As for Living with Dark Matter…

According to the New York Times, astrophysicists have inferred the existence of “dark matter,” which, though transparent, seems to exert a gravitational force on celestial bodies, indicating its substantial mass.

Thus, when yesterday I suddenly

remembered an image from years ago

of a red line slowly etching its way,

straight and narrow

through deep ice, deep silence,

I felt once more the pull of darkness.

 

As with my brother,

who though a painter of desert light,

was pulled into a darkness

that only he could see.

 

The force

that crushes galaxies

extinguished him,

eventually.

 

 

wheeling

How much are we influenced by forces that we cannot see? Do the forces of physics affect even our thoughts? These questions occurred to me after watching hungry sea-birds zero in on their prey.

 

wheeling

 

off the pacific shore thousands

of shearwaters, pelicans, and gulls

fly to a spot beyond the surf-line to

circle clockwise over their target:

a writhing globe of silver anchovies.

the hunters then tuck in their wings,

dive into the sea at highest velocity,

become feathered missiles

that slam into the chaos of spray.

 

the wheeling, the orbiting, the arcing:

quite common in nature.

even in our petty minds

thoughts of hunger, anger,

love and memory, all wheel around,

driven by invisible power more

fundamental, perhaps more profound

than the forces of time,

light, and gravity.

 

 

heat from an angry sun…

smoke from distant fires.

so what is it

that i am doing here?

hoping to erase

two recent deaths —

the suicide of one brother,

the slow, withering death

of the other?

 

i hunt down the pain,

find it beside this river

now dry from drought,

beneath the dying bay trees,

big leaf maples, beneath

sycamore and cottonwood,

 

even the isolated pools

that reliably held water

for stranded trout

until the first fall rains —

now even those miracles

 

are gone,

their flash-magic in

sun-dappled water

turned dull in the dust.

 

dizzy with heat

i sit in rock shadow,

swig tepid water

from a plastic bottle.

 

i force my eyes

to search

the trail ahead.

 

white noise

 

thunder of earth tearing itself tectonically,

volcanically, and then the tsunami

rushing on-shore, ash gushing into sky,

people consumed in water or fire

 

thunder of missiles from predator drones,

bombs blowing up mud homes or

churches or subways and then come

the shrieks of people interrupted

 

or mother’s open-mouthed gasping,

eyes half-lidded, unfocused,

nonetheless teaching me a final lesson,

by working her way toward death

.

all cacophony suddenly hushes

as I watch the five-year old

run with the dog through the orchard

in and out of yellow-gold light

 

just the noise of holding my breath

 

 

don’t accuse me…

Young adolescents fear looking different from the rest of the kids. This poem describes an experience I had in the seventh grade. At the time “cool” shoes were black slip-ons with a long and narrow look, ending with a pointed toe. It’s obviously a trivial thing, except if you’re the kid who’s wearing the “wrong” thing.

Much more serious was my father’s plight. During the Great Depression his father deserted his family of thirteen kids. Having to quit school in order to earn money for his family as a caddy didn’t seem to hurt my father for a while. He got to practice during slow times at the course and eventually earned his Class A PGA card in tournaments. He also worked his way from assistant to head pro. Dad even designed some courses. However, when he herniated a disc the pain was so severe he could no longer work as a golf pro.

So then what, for him and for his family? Golf was all he knew. Well, he didn’t desert us as some guys do. He did the right but difficult thing: he worked jobs that made him feel ashamed in order to support us.

 

don’t accuse me…

 

of being an ex-hippie…

‘cause dressing down held no appeal

for us who could never dress up.

my well-meaning mother

bought me black oxfords

navy surplus

with toes so bulbous

they looked like submarines

and when I floated them forward

through the halls of the junior high

I felt everyone staring

as they squeezed toward the walls

desperate to escape crushing

by those thick black soles

that I would‘ve hid

if I could’ve figured a way

to walk and hide my feet

at the same time.

 

but I’ve just written that into the past.

time to let go of sixty-year-old scars I say to myself.

 

yet I’ll never get over my father’s shame

as school janitor

my father with little school

with wife and sons to feed to clothe

and with daily courage

to work a job

scorned

by the soft-handed, ham-bellied

well-to-do

by the same chest-thumpers

who boast they value

hard work.

 

On the Bottom shelf…

…I found his dog tags

in a yellowed folder

with old telegrams

addressed to Aunt Flo:

husband Rusty, dead

in Japan where he

had been posted

after serving

in the Korean War,

which was

after he had served

in Africa and Europe,

earning a bronze star

with oak leaf clusters

for heroism in

the mud and blood of a

Nazi ambush.

 

Just to show

that you never know,

he died of asphyxiation

with other GI’s in a

bunkhouse:

malfunctioning heater.

No mud or blood.

 

We still have photos of

Uncle Rusty and Aunt Flo

playing with us

three little boys

out on the bleak

Kansas prairie,

where the wind blows

relentlessly,

where both are now

buried beneath

Memorial day flowers:

petals and memories

scattered by the inevitable

Kansas wind.

 

How can we bear to

live in this world?

 

no money-back guarantees, sweetheart

 

so i coffee myself awake

while looking through

dark windows

for signs of early dawn,

and searching for words

to cobble

into this haiku for you:

        dawn-frost coats the oak

              yellow leaves fall on our path 

        your warm breath

desperate to capture

our morning

before it

slips away