During summers on the lake,
I’d leave the family back
at the trailer after dinner—
because I was a big kid now,
almost 12—and walk to the beach.
The sun would be sagging
in its evening ease, casting
golden flakes upon the chop.
Over the next hour they’d melt
into orange, purple and red
slicks upon the quieting surface,
like a lake-wide gasoline slick
from some grand mahogany runabout
christened Hesperides in gold leaf
on her stern. The sun sinking behind
the pines gave the sky a black eye,
and I’d skip a stone along the surface
to shatter the image of the moon
in the southeast corner of this mirror
of my youth called Snyder’s Lake.
Tonight, as I watched alone the sunset
behind the pines back of my house,
the memory of that bruised sky
hit me in the eye. Must have been
a speck of dust, too, because
I’m a big guy now, almost 65,
and why else would I get teary?
The rains came and went,
just as the sun and stars did,
over and over. But that’s summer,
which also came and went like blinks
for half a century of my recall.
Some things like opportunities
came and went, few I snagged,
others slipping through my fingers
like a silver bass, some passing me
without my noticing, as if
flashing beneath the lake ice,
which comes and goes, too.
Clouds came at night, taking away
the stars I dreamed upon,
dreams that never came,
true or otherwise. But what
would I do with a dream
come true anyway?
Comings and goings are what
life is about. You never came,
just moved past, like that
ice-bound fish, though it was you
not noticing me standing there
with cold feet, captured by your
flash of light and thinking how like
the sun and stars you were.
Always coming, ever going…
Edward Jean Steichen, Carl Sandburg, photographic montage, 1936. © Joanna T. Steichen – National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
I wish I had hair like Carl Sandburg,
silver and smooth, with a near-center part
from which would curl horns of cool
hirsute parentheses that would occasionally
encapsulate the brown and gold irises
of my poetic vision.
I wouldn’t like hair like Walt Whitman
or even Ezra Pound, though, all kind of
wind-wild and wiry. Sure, damned
arty-looking, best kept under wide-brimmed
slouches, but probably troublesome
containing beneath a baseball cap.
Robert Frost’s hair, silver like Carl’s
and mine, just seemed as weedy as
a New England pasture, unfettered by
the neighborly fence of brush or comb.
Emily’s, while smooth as a Berkshire pond,
never made it to silver.
I didn’t slick it back like Stafford when
I had enough to slick, nor even now when
it borders the vacant shores of Lake Roethke.
No, I want Carl’s hair with its quotation mark
cowlicks speaking louder than little cat feet,
as big-shouldered American as the prairie.
The power went out last night,
the only illumination,
until I found the flashlights
and lanterns, were the lights
flashing in the sky.
I asked, in vain, if we could
keep the emergency in-house
lights off so I could watch
the outside electrical ones.
I’m sure that sounded ridiculous
to someone who hasn’t spent nights
on the back porch trying not
to fall asleep as the gods
struck sparks across the sky
and Hendrick Hudson’s crew keggled
in booming strikes and spares.
So last night I took to the dark
back bedroom and marveled at
the light show and the shadows
of the trees dripping down the hill
like rainwater, not just for
its natural majesty, but also for
the power it turned on to make me feel
like a twelve-year-old again.
The waiting gets to you,
especially when you know
that for which you wait
will never come. Yet still
you sit by the window peering
at your out-of-focus world
hoping to see if those eyes
will come into view
and kindly set upon yours.
It’s just another pipe dream
a reverie, that, if realized,
would inevitably break your heart.
Nevertheless, you wait,
even knowing that if these
empty dreams ever came true,
you’d still spend your
graying days by that window
waiting for the next
to manifest itself through
the pane from behind
your fog of sighs.
We’re all dreamers, to some extent, even if we know if that for which we wish will never come. Or, if it did, it would only make us more dreamy and miserable. At least that’s what I see from behind this foggy window, where I write about dreamers and the dreamed-about.
She entered the lobby around 5:00,
the first flirty filaments of her
wafting above the trees, and I,
like a downwind dog,
inhaled them with my eyes.
They twitched like Mollie’s nose
would when she’d sense something
coming before it even arrived.
She crawled from her bed into mine,
stealing the covers and pushing me
out of the ever capricious arms
of rapturous repose.
Oh, how she does conspire to tire
me even before she sprawls
her sparkling robe upon the lawn
and signs the guestbook under the alias
June Twenty-six Two-thousand Seventeen.
But she’s really Dawn Again.
This morning Sun rapped
not too gently on the doors
of my eyes. I knew who was there
immediately, but nonetheless
cracked the lids open
to his blaring reveille.
Sun barged in like an uninvited wind
and made himself home while I
still entertained Sleep and
her low humming songs.
In an awkward scene, she begged
my leave, for her quiet ways and
uninvited Sun’s beaming personality
almost never share a room—
let alone a bed.
I bade her a sad farewell,
as Sun tousled my hair,
pulled back the covers and
called in his friend, Morning.
Last I looked, they were still
bouncing upon my bed.
I phoned Evening, inviting her
back for another visit.
She’s yet to return my call.