In the Park

Along the snowy patches of field,

Almost blue in their cold whiteness,

I find a wooden bench and sit

To retie my weary shoelaces.

 

As the chilled wind tightens around my ears,

Lifting lightly at strands of my hair,

I notice a single cardinal, warbling and

Shuffling through the twigs and crystal ground.

 

I decide to draw a pen from my coat pocket

And a rolled cylinder of pages

To write of his ragged beauty, the deep red

Of his feathers, the drop of ink around his beak.

 

We keep company between us for a while,

He beneath the veil of a cherry blossom,

I on my wooden bench,

Sharing this large plot of blanketed earth as I

 

Jot down the detail of his eyes,

Aimed steadily toward the thaw of spring

When the warm winds will cry out from hibernation

And awaken us both from sleep.

 

I look up from my paper and nod as

The cardinal turns the corner of our little spot in the park,

Raises his patient eyes into the grey air,

And leaps into the frost, soaring into the future

Of years and years of sunlight

As I stand to walk some more.

To Billy Collins

A tribute to my favorite poet…


It was the lanyard that got me first,

Then came the windows, the dogs, the bowl of pears,

All of your words ambling along my field of vision

Like butterflies

As I gently read your poetry in the different chairs of my life.

 

I was reclining on a couch in the early morning

When you ate alone in that Chinese restaurant,

When you spoke of Petrarch’s crazy tights,

When you weighed the dog.

 

Then, during lunch,

Seated at the desk in my classroom,

Carefully selecting the cashews from a little bag,

I read of your autumn leaves,

Your wet umbrella, and your parents.

 

In the afternoon,

As I stopped by the tire store on my way home,

I found myself, legs crossed lazily,

On the iron frown of a folding chair,

Shoved between the yellowed coffeepot,

Pooled with tepid decaf,

And the large bay window to the garage.

 

There, as I waited, I read of your constellations,

The dripping stars, the moonlit swans,

And I laughed a bit at the irony

As I looked up to my own heavens

Only to gaze upon panels of flickering light and dead flies.

 

Late that evening, I shuffled off the petals of a weary day

And nudged my feet deep into the covers of the bed.

My wife softly lay her head beside me,

And I picked up your book to see

The early sun and the old teacher.

 

But as I reached the final page, I noticed,

Perhaps for the first time,

That all the early suns,

Shining through each rain-soaked pane,

And every cup of tea swam freely in my mind,

Happily treading my stream of consciousness

With Petrarch and the bowl of pears,

Teaching me how to hear.

 

So I quietly lay down your poetry,

Placed my hand on my wife’s shoulder,

And followed the moonlit swans as they paddled

Deeper into this tender sleep.

Grief

Another poem…


As I write this,

I’m still breathing hard from a night of fitful sleeping,

My V-neck shirt clinging like dew to my warm chest

While the ceiling fan does its best to gin up

A gentle wind.

 

It’s, let’s see,

I’ll need my glasses for a bit,

2:38 in the morning,

And I’m jotting down my thoughts at the bedside table

Like the doctor said.

Oh, and my feelings,

I’m also recording my feelings.

 

The poetry’s been difficult these days.

It doesn’t flow like it once did.

The Nile’s all dried up, you’d ask,

Or turned to blood in plague? And I’d chuckle.

I tried some in the first stanza with the sweat simile,

But I think I yawned in the middle of it.

 

I remember you used to love a haiku I once wrote

About the cold side of the pillow

(Sort of on the fly, just to see you smile really).

Only now do I see why you liked it so,

As I cycle and recycle this old feather bag

To find that cool shadowy feeling in which to lay

My weary head.

 

It’s only when I glance over at yours in its pristine condition,

And I notice no sagging indention in the center,

That I remember your pillow is always cool now,

Both sides.

 

So, I’ll just lay my glasses back down on the nightstand,

At 2:52 in the morning,

And I’ll climb once more into my tempest of dreams

Where you and I are together again,

If momentarily,

And somewhat wispy in our world of memory,

Before my body shakes awake

At 3:41 AM,

And I lean for my pencil

From my sloppy and disheveled side of the bed.