A bottle of wine winked at me;
said, “You need me today.
I am from California.
I have an edge and I am on sale.”
I choose to believe its slick green surface;
cradled it “home” with a companion or two
and stacked them all, willy-nilly, in the fridge.
The realtor arrived.
The friend came.
Since they inhabited only one body,
I offered a glass of green glassy wine,
a libation to stories with an edge.
Somewhere between glasses two and three,
a buxom idea joined us; crossed her legs,
seated ever more easily on the third chair.
Clouds lifted; skies sang in azure;
sweet summer shade crept across the patio.
We all smiled:
future and heaven
This lovely building,
with its pool and hot-tub, gym and workshop,
pub and crafts room, gardens and fountain,
woods and salmon stream,
Skytrain and City Hall,
arts center, college,
miles of shopping and doctors,
police and politics,
schools and churches, all a mere block away or
even ensconced in the building,
security and all—oh!
How I loathe this lovely building!
The rhodos bloom uptight against their fence,
afraid to drop petal or leaf in the paths
of the masked men gunning away all signs of rot
with black noise drawn from Earth’s sleazy past.
Inside their plastic suits they are safe from thought.
Likely their headphones keep them in step,
block out the beeps and drones and roars
of the whitewashed, whirling dirt-dervish machines,
the phalanx of Progress just behind them.
Inside, the hallways crouch, sibilant as declawed cats—
no wonder the small dogs trot nervously, afraid to sniff
or whine; say anything that might spell d-o-g.
The pools, pockets of liquid poison, lie mostly undisturbed
below their posted rules, graceless , grammarless laws
against most kinds of human behavior.
No one speaks.
But somewhere in the world, even here,
it’s a glorious, sunny day.
I’ll sit on the balcony with tea and a book;
ignore the noise.
Run a finger down the table, cleaned yesterday,
to be sure it’s clean enough.
Black as ink.
I loathe this lovely building.
My ancient apple tree,
who likely refers to me
as her latest human,
somewhat less elderly than she,
has a sense of humor:
Wherever I have swept,
she drops a small green bomb
or shrugs off a bit of the moss
infesting her trunk, which turns
as gray as foot fungus
the minute it hits the concrete.
“Be nice to me,” I growl,
“and I’ll spray you with that elixir
once again, that stuff that took
twenty years off you, last summer.”
But I don’t mind her meddling
with my morning meditation,
the broom a choir of straw
sussurating over stones.
Broom-making may be a dying art,
for this one announced its imminent demise
after a single season.
At least it’s not plastic:
I can cut up the corpse,
let it contribute its final essence
to the warmth of my winter house.
We may survive.
For now, it sings, soft as any broom,
and in the same human key.
My back yard sounds like Indonesia,
feels like Guatemala,
might be Ecuador,
or anywhere swept clean
of human folly,
anywhere people care
“Is anybody using this chair?”
she asks, slim smooth hand
already grasping the thing
by the scruff of its neck.
Of course I am using that chair
at this table for two,
crowded against a friendly wall.
That chair supports
both past and future—
only the present sits empty.
Tony, for one, is due,
my fellow birthday-holder,
the man whose cellphone
remembered to invite me.
This intimate table’s surrounded
by forty sky-happy people I don’t know,
chattering, clattering friends in a future
I may not ever enter.
Have you watched old men or women
converse in a corner
with companions only they can see?
“We save our adulation,” I tell Spence,
“for writers whose characters stay mute—
talk to me later.”
He hands me the leash; kisses my cheek;
signals Grey Dawn to lie at my feet
and heads out the door to tomorrow.
A veil of smoke curls ‘round us both
as Tony slips into the empty seat,
the chair that nobody was using.
His phone lies embedded in hand or in groin—
I can’t tell which—re-telling his life
like a jaded journalist.
Our vaporous talk barely parts the clouds
and his glass disappears
faster than smoke.
I pay; then pace home,
Grey Dawn beside me,
nudging my knees.
“Every birthday,” I tell him,
I occupy more chairs.”
The morning after a book event, the effort required to crank up a writer’s life is simply too great. I take refuge in the simple and mundane…and single-image poetry.
At the hour of silver and gray,
before tricky color seeps into the day,
a crimson electric curve cradles the kettle,
a smile of reassurance:
shortly there will be
Happy homecoming in more than one way–my poem “Talking Stones”, which I wrote with poet friends on retreat in Maui two years ago, has placed in Little Red Tree Press’ competition and will be published in its anthology late this summer. Not only that, I get a cheque.
Don’t quit your day job for poetry, though–it’s fifty US$. That’s the way of it in poetry. One of the most important human activities, and there’s no money in it.
“Blind Bison Jump” was also selected for inclusion in the anthology.
Here is the poem. Be sure to check out Little Red Tree Press, too.