“I invented liking,” he told everyone who would listen. “Loving,
not so much, loving is very old, but liking and that loosely curled
fist with thumb upturned, that was mine, that was a thing I did
and got a raise and a bump in rung. Before me, folks didn’t know
how to enjoy just up to the point of love but not beyond, one tick below
and now look how many things we like, we like, we like, our hearts
and thumbs scooting their butts across the sill of an open window
where a man speaks promises and fears into a crowd of faces
so thick it becomes impossible to distinguish which is which
or each from each. The particular flattened, the likeness enhanced
until distinctions all but disappear. Like begets like, as you
well know. And I invented like,” he said again. “Love, not so much.”
deep river of things
conveyor of human freight
a crimped rill begins your chute
expands to a mouth
two hundred miles wide
effluvium of your travels
whorls of silt muddy the clear
the clear never quite clear
of hidden life that poisons
of rainbowed oil slick
a drone of wings carrying
god only knows what
At the gate we plighted our troth again
but found our flight had been delayed.
So we took ourselves to the bar instead.
And who does whiskey not make mean?
I believe you meant each word you said
when you claimed you loved, then loathed;
when one night you adored my form unclothed,
next morning, deplored and wished it dead.
It would be a lie to claim I was confused.
I grokked what all this meant: you felt both.
I swirled my straw in amber, pledged my faith
and saw how cunning tenderness is used.
Your eyes in the sun’s last rays shone clear.
It took me six months more to cloud them, dear.
A cat is mistress
of the fine art of remain-
ing at arm’s distance.
The shadow of the jet in whose belly I nestled
grew larger over your town, its darkness drifting over
the house where you lived then with your wife,
until with an irk it touched down in the dry valley
of your runway. All that week you and I went to and fro,
hither and yon, ants on the map, never touching noses,
before I took flight again eight days later, not knowing yet
you existed. Now I lie in bed under your warm shadow,
in the shade of your face above me. In the evenings
we run, noting the faint drone of a descending plane
above us. Sometimes I look up, the way I did before,
no longer envying the folk blithely toasting cheap brut
in coach. Too, I don’t look down from my round window
in the air and yearn to be that tiny car on a back road,
brim full of laughing family. I am here. All that brought
us together is a slim chance in a thousand: a photo
I’d snapped that you saw out there in the wide ether
of an impulse-bought t-shirt which read, “In Kentucky,
there are more barrels of bourbon than there are people.”
The ginkgo by the library
dithered all October
then changed its mind
all at once to yellow.
One maple near the chapel
turned early to orange
then held on, stubborn,
as its leaves dried to paper.
Frost outlined each ivy leaf
at the edge of staff parking:
a silver-white assertion
of the borders of things.
My father, always eloquent before, stumbles painfully now,
particularly if he’s trying to talk directly to me or others.
So he turns his face aside, speaks towards the trees outside.
“I would love to make the shrimp bisque in this book,” he tells himself,
or muses, “One of my favorite movies is Invincible. Top three,” as if no one else
were in the room. The only way he can make the words come unimpeded.
Like stutterers whose speech smooths only when they sing. Like the man
with Parkinson’s who can cross a floor only when it’s painted like stairs.