Temperature’s Rising

Sweating buckets, melted brain:
Just can’t concentrate
On words to form a cool refrain
Or beat sublime
To syncopate.	

The heat is melting all my rhymes,
Is withering my wit.
My words perspire out in whines:
It’s stinking hot!
No light’s been lit

Inside my mind. It’s all for naught!
My hands thrown in the air.
A fusty poem is all I’ve got.
My verse: it strains.
My thoughts . . . elsewhere.

(August 2022)

Change in elevation

His allegiance abandoned,
He gazed at the buildings
Through his window
From his office perch.
Then leaving the firm
And his profession,
He walked past
Looks of condemnation,
Averted eyes,
And backs
Firmly shut as doors.
In the elevator
His only way was down.

Was it a bee in his bonnet?
Or more a matter
Of honor and pride?
He had played along
Longer than was wise,
Deaf to the buzzing
Of conscience,
Blind to the shadows cast
By doubts,
Until one day
His moral disability
Became a liability,
And he found his tongue.
Breaking shamefaced silence,
He spoke of the evil
He had seen and heard.

To many, truth is a relic
As antiquated as
A schoolchild’s
Yet as the lift--
Which one time bore him
To fame
And fortune--
His long
Descent from the infirm firm
Of lying,
Corporate monkeys
Brought him ever nearer
To his honorable self
Whose feet were on the ground.

(October 2021)

Dormant expectancy

Sitting in a sluggish mound
Of opaque disconnection,
My body waits
For a spark,
For motivation to shine through
To animate my mind,
My limbs,
My spirit.
The source is a kindled ember.
The light ignites me in a blaze.
Other times
I wait,
In the dismal dark,
Seeking from a far horizon
A beacon,
Needling through the stifling murk
To jab me into action.

(February 2021)

Winter Writer

My bald head,
Warm under my cap,
My glasses fogged.
Through them I view
The hazy outlines
Of a frozen world:
Blue-white snow.
Glinting sun.
Bare-boned trees.
I feel a chill in the marrow
Of my own bones,
Enervating but brrrrr!
Sound is muffled
Into isolated crunches
And dulled, distant birdsong.
Through a dripping nose
The air is sterile
But cutting in its purity.
I move in swaddled stiffness,
Layered deep
In thermal-wear.
Stiff legs
Belie my hesitant steps
In bulky boots as I
Press my imprint
On a blank page of snow.

(December 2020)

Physics of Being

My inner self transcends my outer body,
Nestled in a core of gentle quietude.
Tangled round my nucleus,
My neural neutrons zing
A frantic orbit,
Side-swiping protons that
Balance my existence.
Constantly off-kilter,
The atom of my being
Is charged
In fluctuation
The self I want to be
And man I am.

(October 2020)

Dog Tale

He was a friendly dog, a golden labradoodle, enormous at six months and–untrained–a handful to be walked. He still had the curiosity and limited attention span of a puppy, so anything that moved gripped his interest for a minute and a half at most and triggered the dog’s chase response. Every few yards he lunged in a new direction. The path was full of smells that resonated in a primitive part of the dog’s mind: gamey squirrels and raccoons, the inflammatory challenges of other canine territorial markings, earth and mold that quickened his pulse in a way that never occurred indoors.

It was a balmy mid-November afternoon, and an approaching cold front had pushed moist, warm air ahead of it. Every living creature seemed to be outside, scurrying before the storm like busy ants, or else indulging in one last glorious day of hooky like lazy grasshoppers. The dog was caught up in the buoyant mood that was transmitted on the wind. He longed to be unleashed and to have the space to realize his fastest speed, which was as yet untested.

Most of the day the pup was left alone in a modest-sized bungalow while the humans he lived with went away. He had no sense of work or responsibilities; it seemed unnatural for the members of his pack to be gone for so long on what must be some sort of hunt. He heard the car drive off in the morning, after his morning ablutions in the yard, and return in the evening before the walk he anticipated all day.

Today was a treat, however. It was early afternoon and the female of his interspecies family had stayed at home while the male left as usual. She had remained in bed and had even allowed the dog to crawl in–usually a “bad dog no-no.” She repeated his name, “Beau,” and made other sad, crooning noises as she curled around him, sniffing. He licked the salt water from her hands after she wiped her eyes and nestled close to her warmth.

For a while that morning, Beau dozed. Later, they arose and she gave him “good boy” treats. She made noises at him that he couldn’t understand, and she repeatedly petted him and took his face in her hands. In response, he patiently sat near her, perking his floppy ears as he listened for the few words he understood, and continued to lick her hand regardless of whether or not it was salty. She scratched behind his ears as she sighed, then grabbed his leash.

