one for which the details
are more important than the image he carried home.
Does numerical accuracy enhance memory?
In the end, what does it matter? Let him go on
counting swans for years to come, and may I, too,
be granted more chance meetings with one
willing to stand awhile to count swans.
First Leaves, April 2012
There they were—Spring’s first leaves—
newly minted medals of green,
pinned and proud on gooseberry canes
in Heritage Park this morning.
A gorgeous clear day, warm enough
at eight a.m. to make you believe
Summer was a mere heartbeat away.
I stood there—stupefied,
as if somehow this were impossible;
as if the earliness of the season
had jerked the calendar awry;
as if the workings of Nature
were so mysterious this verdant
glitter of gooseberry leaves against
the drabness of dormant growth,
each leaf waiting its own turn
to stun passersby into reflection,
must surely be a mistake.
My father was a notable writer of letters.
In his time, he was not alone in this—
a good letter regarded as proof of education
and even a degree of sophistication.
To write a lengthy missive that someone
would want to read and re-read and tuck away
in a chest of drawers was an art, a talent
to which many aspired, but few excelled.
My father was one who did.
Sunday was his chosen day—a day of rest,
a day when he may have been at his happiest.
A letter-sized writing pad of quality paper,
his mottled green Schaeffer fountain pen
and Waterman’s blue ink at the ready,
he would sit and write. Pages and hours.
Letters to his sisters, scattered in distant states,
to long time friends, to relatives he rarely saw.
Wrapped in silent remembering, my father
wrote of his concerns, of his love.
He tried to lend to his words a measure
of rational order and success he may
have deemed absent from his own life.
With each Sunday, he found a way to give
of himself to others through a life shared
in carefully penned, firm script
what life was not able to give to him.
Out of Winter
Sometime after mid-January
we begin to seek those
first barely perceptible signs
that our world is moving
towards the resurrection of Spring
from the bleak tomb of Winter.
Always, there is one afternoon
we glance out the window—
it is always after 5:00—
and we say to ourselves,
“Aaah, look... light,
would you believe
there is still light ...”
We check our watches,
then the wall clocks,
even the microwave oven:
desiring proof, certainty,
a truth to bed down with,
to build dreams upon.
There it is—
a decided dazzle,
a wash of sun against
the west-facing wall
of the house across the street,
where the last time you looked
you remembered only darkness.