THE CYCLIST

I see him
for a second
he races past
silent
or so it seems behind my window
streamlined
narrow frame
bars bent low
he folds over the bike
as if coaxing in its ear
more speed
unsmiling resolute
I see in the flash of his back
satisfaction

From handlebars like wings
streamers snatch the breeze
no gears no brakes
no helmet
no shoes
but a basket and
a bell by my thumb
I kick up my legs
lean back
fly down the hill

That cyclist needs a baseball card
clipped to a spoke
with a clothespin
to add some noise and joy to
satisfaction

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HISTORY LESSON

The trouble with history
with dead people in general
is that you can’t go back
to some impressive mistake
and ask what
in God’s name
were you thinking

Just the facts ma’am
is not my motto
my uncertainty tolerance
has clocked in at none
I need to know the why of things
though I’m resourceful enough
to invent the missing motive

For example I’ve concluded
on that Sunday in June
on that hill in Montana
handsome popular and just old enough
Colonel Custer
figured by Monday
he’d be a shoo-in for President

SANCTUARY

For better resale value
and egotism
we built the house far bigger than we needed.
Childless by chance
I favored the notion
that a family might live here after us
and fill the place with noise and chaos.
But after so many years
I now believe these rooms would resent
the intrusion on their quiet.
One guest room has never seen a guest.
No one has slept there
except perhaps our shyest cat
long since deceased
as she escaped the wrath of her quarrelsome sister
or worse
the horror of the punishment
known as Company.
I peek into that room.
I still see the faint outline
the trace on the carpet
of the contents of her stomach
the hostess gift she frequently left
to remember her by.
So yes, she slept here.

SWIFT

Two years ago
in April
the swifts made a nest in our chimney.
I heard the babies chirping
small echoes through the den.
My husband supposed my fancy
Had once again
overtaken my good sense
until that is
the babies got bigger and their peeps
became shrieks.

We called the exterminator.
Not bats, he said.
It’s swifts.
Too bad.

Swifts it turns out
are protected.
Their habitat is gone
and once they decide to live with you
You have to share.
Wait till autumn and when they move off
put a screen on the chimney.

In the meantime
we shared.
We’d watch at sunset
as they’d make big circles around the roof
catching mosquitoes
to feed their little screamers.
Get those buggers, we’d yell
encouraging.

In August
one bird flew down the chimney
sweeping our heads
interrupting  dinner.
Stewart the cat
quick to the challenge
caught the swift mid-air and ran upstairs
to extend the game.
We managed a rescue
when Stewart released the bird
for the joy of recapture.
Wrapped in a fresh-laundered shirt
the creature throbbed in panic.
We opened the window
popped out the screen
and shook the bird loose.
She flew off
swift as her name.

We poured some wine
and resumed our dinner
and toasted the swift and the cat
and our luck
with houseguests.

LACE

At the window
watching thick rain
ruin my plans
I touch the curtain.
Lace.
Machine-made of course
at that price
but pretty nonetheless.
I consider lace.
Who invented such a thing?
Who thought –
If I twist the thread and knot it so
and leave some space
and twist again
the knots cease as flaws
and emerge
transformed
as beauty?
Who thought of that?
The genius
who made loveliness
of ruin?