Road trip

“This illusion trips him. . . . He runs.
Ah: runs. Runs.”
                       John Updike, Rabbit, Run


This step-after-step chase-to-the-afterlife
invites detours—dust: the afterthought kicked up
by heels leaving the scene: I run,
you run, he runs, she runs, they run
away, beyond, the body dragging
the last of its soul by a shoelace.

Over deserts, over cliffs,
over lakes—frozen and un—
over hotel Gideons and attic King James,
over Good News for Modern Man
and Book of Common Prayer,
the feet punctuate their ellipses, pivot
to prodigal or penitent;
you can’t tell by the flesh
blistered with persistence.
It’s the finish line that knows,
the aching tendons that remember.


Oh, that’s a Pignut Hickory, she says, showing off,
   and pointing to a great splash of yellow and green.
One lonely cedar stands tall in its own climate of ripe
   fall fragrance you want to keep on your fingers
   as you break its seed with your nail.
An oak still green with one small spray of tan,
   as though to say impatiently, I know, I know.
   Just wait.

Day of the Dead

November 1st, the veil thinner, and we remember
those who’ve gone to the other side. Don’t worry,
I say, I’ll be there soon. But for now, I mark the presence
of their absence, an ache in the throat, a finger
on memory’s pulse. Light candles to keep out the dark,
to mark a path, should they wish to return. The floating world
shimmers and ebbs. I’d like to cross over, just for one hour,
see my mother, hold my baby, talk to Clare. Perched on our shoulders,
the dead ride with us, teetering like pyramids of water skiers, forming
enormous wings. Their words, though, remain inaudible. Cold syllables.
They scratch maps in frost on dark windows, but no one can read them.

Cross the threshold. This night is ancient and long. Whisper in my ear,
tell me what the new year will bring. Look at how the candle uses up
its wax. See how the smoke rises in the hearth.


By purest chance I was out in our street when the kindergarten
Bus mumbled past going slow and I looked up just as all seven
Kids on my side of the bus looked at me and I grinned and they
Lit up and all this crap about God being dead and where is God
And who owns God and who hears God better than whom is the
Most egregiously stupid crap imaginable because if you want to
See God and have God see you and have this mutual perception
Be completely untrammeled by blather and greed and comment,
Go stand in the street as the kindergarten bus murmurs past. I’m
Not kidding and this is not a metaphor. I am completely serious.
Everyone babbles about God but I saw God this morning just as
The bus slowed down for the stop on Maple Street. God was six
Girls and one boy with a bright green and purple stegosaurus hat.
Of course God would wear a brilliantly colored tall dinosaur hat!
If you were the Imagination that dreamed up everything that ever
Was in this blistering perfect terrible world, wouldn’t you wear a
Hat celebrating some of the wildest most amazing developments?

Dark and light places

“. . . the great dark place of all my dream life.”
                                        Alfred Kazin, A Walker in the City

I ran away from home once
to the nearby Bell Theatre,
where I often viewed musicals
and comedies with my family.
I wanted to escape from quarrels,
to find in the dark a life
as shimmering as the stars.

The Sound and the Fury with Yul Brynner
and Joanne Woodward was playing
that night. Before long, my father
came to take me home. I was eleven,
too young to flee my family.
He rescued me, as he would later,
while away in school, sending me
cash folded into his letters.

My father resisted my mother
as well: Thanksgiving he refused
to eat her green peas and mushrooms,
dubbed them buckshot and devil umbrellas
word play an antidote to bickering.

Years on, I taught Faulkner’s novel,
remembered the night my father
took me home, his small notes
on the underside of silver paper
lining his cigarette packs.