Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Dating at 50 makes me nostalgic for youth, when everything was desperate, hormone driven and rather myopic passion. Now, there's performance anxiety, self-consciousness about a soft waistline, and real fear of loneliness. Here, square in the middle of Fall, just after the autumnal equinox, I wish it were Spring.

The Wild Cherries

The wild cherries are blooming
in heartbreaking profusion:
sudden pale pink in the
midst of burgundy birch buds
and bright green renewal of oaks.

The wild cherries are blooming.
Every turn in the winding road
not blurred by tears
is alive with floral hope
before blossoms drop like snow.

The wild cherries are blooming.
Gray polyglot mockingbirds sing,
hopeful for remnants of
last year's fruit still clinging
to the blood red branches.

The wild cherries are blooming:
again I am opening
and waiting and waiting,
a taste of spring mocking
my own autumn branches.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Making a Difference

We are living in desperate times. The rule of law is slipping away, the last shreds of our humanity are being consumed by ravaging wars and reality TV. What we need is a sonnet, now and then, to remind us of the pleasures of real ethical challenges, and the pleasures of putting them into words.

Remember those smarmy posters that show the back of a human throwing a starfish back into the sea? This was touted for a while as the starfish theory, that improving the life of one tide-washed starfish would change the world. Well, I always thought it wasn't quite that simple.

We cannot restore our precious earth without thinking about the hard questions, challenging our own prejudices, and refusing to accept conventional wisdom. We cannot survive without asking the questions, and as Rilke said, living the questions long enough to understand, finally, that we have lived our way to the answers. This sonnet was my feeble attempt to live the questions, or describe what it might mean to live the questions, rather than living the slogans.

Upon this tide-washed beach the live star lies
And calls to me with challenge ethical:
Toss her back into the sea or walk away.
Above my head ten hungry terns circle
Carnivores gray and black casting death's shadows.
My quandry: the star's fate at my clay-formed feet.
How oft the query here in tidal shallows
Posed,when maybe greater hearts freed stars from land.
But I thought today the terns, too, depend
On salted bounty tossed by wind-bent brine.
Eons before I walked this littered strand
Ocean-tossed stars upon these sands did shine
And fed the shorebirds hunting in bright bands.
The star? The bird? The ocean or my hands?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ben's Songs

In the long light of an autumn day
my small son dances
at the end of our driveway.
To what music?
No boombox thumps,
no car radio intrudes,
nothing you could dance to:
the roar of a garbage truck,
a passing car, a barking dog.

But Ben feels some
happy, silent beat,
and matches the rhythm he
hears: knees bent,
bounces up and down,
hands splayed,
arms stretched, embraces
the moment in the
sinking light.

He looks up at me, beaming,
and reaches for my hand.
As our fingers touch, I hear it:

crickets in the dusk.

I join his dance
in the golden light
of his Autumn dance hall.

The world sings to my son
songs I have forgotten
until he dances them to me.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Texas Mother's Song

Eleven years ago
my son came early.
His father left before that.

So I drove the pickup
to the hospital,
amniotic fluid soaking the seat.

They gave me pitocin and a hard time.

When he was born
he had trouble.
I spent five days

sitting near his isolette
holding his red fingers:
then we could leave.

I walked us down that long hall,

my shoes squeaking
on the tile floor,
the plastic car seat

bumping my hip.
I thought the green walls
would fall on us,

then we made it out the double doors.

The asphalt was soft
beneath the Texas sun
I could see the pickup

listing at a hundred yards:
a flat. Nothing
to do but change it.

In the rosy evening light, I put him in the bed

and changed that tire.
Bone weary, I drove
us home to my father’s house.

No one fussed over us.
Today my son came home
to a strawberry short cake.

Eleven candles burn in the center.

My father says,
“It seems like yesterday
you came here

a wrinkled little
red bastard. Now
look at you.”

My son blushes at the words.

Tomorrow we will
put our things in the bed
of that truck

and drive away
to Chicago
where a new job waits.

My Jubilee Year

Today is my fiftieth birthday. There's a gorgeous full moon. Ben and I had a wonderful dinner and then a long trike ride to the slide and swings, and back again.

I reach this milestone having done the thing I wanted most: being a parent. But I have decided there must be 50 things I still want to do and which I can do this year.

1. Fall in love like a grown up.
2. See the Grand Canyon.
3. Go to DC without marching in protest.
4. Take Ben on a real steam engine.
5. Write something that gets published.
6. Get close enough to George W. Bush to spit, and do it.
7. Lose 30 pounds.
8. Read all of Shakespeare's Sonnets.
9. Write five decent sonnets.
10. Reconnect with college pals Midge Costin, Annie DeGroot and
Leslie Miller.
11. Take my mom to the Chicago Art Institute and buy her dinner afterward.
12. Learn the names of five native butterflies in Latin.
13. Plant 50 bulbs.
14. Plant 5 rose bushes.
15. Visit Mathei Botanical Gardens.
16. Spend time on Drummond with Ben and my dad.
17. Freeze 5 pounds of stewed tomatoes.
18. Learn Spanish.
19. Spend a weekend with my sister Emily with no kids.
20. Visit my mom in Sanibel.
21. Write 50 letters in long hand.
22. Visit Toronto.
23. Make Ben's lifebook.
24. Visit Phil and Jackie in the Adirondacks.
25. Kayak on the Huron River.
26. Bike to Gallup Park with Ben.
27. Eat at the Common Grill in Chelsea and catch a play at the Purple Rose.
28. March on DC with Ben.
29. Visit Janice and Tim in Baton Rouge.
30. Take Ben to the Battle Creek Zoo.
31. Take Ben to the Hands On Museum.
32. Take Ben to Jazzfest.
33. Go to Jazzfest without Ben.
34. Visit the DIA.
35. Go to a Tiger's game.
36. Go to a Piston's game.
37. See one opera.
38. Buy a case of Raspberry Port.
39. Go Christmas caroling.
40. Go tobogganing.
41. Go to the beach at Point Pelee.
42. Pick blueberries with Ben.
43. Win the lotto and go to Hawaii for a month.
44. Spend a weekend with my nephew Cameron and Ben.
45. Walk along an ocean beach at night with a full moon.
46. Ride a roller coaster.
47. Do the Christmas bird count.
48. Go ice skating more than once.
49. Bake Christmas cookies with Emily.
50. Get a pedicure.