Three Scenes with Birds

(For Mazie)

Sometimes one day just seems to fade into the next until they can’t be told apart, they become a river bearing its contents swiftly to the sea, all just a single moving, flowing thing, but then on one early evening you are out walking with your dog, you are absently turning over the inconsequential thoughts in mind which begin to dissolve even as soon as they emerge, and maybe it is a warm soft breeze which you barely notice as it quietly slides around you in your state of semi-trance, until you suddenly look up and spot a gathering of Robins perched, silent, in the stripped tree top of a Maple at sunset, and they are glowing golden, impossibly, in the shine of the late day light, and you can’t look away, and even as the sky darkens, you are still standing motionless in place.

Then again, you are sipping on your first coffee while gazing out the window into your front yard when a large flock of pearl-grey doves descends from above on the fruiting Cherry tree and begins feeding greedily on the ripe fruit in a blurry frenzy of motion, the crimson juice smearing their beaks, staining their iridescent feathers red, and then suddenly they rise into the air as one immense being, fly off in a swirl into the vast blue void of a mountain morning sky, leaving not a single cherry behind.

And then there was the time the little Hermit Thrush collided into the front window, and you quickly ran out to see if he had survived, but he was lying on his back, his spindly little legs stuck straight up in the air, and you gently picked him up, you wrapped him in a soft towel to keep him warm, you let your own life flow out into the tiny creature, your love, and you set him down in a box, on a bed of bunched cloth, you waited as his soul flew out into the heavens and learned everything a bird could ever know, and then he returned at last, went straight up to a nearby perch in the tall pine, and there he was joined by a hummingbird, and they sat for a very long time, together, and then he flew away, but now he returns again and again — you named him.

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Thanksgiving Menus

Before we knew it, the sons and daughters
of our parents had grown old themselves.
Some are even intermingled with the ghosts,
some have gone beyond and returned, and now
they run up and down and jump and play, barely
aware of, and mostly unconcerned about, the world
to which they’ve returned, just completely thrilled
to have these bodies, this endless energy again,
to see it all again as if for the very first time,
to taste and hear and smell and touch again,
and it is always for the first time, this one
and only life lived again and again in endless
dramas, dramas of experience, dramas of hope
and regret, of gain and loss, life after life lived
just for the fun of it, like a child’s favorite game,
or even a terrible tragedy, but everyone rises up
from the stage once the curtain comes down,
the actors laugh and embrace, toast each other
with sodas and champagne, then they plan
their holiday menus, and share the best ideas.

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Morning Ode to Nuggie

Happy Good Morning, my darling little Friend,
Happy Dog Day to you, my dearest little Darling,
last night you snuggled so warmly between us,
was there any other bliss than that, and now
you are so beautiful this morning, yes, you are
so beautiful today, I love your little bat ears,
you have the best little ears of anyone
in the whole world, better than any dog
or bat, I love to rub your sweet little ears,
so soft, so perfectly formed, a miracle really,
I kiss your ears, I rub your darling walnut head,
such a dear petite little head and perfect snout,
the dearest head, the cutest ears, so lovingly
you lick my hand, so gently you love-bite
my fingers with your tiny teeth, you are
our little sweetheart, our doll baby child,
you aren’t a dog, you’re a magical being,
a fairy elf of a friend, a tiny dancing darling,
with such delicate little feet, the tiniest of toes,
and now you open wide your sweet little mouth
to yawn — big yawn — and I am yawning with you!

 

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It Comes To This

Inevitably it comes to this — perhaps unexpected,
though not really. It seems clocked into the mechanism,
an insistent sort of ticking, timing itself out, inexorably, now
impervious to desire, to will, and then the slow boil of memory
bubbles up in discreet fragments, many thought forgotten,
not in any particular sequence or chronological order,
not as a lengthy litany of wins, losses, and draws,
nor even as a judgment or confirmation:

just the remembered sound of rain in the night,
a warm wind, the windows wide open, breathing,
moving in the dark with her, mindless ecstasy;

looking up suddenly in the grammar school play yard,
a formation of bombers leaving long white smoke trails
across a perfectly clear blue sky, roar of jet engines;

the taste of a victory Coca Cola after the ball game,
team mates all shouting and clapping, the broad smile
on the face of your father in the stands, applauding;

a swift pull on the fishing line, then the startling leap
of a Rainbow Trout, the pounding heart, the desperate
contest, the taste of fresh fish from the campfire;

scrolling through endless spreadsheets in the office,
then downloading the face of a saint on the new computer,
the breathlessness as the file slowly opened, mind stopped;

standing at her door at dawn, the cry of two peacocks,
the rain as we drove away, the music playing on the radio,
us laughing like never before, the old ache pacified at last;

the endless blizzard, finally crawling out the second story
window, the city shut down, people skiing through the streets,
trying to get to work, turning back, the sound of snowplows;

leaving the known behind, no longer caring, then kneeling
before the old Asian master, the game today transparent,
now the fist shoots straight up, a sudden shout — free;

a small sleeping dog curled in your lap before the fire,
the daylight fading in the window at dusk, a glass
of wine to wash away the random brief regrets;

and each memory fragment is quickly followed by another,
until they all conflate together in a cascade of emotions,
then a gradual dissipation, pooling at last in a silence
where nothing is remembered, nothing is revealed.

