Outside Lives

Parking Garage

Catalogue Haiku

Corpse

Heart

Swans

Song

Flight

Off Leash

Travelers

Afterlife
Lurkers

Cover

Starfish

 

 

Parking Garage

 

Descending the tower stairway tier after tier

past lurking car alarms and pissed cement,

she considers her meeting with the dreaded director

and comes face to face with a hawk.

 

Tethered to the earth by hunger

he stands on a feather-strewn ledge

amidst pieces of pigeon meat and flashes

a yellow-eyed warning.

 

She takes a slow step closer

toward the red exit sign behind him

and hears through a hiss of hooked beak:

I will tear out your eyes.

 

Perhaps the director can wait.

 

 

Catalogue Haiku

 

I ordered a hawk

feather in your favorite

hues, size small, no mites.

 

 

Corpse

 

The hawk’s body is gone and I am glad.

Death was something he knew, but waste

of meat was not. Whatever killed him

(bullet, old age, diseased meal of songbird)

something ate him, maybe the fox, hungry

though disappointed by such a lean chicken.

 

 

Heart

 

The goose sat trapped

and stared down death in the dark

while we held our breaths and wondered

how her feet could springtrap such quick cold.

 

We told you after the long trek home,

too deep in the dark to make a difference,

and all next day you did the chores

feeling your feet frozen, webbed in work.

 

By sundown you were spread-eagled

on the ice, and we held our breaths again,

hearts sinking under the ice past black bubbles.

You might have drowned in the goose's wake.

 

Instead you stretched your body tight

and thin across the ice like a rope

tossed to Titanic victims, ex post

facto, and we saw you heroic one moment,

nose to beak the next with a perfect plastic decoy.

 

 

Swans

 

Through clouds of time they've climbed the sky

and never needed more or less than flying

side by side. The feathered pair and seven cygnets

swim with folded wings through fair

fine silver air of storms spent, fears stilled. Soft

dawn beams of light are slight surprise to

those who float on colors of the sky.

 

 

Song

 

Mourning doves know parting.

They fly away

and cry in the cool dusk

remembering

the soft closeness of feathers.

 

 

Flight

 

Severed from her sheep,

the aging dog herds gulls,

wheeling along the beach

under their winged shadows.

Her eyes mark each sharp turn,

her ears alert for bleats.

The birds tease out of reach

and screech at her.

 

She waves her plumed tail

and in a blur of legs

lifts off the sand to sail

around the scattered flock,

her teeth snapping at pale

feathers of strays, her tongue

hung to one side, glad

to gather a herd again

at last.

 

 

Off Leash

 

Dogs know what wild-wind running is for.

Roused by whispers of wolfish lore

they spring over grass after ghosts of deer

that once hid tawny and taut with fear

and now lie bony in layers of land,

leaving trails where the moonlight disappears.

 

The rising sun of October dawn

shapes shadows like treetops iced to the ground.

Rabbit-tailed dandelions crystal with cold

flash white across fields, and all the mud holes

glaze over as thick and as slick as ponds.

The dogs skid over them, leaping low stones

to stalk furred clouds of frozen sound

from prey a hundred years gone.

 

 

Travelers

 

Black dog crossing the road, do you know

how close to death, just a breath, you came

with my brakes pulsing and the car passing

beside me as you nosed a passage from one

side to the other, consumed by the scent

of pursuit? You raised a specter of two

turtles for whom I swerved but did not stop

to move off the road on the dangerous hills

near the river, of road-kill ghosts that haunt

the highway—possum, skunk, raccoon, hawk,

red-wing blackbird, cat, deer, and myriad

bugs that splat on a windshield meeting them

more than halfway at 70 miles per hour. You

won’t know how I hoped not to see you again,

either way, how I wish we had met walking.

 

 

Afterlife

 

Not often does one go walking the dog at dawn

on Easter Sunday, ruby tulips ringed by lawn

recalling dyed hands and grass-nestled eggs

in baskets of jelly beans scattered with chocolate

rabbits, recollecting rising choirs of church

hats, fiery exhortation, and running off to play

after dining on lamb-shaped cake with coconut

frosting—not often (as I said before) does one follow

a path remembering all that and suddenly discover

a four-foot, full-racked, stuffed moose head staring

steadily into the heavens with glassed eyes, mouth

sealed, risen from its mounting on some hunter’s

wall and abandoned by pranksters in the park,

surrounded by police (Did you call this in? they asked.

No, I said, this is the first moose, or even piece of moose,

I’ve ever seen) looking at me suspiciously and discussing

such an unexpected resurrection on this day of days.


 

Lurkers

 

So, Mr. Fox, mostly what you do is scratch and chew.

I watch you lounging in the prairie grass, a touch

too russet to blend into the late winter gilt.  I wait

slyly downwind to see if you’ll play out some magic

role assigned by myth, but apparently your main

concern is fleas.  You do not chop up maidens,

fool hounds, or take on human shape.  You sniff

the air, bounding three times:  to snack on a dainty

rodent?  There is no urgency in your actions, no fear—

till later we meet in the woods and you flash past,

bushy tail into trail brush.  But you have betrayed

yourself, Mr. Fox, for just enough minutes

of chilly light to show me both our lazy natures

 

 

Cover

 

The nest had burst into clouds of gray fur

scudding from bushes across the concrete,

every tuft once plucked from her belly to warm

the naked babies. One remained, unmarked,

perfectly dead, its lapin ears pulled close

to cold skin, a story partly told.

Knowing the beginning and end we buried it,

hoping the earth would hold the middle part,

the ceaseless moment of panic that raids our dreams,

softly bedded and tucked between flannel sheets.

 

 

Starfish

 

Bright with color but blind,

you've tentacled across this tidal

pool all afternoon, seeking new spots

of camouflage after we dislodged

you. With open appetite and no

brain, you trust your feelers to

survive, trust tiny white tendrils

to move your huge orange arms

around seaweed, shells, and stone,

away from unfamiliar human hands.

We have loved you and left you alone,

no small thing for a boy

and a woman too far from stars.

As the tide turned, we tore ourselves

away and walked home.

 

 

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