(We’ve just had Memorial Day, here in the USA, when we especially commemorate those who have died fighting our wars, and we place flowers, as well, on the graves of all of our deceased loved ones.)
The wheel turns once again to this:
the image of your going
that appalling, horrid yesterday.
Old wounds stir beneath their scars
memories of anguish, fear, and disarray–
the sudden darkness
of your life’s closing parenthesis.
Yet anniversaries are not required
for our in memoriam—
let those who think so
take their yearly flowers to your grave.
They’ll soon forget again. They do not know
the way you visit constantly
as earth, the air, the water, …fire…
as reminding, unseen amulet,
as the in-dwelling, the abruptly
disappearing dream at dawn,
the little pause over a cup at noon,
the lengthening shadow on the lawn—
in the gut-pull of gravity,
split-second, as each sinking sun is set.
—for a friend on the occasion of his seventy-something birthday
Now as you approach that swinging door
And think this day you’ve just arrived, before
You realize you’re also leaving seventy and more,
Do not be sad, and do not fear;
You get to keep this number for another year.
What’s in a number anyway? No more
Than abstract stuff enough to bore
To songlessness a moody troubadour
Or make a turnip shed a tear
Or take the rooster out of Chanticleer.
No, it’s not the numeral that we deplore
But tendencies of an outworn folklore
To make one seem a dinosaur
When it is perfectly, quite clear
To one’s own mind: “I’m not as I appear.”
In one’s own mind, one is eleven evermore:
One day a cowboy, next a sagamore,
Then a young blade barefoot on the shore
Lit up by love, crushed by a cruel sneer.
The feelings do not age, they persevere.
So let us spit the bitter in the cuspidor,
Immortalize the sweetness in a metaphor
And raise our voices in a great “Encore!”
This birthday thing’s a time for cheer,
A time for more than one more beer.
And if you come a little bit footsore,
Wearing a birthday suit unlike the one you wore
Into this life—this life that you adore—
So what? You are still you, still dear,
But best of all, you are still here.
she was a dumpster digger
of an undetermined age
a little strumpet left
to cruise the city streets
hurting fighting dirty
when a trumpet-playing hand
in the Salvation Army band
lifted her up from misery
took her to shelterland
“Hallelujah” was the name we
gave her when we took her home
we cleaned her double paws
we fed her fish and love and
just plain “Lulu” she became
not cute not pretty she is
small and oddly beautiful
a true fur person of droll
asymmetrical black markings
on a fluffy coat dull gold
with wise yellow eyes
mooting the question whether
felines really do have souls
since winter’s come she has
the job of watching snow
leaving her customary station
on the piano by the metronome
she jumps to a wide windowsill
as soon as flakes begin to fall
there she remains a sentinel
until snow stops she simply
stares quite statuesquely still
it’s harder now with getting old
yet there’s a grit about her
watching there—like a survivor
pondering a once-known time
or place where it was very cold
. LULU, SNOW WATCHER
They are not mean, but meaning to be kind,
the ones whose work it is to bring him here–
merely a job to do, to hold and steer
an old man who is frail, half-blind,
toward a sunny bench where he may find
companionship in leafy atmosphere–
perhaps a little bird to tweet some cheer
and take him out of his own mind.
Here, everything is new under the sun:
the spill of light climbs up a tree
a little breast of sand temples the ants
a chickadee bows like a tiny nun
upon a branch, to hear the pink soliloquy
of a wild rose, dressed for the dance.
All is circumstance.
Seated between mirth and agony
no longer wishing to foresee
no longer slave to memory
his ancientness, still as a garden gnome,
waits for whoever comes to fetch him home.
. IN A GARDEN OF GIVENS