Comfort

Nothing really depends on the little red wheelbarrow,

but seeing it in the middle of the yard brings me comfort.

Like a poem I first read in a middle school textbook.

Someone had scratched out the word chickens

in the poem and wrote the word dicks above it.

The memory of reading the poem for the first time

and the discovery of the dirty word still makes me laugh.

Nothings is dependent upon the memory,

but the feeling of the laugh in the back of my throat

brings me comfort.

Smoke break

An old aluminum gate can be found in my friend’s backyard,

a remnant of a chain-link fence that once ran the perimeter of his property.

I love an old gate.

This one stands defiantly open and covered over with tendrils of dead ivy.

Life imitating art, or rather, inanimate life imitating art.

A Chinese moon gate promises transcendence.

My wife inside the house crying, I hope for something of the same

as I pass through my friend’s gate and step into the alley for a cigarette.

These are the sounds that make me sad

It’s like a whoosh but not quite,

the sound of a heavy door pulling

away from a soft cushion

of thick weather stripping.

It reminds me of visiting grandma,

ringing the doorbell and her appearing

behind the square pane of privacy glass,

and then whoosh as she opens the door slowly.

She’s surprised to see me and grins,

holding the storm door open

with frail hands and saying,

“Hot enough for you?”

Then there’s the scrapping sound

of a rusty shovel being dragged

back and forth across the surface

of the bed of a Ford F-150.

It’s like a grading sound

as I push the shovel away from me

and more of a scrapping sound

as I pull it back with a scoop of mulch.

I’m working outside with my dad,

and taking his hat off his head,

he’s saying, ”It’s funny,

trees are cannibals.”

Brad is not God

Brad says not to cut the pin oak down.

That tree will be as tall as the house

when your daughter reaches high school.

A tree falling down, Brad says,

should be an act of God,

and I am not Him.

Yet as he maneuvers his cherrypicker

toward the heavens and begins

to trim away the dead limbs,

his head haloed by matutinal sunlight,

I can’t resist the urge to get down on my knees

& supplicate myself to the deity with chainsaw.

Please forgive me, dear Lord.

Please won’t you bless me.

Please won’t you cut away the dead inside me.

But Brad is not God.

He’s only got that picker for the weekend.

That’ll be one hundred dollars, he says.

Johnson City, Tenn.

A column of light, filled with air

I am a column of light

filled with air.

This column,

infused as it is with air and light,

allows nothing to get inside.

No virus.

No ego (not even my own).

No chaos whatsoever.

 

As a child in Sunday school,

wearing church socks and penny loafers,

innocent as a wild blueberry,

I learned that Jesus said,

“I am the light of the world.

Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,

but will have the light of life.”

 

At an ashram in Brooklyn last year,

with quaffed hair and a nose ring,

wild with cosmopolitan abandon,

I learned about wave breathing

and the inevitability of death.

 

Now, as I walk through

the valley of invisible fire,

my wife seven months pregnant,

I will fear nothing.

No virus.

No ego (not even my own).

No chaos whatsoever.

My rod (the light)

and my staff (my breath)

comfort me.

Martinsburg, W. Va, 2020