The word “walk” was unnecessary; he began dashing around excitedly the moment she went over to the hook that held the harness and retractable leash, barely staying still long enough for her to insert his legs and hook on the cord. They were out the door and–yes!–heading for the dirt path along the creek, instead of the hard pavement of the neighborhood. “Beau, heel!” she repeated, tugging him to slow down, but the concept was still new and easily ignored. Beau bounded at birds to make them fly up and buried his nose in mounds of leaves. His female pack member struggled to keep him reined in and found herself getting a work-out.

A familiar dog had marked the base of an oak tree. It was recent. This was a small terrier that sometimes came to Beau’s yard to play. It loved to dig. When it visited, its human female made noises to Beau’s while the women sat in lawn chairs and tossed the dogs scraps of their sandwiches in exchange for the “beg” trick. On the path, Beau’s female called as the terrier and its companion came into sight. The human made loud noises in return and the terrier barked a greeting to Beau. It was walking slowly alongside a wheeled contraption that smelled vaguely of feces and spittle. The women bent over the stroller, and their voices became gooey and high.

Beau stuck his nose in to sniff the tiny human that was lying asleep. Mingled with the other scents was a sweetness that alerted him to something oddly vulnerable. The terrier intervened protectively, pushing Beau aside, and Beau’s human “no”-ed him before handing his leash to the other woman, taking the tiny person into her arms as the women sat down on a bench.

Beau’s woman burst out in salt water again, and the females touched and began a long bout of noise-making with no intelligible words until Beau and the terrier were commanded to “lie down”; the terrier obeyed the words, and Beau found his way to the ground with physical assistance. He watched as his female nuzzled and stroked the tiny human until it awakened and squealed in a language far more understandable to the dog than adult talk. It was an insistent, needy noise, to which Beau’s human responded with whole-hearted attention and longing.

Oddly troubled, the dog whined its own call to its pack mother, who ignored him, rapt with the moving bundle of baby from which she derived such joy. Beau tugged at her shoelaces with his teeth, but she wriggled her foot out of reach. He stood on all fours and put his head on her knee. She touched the top of it a moment and cooed something to the baby that involved “doggy,” which excited in Beau a desire for more attention, to climb onto her lap to be held as he was as a puppy, to have the cuddling comfort she had shown him that morning.

“Bad dog!!” The words affected him like a shot from a starting pistol. The other female grabbed the infant, dropping the handle of Beau’s leash, and he was off and running. “Beau! Beau! Come, Beau!” The words were too far away to be comprehended in the place in his brain that urged him to bolt. The milky smell of the baby conflicted with his loyalty to his human, and–although he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to whimper or growl–his muscles told him to run, long and hard.

The leash had been retracted to a short length of line, and it banged from side to side on Beau’s back. The path was crowded, so the dog cut among the bordering tall tree trunks, gulping information through his open mouth: the odor of lemony walnut husks, a possum occupying a squirrel’s nest in the canopy of leaves above, fungus on a rotting log, and then the taste in the air of newly-mown grass. Beau followed the last of these to a long open field beside a building and raced down its length and around the back of a netted lean-to before turning to urge his feet to their limit, back up the opposite side of the field. Within the lean-to on the other end, Beau stopped and lay down to survey the green, by his exertions relieved of his confused feelings.

His ears were irritated by the percussive hammering of a bell. Soon a cacophony of small humans erupted from the building. After their surge had dissipated, a bare-legged group burst through a door and out onto the field, kicking a ball ahead of them. “Ball” was a game Beau played with his male human–the rubbery ones that fit in his mouth and the bigger ones like this that were chased and knocked with his paws and snout. Beau watched as the little people stretched, and kicked the ball back and forth for a while, then took positions on the field. A slender female who smelled of flowers approached the net of the lean-to and shooed him out.

On the sidelines, Beau was alert to the movement of the ball as the children kicked it up and down–well, mostly down–the field, the boys and girls at the far end cheering several times when the ball entered the netted lean-to. Finally the ball was maneuvered up Beau’s end of the field. A boy pulled his leg back to kick, and the ball sailed toward the flower-scented girl, who stretched long to catch it.

Beau was on his haunches, ready to spring into the game when someone picked up the handle of his leash. “Sit, Beau.” It was his someone. Sweaty-smelling, she pushed him into the “sit” position and sat close, her arm around him, watching the young humans play. He licked the perspiration on her hand—salty, and the two of them shifted their positions into the embrace of the “pack” they both craved.

(November 2014)

“Oh” to an Orangutan

Oh hairy brother, “person of the forest,”
Far from your dwindling home,
Against the glass I lean
And watch you watching me.
How much do you comprehend
Of your captivity?
Intelligence is in your eyes, but
Do they surmise
The desolate boredom of confinement?
Zoo-born, you know no other life,
Yet do your genes hold a desire
For far-flung swings
Through jungle greens?
Do you harbor orange-furred rage?
Or is your dream deferred
In tight compression?

(December 2014)