from Mother Tongue
Kit Smart's Cat
-"For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music."
- Christopher Smart
If I were loved like Kit Smart's cat
I'd have shine enough to suit a crow,
be thick enough to stand a spoon
in clotted cream. I'd take my habits black
and cloistered, ceramic thick against my lip.
If I were loved like Kit Smart's cat
I'd drop down on the streets to pray,
wreath my grief with baby's breath,
soft as baby's hair, silky as a bloodhound's ear,
upright as a blood-bibbed robin
if I were Loved like Kit Smart's Cat.
I'd speak my truth in tongue, perhaps,
small round words to mark my way.
I'd end in blossom as peonies bend
their ears to hear the earth
or as purple lilac tips reach up to rub
the soft white belly of the sky.
I'd be that river rock that rises into heron,
all flap and dangle, big-winged bird.
If I were loved like Kit Smart's cat,
what I'd really be, in Easter strut and fringe
and spangle, is that palomino jigging up Fifth Avenue
with Kit Smart's Jeoffry dancing down my spine.
Without calves bawling for their grain
or white heads bobbing on the run
to whee-boys shaken buckets,
it's gotten quiet here.
Last year's first born, a number on his hip,
I didn't see him bid up, cent by cent, per pound,
didn't see which black hat bought him.
But the day before he left, after evening feed,
I scratched behind his ears and ran my fingernails
up and down his long white throat.
His brown eyes lolled behind their lids,
relishing my hands.
I am capable of anything.
Sometimes it's the spoken word, the overheard phrase or conversation that sparks a poem.
-The rehabilitation process typically begins in the acute care setting.
Locked door opens with a bleating bell
(rhymes with fell).
So, beware, you walking ones, coming two
by two on your assumed feet,
breathing unassisted breaths,
too pink, too tan, too altogether
colorful for this cool gray overhead florescence
where weather's always off-white 68 degrees
and time hangs black-rimmed on the wall,
round with pulsing hands- his cannot move-
a place where everything's on wheels-
the golf cart rolled three times
before it pinned him in the pond-
you who clutch your helpless Mylar and helium,
who hand out soft treats
so the attending ones might come
sometime when you say please,
when you call help.
The bitter cup
burns your lips,
words never dreamed of knowing,
You walkers, walk the pale linoleum,
the only path on which the non-anointed
tread (rhymes with dread)
come to hold
unfeeling hands, speak softly
to a face not too bruised and swollen
not to be
beloved beneath the swelling.
Beware, you who lack badge or bracelet,
those looping tentacles and tubes
to measure, measure,
chart and measure
the flowing in and out, graphing
patterns sharp and round.
How shrill their sudden cries:
the language of this cool pale place,
the sibilants that matter.
And here you thought-foolish woman-
you had gotten past the need
to keep him hidden
from sharp yellow teeth
and hungry tongues. Here you thought
you left that horror
back there in the half-grown woods.
Which is why
walk is not a word
to use, not when anyone
Whisper, if you must
invoke the god
of useful limbs,
as he was as a child,
though you should know
before you ask:
in ancient times
the household gods were
always hardest to appease.
I'm just saying.
Seeking the Second Opinion
As Saint Bede saw each human life
as a small bird
flying from the dark across a lit hall
and out into the dark again,
a cardinal hurls
his red self flapping at the feed-room window: thump
and drop, thump and drop
stirring equine medicines
along the feed-bin shelf. All he knows: try to fly.
Not yet so exhausted as to let
my hands around him,
yet having brought
the barn cats down the loft stairs.
His fear of me send him higher,
harder at the glass,
the feed sack I pick up
too stiff to drape him quiet, though stiff enough
to nudge him toward the lesser light
of open feed-room door
where his wings recover
weight and measure, flutter righting into flight
out and down the barn aisle to disappear
on the soft air of before.
After the Trail Ride
Hunkered at his pick-up mirror
both hands comb and smooth
in mannish strokes and, what the hell,
if he sees hair in his reflection,
enjoys the touch across his pate,
who am I to smile?
Anyway, there's someting
optimistic, nicely prideful
about a pocket comb on bald.
Trail Ride Skirting Long Pond
My little horse breasts us a path
through branch tangle
of storm-felled oak,
jigs afterwards in celebration.
I let him.
Back to business,
he climbs a rain-gouged wash
into a stun of yellow coreopsis,
ten planted acres, maybe more,
all blooming mass and dazzle
bordered by a strip of tall thin grass,
mowed paths on which to ride
as if we were expected here.
Something is expected,
There is a ladder to a tree stand.
A great blue heron rises loose-winged
from pond shallows. Banked belly up,
a silver canoe.
Surrounded by bee murmur,
my little horse ambles
through the lure of coreopsis bloom
and seed-head dream, headed home.
Set in a rural background, these poems thread life and death, human and animal, with echoes of 'the current war'.
Again, in rural America, these poems follow a beloved's battle with cancer from diagnosis through death and beyond. Dedicated to 'the caregivers'.
Horses and hounds are the focus of this collection.
* a smaller collection, usually with a theme
First publication (2001), now out of print, with a handful of copies available.
Chronicles a son's accident that caused quadriplegia and the early days of recovery.
Following White Bird: A Sequence, this chapbook continues with the beloved's death and grief's aftermath and recovery.
Books may be purchased from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org