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Being Human

Do not wonder about the fate of the humans.
Perhaps some of them will remain.

They will create new names for themselves,
those ones who somehow manage to remain.

Then they will go about from place to place,
places with no names, until they find
at last flat slabs of stone.

There they will pause and rest.
There they will mark their names.

They will clear away the serpents, they will
make the fires that burn through the night.

After a while, they will gather in tribes —
tribes with the best names, the strong names.

They will choose clever new priests who can tell
the dreams and repeat the long lies that the people,
the humans, love to hear, again and again.

The priests will say the god is near, they will whisper
the name of the god, and his name will be strong,
his name will be great, it will be marked high
on the rock slabs, above the other names.

When the tribe has fed, they will stand together
to chant the sacred name, the great god’s name.

Oh, it will be holy, women will clutch their babies,
others will pull their hair and shriek.

That night, the god will come in dreams,
this god who gives and takes away.

Mysterious will be his godly ways.

For another cup of the sweet new wine,
poets will praise that made-up god with words
that sound both wonderful and true.

Later, in the shadows, they will weep.

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The Note

If you glanced out your front window and saw me walking towards your door, you might imagine that you know me, that I have a familiar look, a friendly face when you least expect to see or know one — no one really, just someone who would not really mind if you ignored the knock, the knock I made upon your door, someone who would understand that you only wished to hear the song of the beautiful lone canary, someone who would, in deference to that beauteous song bird, refrain from stirring up a ruckus at your door, some one who, instead, would leave a certain note by your doorbell, the same one that has been out of order for years, and when you got this note, maybe in an hour, maybe by this time next week, you would open it and read:

I was here. I heard the beautiful canary singing.
With my hand made of flesh and bone,
with my hand made of blood and sinew,
with this hand composed of thought,
with my every thought made of mind,
with this mind I raised a lonely hand.

I knocked upon your door, the door
made of wood, the door made of metal,
metal made of mind, a mind door
appearing in the midst of pristine space,
this space made of emptiness, gloriously
transparent, this emptiness not a thing,
not an object of mind, not really a door,
not even a mind, and I was knocking,
I was knocking on your door.

It was in all beauty itself that I walked
to your door. There was beauty before me,
beauty behind me, and all there is, this
beauty, it surrounds me. It leads me
to this door, leads me to your door.

I was knocking on your door. With my heart
floating on a foam of ecstasy, of beauty,
with my hand composed of every beauty,
and my mind, my mind made of beauty,
beauty this emptiness, beauty this fullness,
beauty this very heart-essence, the essence
of you and me, of all of us, of everything
with any rudimentary sense of beauty —
beauty our rest and beauty our motion,
the motion raising itself in beauty —
that same beauty was knocking at your door.

There is beauty in the dark cloud as much as
in the sunshine, beauty in the mist and rain,
beauty in the leaves and twigs, the stones
lying in the path, the path filled with beauty,
beauty returning once again to beauty,
leading up to your front door.

I came unto your door, I thereupon intuited
your beauty — it is a hidden treasure, it is
a secret sort of subtle beauty, I sensed it,
a wordless beauty, unspeakable beauty,
I had no words, no beautiful words
to coax you from your silence,
to coax you to the door.

Please understand, there is flowing water
which has no end or any beginning.
It is the beauty I came to offer you,
should you open your front door.

I am water, I am beauty, I am rising
to your door. I will rise and fall, yes,
I will show you the beauty of the water,
I will come with lightning flashing,
the zigzag lightning lit with beauty,
electric with our beauty, flashing
brightly at your door.

Yes, I have made the sacrifice,
I have left the dark cloud,
I have left the empty sky,
I have renounced the old beauty
to walk on water to your door.

When I leave here now I will be
laughing, when I leave here now
I am glad, glad to walk in beauty,
glad to leave the beauty behind.

Before me there is only beauty.
Behind me beauty shines.
I am leaving you this note here.
I am leaving it behind.

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Thirteen Cases

Among the living, my eyes are open;
among the dead, my eyes are open still;
among the thieves, I’ve holes in my pockets;
among the liars, I am almost believed;
among the fruits, I am falling, though I never
reach the ground;
among identities, I am mistaken;
among the warriors, I walk away;
among the leaves, I cling to my branch
through winter — I prefer the higher view;
among the remembered, I am forgotten;
among the forgotten, I am a tree;
among the trees, I won’t be remembered;
among the singers, I remain silent;
among the silent, I am singing this song.

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