Sky cannot know Ground

Pressed against a glass-paneled view
Of a city of skyscrapers
And just beyond that a lake big enough
To stretch beyond my imagination
I am

Understanding death—
Outside steel tops of buildings meet my gaze
Seated from the floor, this top floor,
And I feel the sway of the winds
That make this city famous.

My grandfather, mid-west born,
Had been to this city before. Had
Wreaked havoc down on those streets—
Filling the fountain with soap suds
And pulling trolley’s off their tracks.

I think, when I look down 45 stories,
Of gravity
Of how little we can know of the ground
From this height. In the dark,
The big city lights burn like small lighters
Meekly requesting an encore.


After dinner, by candlelight,
in a bed chilled by October,
reading Silver Threads
by Alice B. Johnson, my great-granddaughter fingers
turn aged pages, and
my eyes drink in words
that taste so familiar.

Is it possible to know
someone who is only a line on a family tree, shadows and
browned pages of poetry,
and Swedish recipes,
and memories from those who are also gone?

I put the thin book on my bedside table,
beside my cell phone,
and a plate of Florence and my
grandfather’s old pocket knife,
and my matches.

From the pages, an inheritance check slips out.

Oh God, I would give it all up!
Just to witness the writing of those threads, the
revisions, and better yet,
the inspirations.

Give it all up just
to hear her daughter explain,
in a warm kitchen,
her version of her mother’s poems.

I blow out the candles, and realize,
with one quick verse,
the past lives on. It is breathing in words
of mothers, daughters,
and home. Will another one find these
so familiar when I’m gone?

North Platte

I wrote this in a motel room very late (or early in the morning) after a long day of driving across Nebraska (towards the end of a cross country road trip with 3 college friends). We had arrived in North Platte in the middle of a great thunderstorm, lightning striking everywhere and tornado warnings on the radio (sadly my friends would not let me chase them). The hallways of the motel resembled a scene in The Shining, and I think all the traveling had really started affecting my brain – especially since I had left MD weeks earlier knowing that I would never see my great aunt ever again (she died of cancer just a few days into the trip). So was born the following….

North Platte

My stomach knots
and this hotel room smells familiar
and my clothes for tomorrow
will be the same as a few days ago
and my big thrill at two in the morning
will be brushing my teeth and showering.

I have the comfort of not caring—
outside the wind stops
and the moon slowly dissolves into shadows
and a mountain lion slips across an asphalt road
staring at the headlights of an intrusive car.

My friends will travel out in the morning,
but I will have slipped away,
Finding a way to grow a flower
in a littered empty coffee cup,
Kicking desert dust up under flip flops
Running towards away,
away to oblivion,
Taillights dimming around a curve
and my friends forgetting to wave goodbye.

Somehow in the dark
I can see my past clearly like my great aunt’s eyes
that stare from the coming sunbeams
and the white clouds and the dark clouds that
flash streaks of splitting lightning
and I grow older and older.

Just yesterday I was a fire ant
marching beside our tent
by the side of some Colorado river and cliffs
in some Colorado valley
where an old fashioned cowboy’s voice sang modern country
to a fading full moon
and ranch workers drunk around a bonfire
who went to sleep sometime.

My friends sleep—they breathe in and out
like the stale hotel room is alive.
But me, I am spitting up blood until dawn
till there’s no more left and I can look forward
to being the skyscrapers of bright city skylines
and the sharp cliffs of national parks.
Tomorrow you’ll hear my relief
exhale across the plains.

Upon Reading Nabokov’s "An Invitation to a Beheading"

I know I know—
Yet there are these
Times when the imaginary
Characters seem to have complexities
Beyond their capabilities,
When the sky
Seems to have shades of meaning
Invisible to the ordinary eye.

That other self says, I know I know—
It is the shadow that throws
My will to live against the wall
And watches it drip off like a smashed
Spider clinging to the web after death;
It is a puffed prison warden who says
To sit still and listen and that soon enoug
It will all be over, justice served.

I must know this; I can feel the cold breath—yet,
The lessons in the book say,
Stand up. Just simply stand up and

Feel alive

When clouds have slid into
Indistinguishable strands of silk as a veil
On the smile of the sunset,

You will take a deep breath
Air will fill your nose, smell sweet,
Settle into your lungs with a sigh.

Feel alive then.
The sand is between your toes and there is
A gentle rockabye song
Playing over your mind; one wave, two wave.
Crash softly, pull back out to the expanse of ocean,
Crash softly.

You will breathe out
Knowing one day this too shall pass. This too shall
Belong simply to your children.