On Thanksgiving 2021
The Second Time
One spring morning, as you
leave the old house you inherited,
pull the same Dutch door closed,
descend the same few brownstone steps
as did he that fateful winter
You head down the same slate path to a
different Prius, to a different destination,
and mid-way to the car
A curious yellowjacket
disembarks from a yellow daffodil's fronds
and lands on your arm
He does a small circle dance,
comes full stop and stares
at your staring
And you realize, he is not there
to do you harm,
to cause delay,
to get in the way
But to serve as a living homonym
(Even if he really is a wasp!)
to signal you to simply: Be.
February 26, 2021
It is the strangest feeling, disorienting at best, to realize that my best pal is missing for seven years now.
I heard this read on a public radio program recently and thought it would do well for a moment of solace at a time when so many of us feel frequently inconsolable.
I love the riverbank passage best.
You will come at a turning of the trail
to a wall of flame
After the hard climb & the exhausted dreaming
you will come to a place where he
with whom you have walked this far
will stop will stand
beside you on the treacherous steep path
& stare as you shiver at the moving wall, the flame
that blocks your vision of what comes after.
And that one
who you thought would accompany you always,
who held your face
tenderly a little while in his hands—
who pressed the palms of his hands into drenched grass
& washed from your cheeks, the tear-tracks—
he is telling you now
that all that stands between you
& everything you have known since the beginning
is this: this wall. Between yourself
& the beloved, between yourself & your joy,
the riverbank swaying with wildflowers, the shaft
of sunlight on the rock, the song.
Will you pass through it now, will you let it consume
whatever solidness this is
you call your life, & send
you out, a tremor of heat,
a radiance, a changed
April 6, 2020 - perhaps at the high curve of the Covid-19 arc.
If we become separated from each other this evening,
try to remember the last time you saw me
and go back, and wait for me there.
I promise, I won’t be very long,
though I’m haunted by the feeling
that I might keep missing you,
with the noise of the city growing too loud
and the day burning out so quickly.
But let’s just say, it’s as good a plan as any.
Just once, let’s imagine a word for
the memory that lives beyond the body,
that circles and sets all things alight.
For I have singled you out
from the whole world
and I would,
even as this darkness is falling,
even when the night comes
when there are no more words,
and the day comes
when there is no more light.
September 30, 2019, once birthday gift.
Sometime last winter - or was it the one before? - I was watching a documentary film on TV about the Jewish Avengers - the Nakam - who sought revenge on Nazi war criminals (and other Germans) in the aftermath of the Holocaust. It was a trying account, and I had to keep taking breaks from the watching. On one, I went out onto my front porch into the chill clear night, and fixed my gaze on the swathe of open sky to the west. What....was...that? I thought at first, it was a plane blinking. Or a helicopter. But it was soundless. It was bright and brighter still and blinking and swelling and it was not my imagination that it was headed directly in my direction. And it was getting larger and larger. And...then...it shattered into a starburst, and appeared to disappear or retreat. A meteor, traveling due east, just at that very moment?? I thought perhaps it was aliens, come to abduct me, who then chickened out...for which I cannot blame them...
Staring at the stars,
I imagine you
vanished and dispersed
in that unreachable
clarity of light.
They glisten, sharp and cold,
vast distances apart
yet coming to their marks
the same time every night
of their season.
The seasons slowly move,
carrying their forms --
I recognize so few:
Orion with his belt
a wobbly W,
the dipper's angled box
and handle, each bright dot
Nothing is fixed,
not even that clear star
that seems to always point
just one way as it speeds
farther and farther off.
All of them are whirling
on their separate paths,
circles and elipses,
poles of radiance
that spread the dark.
What can be made of that?
If you are nothing now
but memory, the stars
seem a proper home.
Long after the sun
swells to disperse the earth,
they'll change as you have,
light vanishing with time,
light beyond the reach
of light itself.
Staring at the light
an explosion sent
from some point nowhere now,
I know it will outlast
whatever I become.
Imagining its end,
I see it moving still
when nothing can be seen
and we are both nothing
Better than the barren wind on a hilltop storming through
a frail empty house for sale in Washington, NY or pounding the door of a room
for the night at an old stolid stone tight mountaintop chateau in Umbria --
incessant, thoughtless, endless...
This wind has vagaries -- rises/falls,
crescendos/diminuendos, hungers sinuously/takes its fill gallantly,
I need go nowhere while it travels the eons, gathers and
scatters particles, scraps, and scrapes of caresses and carcasses and shrapnel
- whispering wailing - all that I did/will know.
Recalling many a once and present summer morning, when Mark was up and out with the sunrise:
I strolled across
An open field;
The sun was out;
Heat was happy.
This way!This way!
The wren's throat shimmered,
Either to other,
The blossoms sang.
The stones sang,
The little ones did,
And flowers jumped
Like small goats.
A ragged fringe
Of daisies waved;
I wasn't alone
In a grove of apples.
Far in the wood
A nestling sighed;
The dew loosened
Its morning smells.
I came where the river
Ran over stones:
My ears knew
An early joy.
And all the waters
Of all the streams
Sang in my veins
That summer day.
It is July 4th, 2018, and I'm especially missing Mark today. We would have been traipsing somewhere outside of this watershed on a day like this, up into the cooler mountain highlands of the Hudson Valley, catching glimpses of fireworks revelries on the southward ride home. But today I am here in these lowlands, drinking and sweating lots of my river's spoils. If you are around these scorched parts, join me in having a zesty glass of chilled white wine to go along with this favorite poem by Galway Kinnell, glass raised for our lost pal:
“If one day it happens
you find yourself with someone you love
in a café at one end
of the Pont Mirabeau, at the zinc bar
where white wine stands in upward opening glasses,
and if you commit then, as we did, the error
one day all this will only be memory,
learn to reach deeper
into the sorrows
to come—to touch
the almost imaginary bones
under the face, to hear under the laughter
the wind crying across the stones. Kiss
which tells you, here,
here is the world. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones.
The still undanced cadence of vanishing.”
Today, 9/30/15, was what would have been Mark's 55th time around, and the Earth gave the Northeast the gift of sustained rain. Mark revelled in the new chill and subtle shifts of light of early fall, and was especially fond of mornings like this - made better by the sounds of drops on leaves, gutters flowing, slick car tires, bathing birds, and last licks crickets.
The following was sent in his memory by our long-time friend and fellow nature-lover, Mary Jo Stanley.
By Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
....two poems, on what would have been his 54th
birthday, September 30, 2014...
By William Carlos Williams
(From Lori C.)
It is a willow when summer is over,
a willow by the river
from which no leaf has fallen nor
bitten by the sun
turned orange or crimson.
The leaves cling and grow paler,
swing and grow paler
over the swirling waters of the river
as if loth to let go,
they are so cool, so drunk with
the swirl of the wind and of the river --
oblivious to winter,
the last to let go and fall
into the water and on the ground.
by Wendell Berry
(From Jim Wright)
From the porch at dusk I watched
a kingfisher wild in flight
he could only have made for joy.
He came down the river, splashing
against the water's dimming face
like a skipped rock, passing
on down out of sight. And still
I could hear the splashes
farther and farther away
as it grew darker. He came back
the same way, dusky as his shadow,
sudden beyond the willows.
The splashes went on out of hearing.
It was dark then. Somewhere
the night had accommodated him
-at the place he was headed for
or where, led by his delight,