Monday, March 19, 2018

Death March

    “I’ll not give them the satisfaction,” I thought
    In a quavering voice – so many had fallen --
    I could hear the shots from where they did –
    Feeling no fear of their consequence yet
    Needing to be the good Marine – an example
    To the long row ahead, seeing their necks
    Craning to look back at me to see if I

    Still stood, thinking if I did at my age
    They too being younger might as well –
    Those who fell, we knew, hadn’t the
    Strength or resolve – fluttering
    Hands, thoughts, vacant looks when
    They thought no one was looking –
    Someone like me though, used to
    Long treks would put one foot in
    Front of the rest – losing track perhaps
    Of the steps: where they leave off and
    Another’s began – where I began if
    Memory hasn’t fatally fallen behind.
    One of them opted out after breaking
    Both hands in fights saying if one

    Unflinchingly endures the pain, these
    Miles upon menacing miles are mere
    Grunt work – whereas the enduring of
    Pain is the ultimate demonstration.
    They watched our steps for the ones
    Who stumbled, pulled them out and
    Shot them in the head – where is the

    Sacrifice in that?  Where the bravery
    In a false step?  The implications, the
    Conclusions contingent upon whatever
    Flew off with our steps, step after
    Step – there were once paved roads, but
    We were now on a rugged Jeep trail --
    Even at night, marching route-step,
    Staggering at thoughts of dropping
    Out, perhaps rolling down a slope
    When attention flagged, but best
    That I keep on.  The stars might
    Find me out.  I heard a shot far
    Back where the strength to keep
    On for those watching came from.

The Dance

    Never touching, they danced
    In an isolation gleaned
    From others they had seen --
    Arms and legs
    Flailing, flaring into an
    effervescent devotion.
    Dranni with the flaxen

    Hair sits on her porch
    Braiding, brooding all
    She has seen and felt
    From the night before
    Which weighs her down.
    Should she be ashamed?   
    Why should anyone judge?

    And she thought that no
    One would, or if they did
    It would be in a language no
    One would understand.  I
    Was in the woods back then,
    Covered in shadow, hiking
    Rhythmically in my notion
    Of how it came to be and
    Would end, given its
    Trajectory.  Democracy had
    Failed.  Adams was right to
    Fear the aristocracy which
    When formalized became
    A bureaucracy sponsored

    By judges who used words
    Only they could understand.
    Ted Kaczynski thought he
    Understood and wrote his
    Letters which no one could
    Dance to or feel his madness       
    Despite his careful phraseology.

    They may be closing in for all I
    Know – more come each week
    Seeking a darkness of their own --
    Tents pulled tight each night – Dogs
    Heard to whimper, coyotes howl. 
    Eventually there is only the sound of
    Heavy breathing and the smell of sweat.

The Thief

     I saw him run across
    My yard.  I stepped out
    As he struggled over my
    Fence and paused at the top to
    Give me an insolent smirk.
    I followed him to the
    Mall where he joined

    Eight boys more and their
    Leader who brashly
    Watched – wary that I might
    Be a  challenge.  “Good
    Morning,” I said thrusting
    Forth my hand.  He smiled
    Guilelessly.  I went on to

    The boy who smirked with
    A start-something-and-you’ll
    Regret-it smile.  “Do you plan
    To run through my yard again,”
    I asked?  “What if I do?  You
    Can’t stop me.”  I grinned, “nothing
    Back there I’ll miss if you want
    It.” His brow creased. The
    Smirk disappeared.  “You called
    Her beautiful, but she’s not.”  He
    Was puzzled – wanting an answer.
    “Ah, but she was,” I entered onto
    A more familiar path.  What you saw
    Through my window was her at seventy,

    But look at me.  I’m eighty three
    And I remember all those years when
    She turned heads.  When men of all
    Ages admired her.  You are what, twelve?”
    “Thirteen,” he lied.  “You run in your little
    Gang with your little friends never thinking
    Until you look through someone’s window

    That you’ll age – unless you are cut short
    For your effrontery.”  “You?”  “No, not me.
    “Are you a thief or a Peeping Tom?”  “I’m
    No Peeping Tom,” he growled.  “I was
    Just looking for something to take.”  “Time
    Will steal your years as it did hers.  We liked
    To hike through mountains on windy days.
    Dust kicking up, watering our eyes.  When we
    Got to the top and stared back down it seemed
    We would never die.  I turned her gently
    And looked in her beautiful eyes which
    Twinkled as she looked back.”  You’ve never
    Known a look like that, and you never
    Will, thieves are such short-lived

    Creatures here .  “I’m doing just
    Fine,” he snapped.  “So you say,
    But there is no path up there
    For you.  You will never be as
    Old as she nor see what age
    Does to the face one day you might
    Have shaved.”  “You don’t know that,”

    He said, wishing I would go away.
    “Not many change – you in your
    Small band steal small things
    From houses and yards.  You’ll be
    In prison in six years and dead before
    Your forty-five.”  “Don’t talk like that!  I’m
    Sorry I saw the picture.  Sorry she was

    Old.”  I smiled wryly, “seemed time
    Someone told you what it's like if
    You stay in school, learn what’s
    Worthwhile and what is not. 
    You can’t see the mountains from
    Here – too many years must pass.
    You can’t imagine the beauty that

    Will be there if you last. You’ll walk
    With her on trails through rain and
    Wind that creases the corners of her
    Eyes. You’ll squint at what you see
    If you can look back at the
    Way you’ve come -- and if
    No one steals her away.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


    I often wonder if I’m mad,
    Or if now and then in the past
    I was, for was I not love-struck
    Such that living without her was
    Something I couldn’t bear to do?
    But three years later I am perhaps
    Living still as though a will

    Divorced itself from the downward
    Thrust of death which of course
    Isn’t the same as bearing to live --
    Listing here as though a boat whose
    Hull was breached and was left at
    High tide far up the beach, far
    From the sea it used to sail.

The last leaf


    The last leaf leaned
    Into the wind, clinging
    To its branch – not for
    Any imposing reason
    I suppose – watching
    The wind whip it this
    Way and that

    I sat with my back
    Against it, drifting my
    Thoughts whichever way
    It blew.  I felt something
    And tried to recall but
    As I did I saw the
    Branch stripped bare.

Susan at her window


    She stopped paying attention
    To her responsibilities;
    Her thoughts wandered,
    Sitting by her window.
    Her coffee grew cold
    In the cup upon her desk.
    Her hand absently brushed
    The wrinkles in her neck
    Which he’d never acknowledged
    Nor perhaps even seen
    Being unequal to seeing
    Her as she was.  What was
    She, she often wondered while
    Fleeing the days when her beauty

    Drew men in a consequent flood?
    She needed to find a place to settle
    And grow old with just one
    Of them, someone strong enough
    To remain but mild to be with  –
    Someone she wouldn’t need
    To run from.  Her eyes caught

    The change in light – the rain
    Fell gently – drops slid down
    The glass.  She raised her cup
    And with her lips noticed the
    Coffee had cooled – leaning
    Back then smiling she heard
    Each drop calling the time.