On Not Being Pat

She entered the café. Our eyes met for three seconds past casual. She was gorgeous.

“Are you Pat?”

I studied my latte. What if I said yes? We’d talk. We’d fall in love, marry, start a family. Then a deathbed confession and plea for forgiveness–I didn’t even know Pat! –but she’d have already fled the room for her lawyer. The priest would murmur, “Only God offers true forgiveness.”

Then Pat swaggered in. He spotted her and pointed to an empty table. She walked away, only looking back when I sighed in relief. He’d saved me a lifetime of trouble!

———————–

“On Not Being Pat” received an honorable mention in the Sebastopol Center for the Arts’In a Breath” contest and was published in West Word, vol. 1 (2000). A longer version appears in Geoffrey’s Air Conditioning & Other Pleasures.

Metamorphosis

Woke up this morning,
waved around my eyestalks —
couldn’t believe my
eyespots.
I felt ugly and slimy.
Never a hangover this bad before!
I oozed to the mirror–
fainted dead away.
I was a slug.

On the bright side,
forget shaving and phoning —
couldn’t call my boss.
Lie in bed all day,
happy in my slime.

But I miss my legs and arms.
Wish I were a cockroach.
Too hard to open
the back door to the garden
and my big patch of cabbage.
I’d looked forward to that
sauerkraut.

Cicadas

My aunts and brothers –
silent, while cicadas make
a horrible racket,
almost drowning out
Reverend Hockett’s words.
Was their rasp
so dreadful
when something in that creek
pulled Ray in,
pulled him deep?

A long before,
an unbearable now.
Nothing I can say to Andy
makes everything better.
Nothing I can tell myself
changes any thing at all.

Every bottle, every flask
I could find,
emptied down the sink
and tossed out.
No more spirits
in my house!
But such gestures
don’t bring back
a lost father.

∞ ∞

I dream we awake
into winter.
Snow covers the furniture,
the windows frosted over,
icicles glitter in the kitchen.
Cold’s come early
to steal midsummer.
The leaves turned from green
to gold to brown
and dropped off as we slept.

A confusion of snow angels
crowd the scuffed floor.
I strike a match
to light the stove,
but the temperature’s
dropping too fast.
Andy shivers
as if no fire
will ever warm him
again.

∞ ∞

It’s been a week and a day,
and three hours.
Andy and I return
to the cemetery.
We’re alone-
no one died
yesterday.

Cicadas buzz in the locust trees.
The wind, slight as it is,
ruffles the foxgloves.
I stroke Andy’s hair
as we kneel by the small mound
of red earth.
I remember Ray’s touch
on my own hair
before we were married,
before …

A shadow blocks the sun.
Andy cries out –
we look up,
somehow expecting Ray.
Only crows.

Down Harkins Fire Road (El Mar de la Purissima)

A pale tide
floods the redwoods,
swirls over chaparral ridges.
The mountain sinks below a white sea;
we ride the waves
a thousand feet
above the coast.

Una pleamar pálida
inunda las secoyas,
remolina alrededor
de las arrugas de chaparral.
La montaña desaparece
debajo de un mar blanco;
montamos las olas
trescientos metros
por encima de la costa.

23 Things on Monday’s List

  1. Wake to the avian overture to your meteorological opera
  2. Whisper the first recitative in your lover’s ear as you rise
  3. Don silk the color of the western horizon at dawn
  4. Ease through the door and into the morning garden
  5. Salute the blue skies
  6. Flit among the English lavender
  7. Burrow beneath the carrots without a sound
  8. Roust the snails and sow bugs that hide between cabbage leaves
  9. Startle earthworms with noble verse
  10. Rest during the midday intermission, but cry out for clouds to appear
  11. Sing a late afternoon love duet with the wren on the beanpole
  12. Waltz among the squash and tango over the tomatoes
  13. Chant to the heroic sunset
  14. Fly with the bats in the twilight, hunting for gnats at the garden’s edge
  15. Howl, but wait until moonrise
  16. Listen for distant yips from the chorus of coyotes
  17. Return their calls note for note (but in a different key)
  18. Fly through the garden again, much slower this time
  19. Carry lettuce in an offering to the stars
  20. Sing your final aria with the voice of dry leaves rustling
  21. Find your place for the curtain call (close to the fennel)
  22. Graciously accept your admiring lover’s gift of a thousand flowers
  23. Revel in thunderous applause from the gathered dragonflies

(appeared in Air Conditioning and Other Pleasures)

A Guide to Leather Glove Care

The hide once fit
some old cow
or steer far better
than it  fits my hands now,

but I’m grateful
for thick, bovine skin
as my father and I
set a line of fence-

posts down the horse pasture’s
edge. From each hole,
I scoop out a winter’s worth
of sodden earth; dank mud soaks

my gloves. When we finish,
the posts feel solid, ready
for fenceboards. In a careless
moment, I toss my dirty

gloves in a plastic bag-without
a cow’s heart, without
its breath–three weeks later–
stiff leather fuzzy with mold,

still damp.

Lichen Tangled in Her Hair

Red-tail calls in the cloudless sky.
I hear him say he saw
the woman with lichen tangled in her hair
dance across the rounded hilltop
under the great, dark oak.
She whirled among thin green stalks
of miner’s lettuce,
over their rounded leaves
and tiny white flowers.
She soared in the shadow
of thick arching branches
that meet ground at their tips.
She danced past tiny caterpillars
dangling from fine threads
that swayed back and forth
in the breeze of her passing.
She somersaulted across leaf litter,
stilling cricket’s rasp
and darkling beetle’s rustle.

I want to ask red-tail
if he saw my true love
dance beneath rough bark
carpeted in deep green moss
and tumble into sunlight
beyond the oak.
But spider has captured my voice
in dusty grey webs
strung between bare branches
Without a voice, I must pantomime,
but red-tail can’t see me
from his distant perch
across the deep canyon
of dark Douglas firs.
Lacy-winged grey flies
with long white legs
hover over her footprints,
understanding nothing,
and turkey vulture glides past,
staring with tiny black eyes,
but won’t say where she’s gone.