A Hope For Something Better

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Would our lives be better

If we paid attention

Each drip drip

Each rustle and bow of leaves

The branches of the pine are dancing

To a song in 4/4 time

So is the purple sand cherry, dancing

Clouds upon clouds upon clouds

Let me describe them:

flat, dark bottoms, mountainous tufts

Bodies extending far into the sky

For sun, sun lighting up their top halves

I should say, the earth side is ominous

The heavenward side, radiant

Would you know what I mean

Today, of all days

When so many innocent are dead

Why wouldn’t they turn their eyes away

And hope for something better

How We Keep It

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Moments, so beautiful they are painful,

Unless you take a deep breath

And carry them into your heart & lungs

Where they mix with the sweet oxygen

Of your body’s blood, pulse, beat, throb.

And you think, I will keep this, Lord,

Help me keep the memory of it,

Let me be changed forever to the goodness,

Yes, even the holiness of this moment.

(Because what is this, if not sacred?)

A poem can keep it, too, and as I read back,

I feel you in the flashing memory spots,

Where touch and sight and smell,

Ignite the latent feeling of you, still alive.

There you are, rising with other wonders:

The geese, flying through basalt cliffs,

The view, after ascending Doe Mountain,

The ocean, when I had not seen the ocean.

There you are among it all, in my mind,

And I can feel your love from this far away.

Skunk Cabbage

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No, I did not bend down too near

To smell the yellow flower

Which grew in weaving lines through

The swampy crack, the scraggly creek,

Creeping amid mid-high, mid-spring grass.

We were at the base of Quartzite Mountain,

Nestled behind a tiny ski town, ghost town,

When the skiers don’t ski, or snowboard,

Or venture icy roads to snow-topped peaks.

You said the clicking was cicada,

I said, cougar, because I’d seen a video

Of a cougar making a clicking-ticking sound,

And decided the next clicking-ticking

Behind a bush, or tree, or grassy knoll,

Would be a mountain lion. You see,

We will never know who was right,

Because we passed safely the miles up,

The miles back down the hill, to the creek,

With those most beautiful, yellow flowers;

You could see them recede into the woods,

Like mystery, like scattered crumbs,

Showing us the way to an unknown truth.

I followed them for awhile, alone,

While you stayed back, and packed the dog;

Those irresistible, extra steps along their path,

Like blazing torches, luminous, yes.

What Was Lost in the Trade

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The push, and pull, of memory,

When you left me I got sadness, despair,

When I left you, I got amnesia.

Be careful what you forget,

Memories, hostage to one another,

Shoved into the abyss, together they go,

What was beautiful, too,

The joy of holding his babies at my breasts,

The sound of love in first words;

Hope, like a childhood dream,

You’re embarrassed you believed, later.

And now, no plumbing the hole

With dirty hands, arms not long enough

To reach what was so easily given away;

(The hurt was not traded for living,

As I’d hoped,) no, I want them all back,

Though they bring you, with the sadness, too.

One Swan, One Last Kiss of a Bee

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Hog Lake Falls, a cool breeze,

One single, solitary swan.

I think I see him preening

From this vantage, far away.

Last time I hiked here, you’d just died,

And I thought, how lovely to know

I can bring you with me,

Free of the dying chair,

The dying bed, the whole dying room,

And house, where you’d locked yourself away.

Such days are ripe with feeling alive:

Prairie smoke droop their heads,

Their beautiful faces turned down,

As they wait for the kiss of a bee.

Then, they will, finally, look up at the sky,

Say one last prayer, and go to seed.

The Knowing Alone

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They say,

There are five stages to grief;

All, feel terrible;

Where’s the relief?

When can we expect

To accept the loss of being

Who we were together.

The knowing alone–

Is that it, the end;

Is it final?

Mending spirit,

Where are you now?

Are the returning birds

Too loud to hear?

The Sun, too bright

To see?

The wind, too cold

To feel you?

Dimensions Around Us, Heaven

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If there’s a heaven,

Who’s to say

It’s not right here,

Next to us,

Rather than far away?

Another dimension,

Our souls

Walk through at death,

More whole,

than in life.

Scientists say,

Our lives replay,

As we pass,

They can map

Our brain’s waves,

An almighty flash

Of memory cells,

Flashing.

What’s that about,

If not

Making us better?

And so

I talk to him,

In woods and fields,

My father,

Who loved woods

And mountaintops,

And me,

Less alone than before

He walked across,

Or flew across,

Or emerged across

The invisible line

Between life

And death,

The breadth of which,

Seems smaller

Than I knew before.

Toward Our Once Bright Existence

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In the end, we don’t know

How the end will come,

Peaceful, as we sleep,

Or, under the thumb

Of morphine. Memories,

Like flotsam, from the depths

Of our once bright existence,

Form a tunnel toward our exit,

Each day, one step closer,

Almost touching what was lost:

mother, child, father.

A Broken Thing

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I’d be lying, if I said I didn’t know,

Years of turmoil, like a river,

With a dangerous undertow.

Like swimmers, outside their boat,

Unable to swim, thrown against rocks.

We were young, and bound together

By our children. Then, the talk:

You don’t love me, he said,

And, rather than saying it wasn’t true,

I asked, what does love have to do

With being married? We have kids.

We were pulled over, under a bridge,

Which spans the mighty Snake River.

We were both wrong, but does it matter?

Self-fulling, breakup chatter–

Prelude to the email I would find–

Betrayal, is not a kind way to end.

Twenty years later, still not friends,

Yet, we are friendly in our pain.

The sting of loss, defines a sting,

And taints our world, a broken thing.

