Trespassing the labyrinth

They will not see me, living out of sight down the hill,
the white-robed army of monks at prayer,
the makers of incense and beds and meals
with the smell of God about them.

They might feel me step into their pilgrimage, balancing
between the jagged and the smooth stones,
paying homage to the rock borders that turn
me closer in, farther out, maddeningly
away from the center.

This is no way to live a life.
How many times have they made these very turns
in their cloister, no labyrinth to guide them
but only the vague inner nudge?

It is the place where tortuous and torturous merge.
I take half an hour; they use half their lives.
And for what? A pile of rocks in the center,
a single life well lived?

The question, maybe, gives us pause.
It does not stop that inexorable pull,
like undertow sent to immolate a swimmer
beneath the waves,

or the ineffable peace that spreads with every step.

Abandoned boat at sunrise

Up north, my wife, Felice, slipped
away with emphysema, and my work
cruised on without me—accounts balanced,
mortgages afloat.
                                    My sleep done
down here in Florida, I stand
looking out a darkened window
no one’s looking in.
                                          The morning paper
never comes too soon with its rites
of scandal and opinion. I finger
my few stocks’ shifting fractions, consult
the weather map’s puzzle,

while the percolator gurgles and sighs.
I wait for the light,
                                 wait for that moment
when Felice appears, pouring my cream,
easing my bitterness by asking, “Where
will you go today, and who will you carry?”


That bones will brittle
Is my truth,
And that all little
Cells, forsooth,

Will fail and fall,
And falling, leave
My brain’s recall.
So I receive

Lightness of being,
And a beginning
Of agreeing
With this thinning.

So long, lucidity.
Welcome, life’s
Gentle finality—
Its gradual knife.

Forgive the cells
That float and fly.
They’ve done so well,
And so have I.


I heard the Irishman on the radio say,
only it didn’t sound the way we’d say it:
commonplace, like dirt under the nails.
He held it on his tongue, “Air-th,”
as if it were the best place, like heaven:
spacious, intricate, infinitely rich,
with swells of color and cloud,
forest stipple and patches of swale,
the “r” rolling along like the hills.
As if it were the best word
in the language, better even than love.

Contemplation at the Bar R Ranch

Both the owner and his daughter said we’d have to see the crosses,
so of course I tried to avoid them, but wandering aimlessly

after sublimity as I do on free afternoons I followed a sign
that said “Baptismal” down a narrow way

and stepped carefully on the rocks across the icy creek.
When I looked up there they were, enormous,

big enough to crucify a pteranodon or a giraffe.
As I climbed the muddy path some part of me said,

I have to safeguard my doubts and another remembered
how the old picker said to Goodman, I find

the prettiest woman in the room and play every song for her.
Too edgy to eat, Salinger’s Franny tried to pray

the Jesus prayer all the way through homecoming.
With the sun low behind the crosses, I could barely look.

Thin grass, lichens, rocks and gravel lay low all around,
stunned by some brutal devotion not their own.

Three weeks to solstice. Faint thin birdsong.
So many trees, so many rocks, so many women

whose lives and bodies I will never touch.
The creek rippled on, Shasta glowed in the chilly haze,

a strand of spider silk glinted in and out of sight.
Breathe in: This is paradise. Breathe out: I must go.