There is a stream you were born in.
You didn’t know you were in it. You sang,
rhymed wild sounds, drew pictures
of a grinning boy with flames shooting from his hair.
Then over the slow accumulation of days
people tugged at you, fished you out
into unfamiliar streams, their murky waters.
At first you fought. But their tackle
was too powerful, led to slow deadening.
You didn’t even know you were out, or when.
Still you survived. Got older. Matured.
Memory of your stream tugs at you, an adult.
Always there, a stream is yours.
Always buoyant, it will bear you up.
No one can dam it any more,
except you. Listen to its good voice
as it rushes over rocks.
THE WOLF AT TWO A.M.
again, hail him with a smile and a slap
on his frizzled back.
He has come to remind–
anxiety is a favorite cousin
of being alive. Breathe his hot breath
till it blends your own.
Ask permission to lick his snout.
Will he cower you into terror?
Will he tear you to shreds?
Escort him to your kitchen.
Whip up a meal,
whatever he wants. When you can look
unflinching in his piercing eyes, when so close
you see his jagged teeth are
your edge, you are close.
Open a bottle of wine.
Toast, clink glasses, laugh.
Belly laugh until dawn’s breaking light.
If not this dark night then another.
It’s touched so much:
radishes in spring dirt, the silk lining
of my wife’s nightgown.
And what it has brushed, bridges
time zones and generations,
spans alphabets and oceans.
It’s combed through
mud on a bayou’s banks, guts in a wild trout,
my sister’s hair after Daddy’s funeral,
and the knuckle on which it stands
is like my Grandfather’s:
strong, chapped, often bruised.
I won’t have it burned off. It reminds
of oysters in smoky bars, dewberries
on clotted roadside slopes, spilled whiskey.
There’s so much it has to touch:
a dolphin’s fin, an emperor
penguin’s wing, my grandkids’ feet.
even my coffin. And the viral cap thrives,
weathering close to earth’s grit,
TO THE ANIMAL NOT ROADKILL
For the poodle in Corpus Christi,
I feel awful, still.
And for the gliding roadrunner
outside Santa Fe, my regret has not ebbed.
* * * * * * *
by a hair, a nose, a foot, for what it matters—a mile.
Because I bought organic half & half and veggie meatloaf.
Not because I bought them.
Because I took my own plastic bags, recycle.
If I had braked.
Because I braked.
Because at a propitious moment in history
Because of El Nino, La Nina,
a ripple from another famine in Africa.
If the Moon had been in Leo . . .
If that night had no moon.
Your death couldn’t have been closer, and more likely.
I toast your health, continued good fortune.
you’ve received the ultimate reprieve
how will you live?
AFTER THE FUNERAL
You need to eat an orange.
Under the glare
of fluorescent lights
and a watchful clerk
stocking golden apples,
you have to search
You have to stand in line
behind five other customers
with full carts
to purchase your lone orange
or you can pocket it,
slip out the door.
You have to wait or worry.
There is no quick
and easy way out
from your hunger which may last
a long time.
He can figure percentages in a flash:
exact, errorless, without a calculator.
I can too, without wanting,
One afternoon in late September
showing my tax return
my father’s old math-mind-magic returns;
he leans toward the numbers.
Some men lean together
in beer-stained armchairs toward games
on Sunday afternoons, the TV commentators
doing the talking, others against rifles
in drafty deer blinds. At times we had leaned
those ways, but accounting is closer
to home. He spots a charitable donation
I haven’t claimed. Talking taxes
is not what I wanted as a young man.
I pushed him to lean
as the winds of my requests shifted.
He pushed back. I moved away
not calling to endure
gaps of silence on the phone
until I found my way as he found
when, leaving his father’s farm,
he opened his accounting firm.
Anger drained, I met him where he was
and now, taking a break from Schedule A
we walk outside on a brilliant New Mexico day,
admiring over a thousand tomatoes in my garden.
You’ve got a green thumb
like my father had, he says with a bounce.
We stand together in silence
watching fruit ripening.
My wife joins us.
Rubbing her belly, I feel the boy inside
kick toward my hand or, I wonder, is he pushing
and I think I understand: my father pushed
like his father pushed
and my son will push, and I
pray before the final accounting
we will lean together.