Diminished, But Singing

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You must admit,

a song of sadness

Is a decent song;

A song of rage,

The songs we banged to

In our younger age,

That made us stand

And raise our fists–

Is better yet.

The rage is gone.

Somedays, sadness, too,

And happy tunes

Are few.

Yet, sing we must

To shake the silent woods.

Our souls,

They still have much to say,

Of getting past, beyond,

The dull,

Diminished days.

The Edges Begin to Blur

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A fog over the snow-covered hills

Of the Palouse, loosed delineation

Of hill and road and sky,

It seemed an infinity of cloud,

A shroud, over our eyes,

As we returned from a ‘last visit,’

The one where we said ‘goodbye.’

A great chain is about to snap,

The ties that bind crackle,

Grow weak, tremble, cry:

This too shall pass, everything must die,

But at last, we don’t believe it’s true,

Do we? Life is all we’ve known,

And its roads extend for our ever,

And ‘our ever,’ doesn’t come to a tidy end,

But it does begin to blur at the edges.

Lost Child New Year

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Christmas is gone, and I am glad.

Does that make me a bad person,

I asked my husband, last night.

Can the child, finally, be lost forever?

Or is it latent, still, observing from afar?

If the child dies, does the body follow?

Those who live to one hundred

Always see themselves younger,

Or so I read, the others, dead,

Cannot speak to this.

Katherine died before Christmas;

Did she see herself sixty-five,

Or forty-five? Did she realize,

Or did she fantasize–hope?

It’s a fragile thing, hope.

The world conspires against hope.

And now, twenty twenty-two,

Tomorrow, we say, is New,

New, but is it really?

The latent child wants to speak;

I can’t hear what she’s saying–

Something about trying again,

To be better, to believe, to trust–

What is it I must do, child?

The Not So Little Things

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“Weep for what little things could make them glad. Then for the house that is no more a house. (Directive, Robert Frost)

1.

The frosty backs of horses at the bale,

The red fence, framing the snow,

This is the beauty I found

In the extreme cold

of December.

And I remember

Wishing for it.

2.

Do you want to save this bird,

It was a falcon,

And it ran, with broken wing,

At the edge

Of a barbed wire fence.

He asked me, as he knew

I was a lover of wild things,

And a nurturer of broken wings.

I do, I said, I do.

Then, he was out of the car,

Walking among snow

And wounded bird.

I watched him from the backseat,

The car, I would someday wreck.

But that day, it was whole,

And we were whole,

And he returned, victorious,

Gloved hands,

Cradling broken bird.

3.

I don’t know why he gave it to her,

But she was in possession

Of his cowboy hat,

And she knew

I was the one who wanted it.

I was in possession of money,

And funny prankster that she was,

My sister knocked on my bedroom door.

She was having a yard sale in her room,

And I was invited to shop.

I can’t remember how much I spent,

But the hat became mine,

and I was wearing it.

He laughed when he saw me,

His big hat on my small head,

And heard the story of its quick journey

From her to me–

He’d given it to her for free–

But I didn’t care,

I wore that damn hat everywhere.

4.

Before I wrecked his car,

I slid his truck off an icy road

At two am, in a snowstorm.

I remember hiking to the first house,

And a man answered the door

In his underwear, staring dumbly

At me. I was desperate for a phone

To call my dad, praying he’d pick up,

Otherwise, I’d be stuck

With the undressed stranger.

He did, and soon my dad was sliding

down the dangerous hill,

In the car I’d soon wreck.

Next, he held his metal two-ton jack,

And ratcheted the truck up, and off,

And up and off, back

Onto the road, where the ice melted,

And the snow turned to rain,

And the sky filled with lightning,

But we survived, and now,

We can laugh at this story.

Preparing for Infinity

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In his last days, he contemplates this:

In the multiverse, our universe,

In the universe, our galaxy,

In the galaxy, our solar system,

And in that, our planet,

Where you find us,

Small as we are,

Celebrating

What it means to be eternal,

To join the stars,

To become one with love,

Two points on a line,

That extend forever.

The Chimes of Winter

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The chimes of summer,

Are the same chimes as winter,

Hear them dangle their tangled songs,

As we wait for the cold snap,

As we waited through the heat wave,

As the birds sang, and died,

As the dog died,

As everything waits to die now,

Snatched in snow and cold.

Our lives play out,

The seasons bang on,

The seasons leave behind,

Like some great train,

With its clang and clack,

Plowing through snow and rain,

Unloading its passengers.

Song of Sorrow and Joy: 4

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IV

Sit, and let me sing you a song,

Of our perfection,

And our imperfections:

No species sucks so bad

At getting what we want

I’ll title it, Love.

Realization must come

Too late, or it’s not human.

Only in losing do we understand

The full measure of what we had,

Basically, chances, and with chance,

The opportunity to grasp —

It—

And I’m back to the title of the song—

Love,

And how we suck at it.

Song of Sorrow and Joy: 3

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III

And now, I pause

at the feet of your memory:

Your laughter,

before there was nothing

To laugh about,

Your strength,

Your fatal optimism in your strength.

I’ve learned,

Being a rock, a steady hand

Wasn’t always conducive

To being a full man.

And there is the regret,

(Mine, not yours),

But it’s too late for regrets.

We are who we are,

And so little escapes that reality;

What forms us,

Forms all others, formed me.

Sometimes, we are left to weep

at what could have been:

We could have called,

We could have written,

We could have cherished,

The moments we came

Wanting to be cherished.

I misspoke,

When I said imperfections fade away–

They don’t,

But there is no anger,

Only a dull futility:

The reality that is, versus

What we hoped it would be.