National Poetry Month: Day Late and a Dollar Short

As usual, another National Poetry Month
come and gone,
and I’ve written exactly nothing.

Not exactly nothing, I suppose:
a lot of work emails;
Corrective Actions for employees who
refuse to show up on time;
some Facebook posts and Tweets
displaying my amazement or frustration
with some aspect of human existence.

But nothing poetic. Nothing I could
say took something of reality and
lined it out in a way that others would
deem worthy of attention.

And that’s just it, too. Nothing worthy of attention.

I could have been more aware. Then
maybe the words would have come to me,
and also some way to breathe the breath of life
into marks on a page.

Could have, but wasn’t. And so the usual fears,
the worry that something deep within,
the old well-spring, has finally dried up. . . .

This time is different. By now
I’ve seen this enough to know
that wonder and words
will return.

They will return.

Cat

Neighbor’s cat 40’ up the pine,
clinging to a limb.
I’m not afraid of heights.

The extension ladder rests
against the trunk.
Rung over rung I ascend.

The silent cat watches.
At the top of the ladder
I stretch my comforting arms.

Snarls and spitting hisses.
I descend, cat-less. A helper
should not be clawed and bitten.

They told me later the fire dept.
brought a bucket truck.
The cat felt forced to leap.

There should be
some deep lesson here.
Some poetic significance.

Is it bad of me that
all I could think
was catapault?

Wind

   He makes the wind His messengers . . .

Storms from the west.
The remains of many
acquiring lives splintered,
scattered about as if
a spoiled child in foul mood
rampaged the block, bent on
destroying all to prove his will.

The news cameras scan the random
heaps: microwaves, photographs,
torn fabric of what might be
curtains or a prom dress
—a memory formerly
stowed away in the spare closet
now revealed for all to see—

mingled with things
more basic to survival:
the contents of a freezer;
bits of wood and drywall
that only minutes ago was shelter.

The reporter, with requisite empathy,
interviews swollen-eyed residents
who can only mention
some divine power at work.
How silly to see willful intent,
ascribing to some irate or fickle god
what is, after all, just wind.

The Swim Mask

Did you take delight in the sound
of the belt on my bare legs?
Did the red welts please you?
Did you hear my stifled weeping and rejoice?

Or were you just grouchy for having
to welcome
us into your home
—you can’t turn family away, after all—
resentful of having your space invaded
while Mom and Dad got back on their feet?

Would it matter to you now, after 35 years,
if I told you
what I told you then?

Auntie, the lens of the swim mask
was already coming
out of the gasket,
and I was only trying to fix it.

No, I wasn’t hiding it behind my back
because
I was to blame—
I was hiding it for the same reason
prey conceals itself from the predator.