The sparrows
all of them know
his kindness is reliable
even when, especially when
cold, frost and snow
cover their world in difficulty—
they know where to find his love
poured into the feeders
outside his windows—
they taste it in the suet
he prepared and stuffed
into the vacancies
of a fallen cedar
to give energy and sustenance
to wings of all colors
that flicker
like his memories
of a different landscape
a different decade
when he met a girl
who flew in for a closer look
and spread her love over his world—
he soared so high
it took him a long time to land
and by then she was gone—
so he keeps the birds near
to remind him how it felt
to be weightless—
and every morning
the sparrows return
and every evening
they fly away
and take with them
small pieces of his sorrow.






“Snow Birds” by Andrew Wyeth

I Wonder

the writing is on the wall
but for weeks
it’s been on a handwritten sign
at the corner of Main Street
and Emerson Avenue–
black foamboard
white letters
hunched over in the snow–
a kind of crude, yet sincere
devotion to philosophy–
an invitation, really,
to fill in the blank.
“I wonder ______”
Two words that begin a question
so capacious
I worry about the one
who put it there–
what was she thinking?
It must have been a she
who believed existentialism
was the path to understanding
what couldn’t be easily defined–
or maybe it was a man
who erected the sign–
whose only wish
was to know what happened
to the woman who got away
and this was a cry to the universe–
a universe
that will never answer
or care.






Snow Angel

Today, the future has finally arrived
giftwrapped in snow—
it’s the future I hoped for
when I hiked alone
around Yellowwood Lake
a dozen years ago
on a white winter day like this—
ignorant, then,
of how to tell the oaks apart
after their leaves had fallen—
back when I hadn’t a clue
which bird was singing which song—
all I wanted in those days
was someone to share that beauty—
who didn’t need to know anything
about the plants
that grew in wetlands
or on the prairies—
I could have been happy
with a partner
who knew nothing
of the migration patterns
of falcons and owls—
I could have loved someone
even if he couldn’t explain
the differences between
cumulus and cirrus clouds—
but somehow
here I am
on my back in the snow
making angels with someone
who wants to know as much about me
as he knows
about every wildflower
he’ll name for me in spring.


Painting by TC Steele, “Early Snow”

Suicide Attempt 

will start
in the car
and take me
to the edge
of California
the kind
of beauty
I want
to end up in
on the way
I’ll have time
to think
and why not
and I’ll stop
for fuel
and food
to keep
me alive
until I get
to the
I’ll need
to see first
I go black
and it’s a
small hope
that they
will remind me
I have options
and to
go back
I came from
they know
what’s it’s like
to feel stuck
in one place
for so long
and still





Corner Booth

The beautiful man
in the black coat
turns away
sits alone
in a corner booth
looking into his hands
at the menu
so full of choices
and we who see him
wonder why he is alone
why his jaw is clenched
we wonder
if he loves someone
who doesn’t love
him back
and we speculate
that he is too pretty
to be loved
for anything other
than his beauty
because men like that
don’t have breakable
hearts or bodies
that are equipped
for anything
but sex
and when his food
arrives he waits
a long time
for his soup to cool
before he takes a sip
and in the meantime
he uses his napkin
to blot
his darkened eyes.







The filter is on
and love is squirming
trying to say
what it feels
like it needs to say
but I am the gatekeeper
who decides
how much
should be revealed
and I have one finger
on the trigger
one foot on the gas
another finger
over the barrel
and one heel
about to catch fire
from all this friction
all this dragging
all this restraint
that is supposed
to save me
from embarrassment
and the sudden
doe-eyed expression
on my face
that contains
every truth I can
never say.





Painting by Vilhelm Hammershoi, public domain