Over lunch, a mantis settled for my Stella de Oro day lilies in the
blazing west sun on my roof deck in Baltimore. A capricious whim,
or calculated move – its motivation irrelevant. To the immediate south,
basil sage perfume, and wild-eyed purple petunia. Air conditioners
hummed mildly for the mantis on a deepening yellow bloom and
just as motionless as a cat perched two roofs away. I watched, captivated.
I willed the insect to move. Electricity rushed the wires. A car door closed.
Wind rustled pollen loose as a police helicopter
charged us to the east. Not one spindly leg twitched. I looked up.
– a liminal space, a sudden tumblingwhirring cacophony of
and good blocks
and protection, and
bad blocks and
and grief and so much grief –
Then looked down. Mantis had moved while the rotor blades roared.
It perched upside down mindful, head bowed,
tiny insect arms set in prayer. Steady as the sirens followed
like clockwork. Steady as we thought of our neighbors, knowing not a single one.
i’m with the fishing people.
the big clouds didn’t scare us tonight
instead they blushed graciously at our compliments,
such a nice day!
below the harbor water is black and
waxed fine like a waiting ballroom floor
i have no watch, no phone, no one knows i’m here
one man catches a small one,
throws it back
to skid along the surface
soft Latin music brings on a deepening,
blues and reds,
i watch him catch the same fish again
it dances this time, dies,
one star brightens to accept it, ripples settle out across the sky.
America’s greatest living poet dines
on over-easy eggs and over-done hash browns across from a Sir
Lawrence platinum fryer in Jimmy’s, the greasy spoon of
Fells Point, that swinging port of Baltimore’s finest,
and, in conversing with a Miami homicide
detective turned Carnival cruise PI at the
linoleum counter, our poet appraises an outdated
gold watch, a gambler’s smile pressed in brown eyes,
stories of overboard spouses, matter of fact, drowning like
French toast smothered in syrup; cooks in whites and blacks
short on order, hustling. People lined up, an endless
bristling behind the counter seats; a rich tango of waitresses, plates,
hungry red mouths. Everything a sizzling sound.
More eggs stacked high in cartons. Our poet hears one man yell
“It’s Free!” to no one and all. Everything is in butter. Everything
is dazzling – ready to be snatched up and sold.
(Written in 2016 in the old Jimmy’s Diner in Fells Point, Baltimore, MD)
a burning sky dies over me,
sighs over me, extinguishes
like a lit match
blown softly unconscious.
fingers flaming pass out
into wispy smoke, clouds that once burned
hot slowly rust,
i watch them turn pyroclastic dark,
they turn against me –
an encroaching cloak of emptiness. i watch this death
a hungry voyeur. i listen though
nothing, nothing remains
save a sliver of a moon croaking awake, and black silhouettes
of trees and city rowhome skeletons whispering,
you always leave, you always do
but the gold is worth it for one brief hour,
that one small time our eyes got big
and drank colors possible only in dreams.
Boxes, open at the top, spring up like a new development
of cookie cutter homes waiting to be bought.
You discover pieces of Ikea chairs never assembled
languishing in a closet you opened twice in four years
and M&M earrings (a gift?) never removed from their backing.
There is dust, and dirt, ticket stubs and cat toys shoved far
beneath the couch. You find yourself sitting on the hard floor for hours
listening to music and thumbing through photo albums. Your face was fuller then.
Beneath you the people at the bar pound their fists as the Orioles
hit a run. Across the street, cars wait for steamed crabs at Chris’ Seafood.
Heat rises. Night falls. Tomorrow, this is nothing but a dream.