Actually, it’s good to be quiet, to
be a waiting stone, while that word
caroms around the room.
Does he mishear it
as Eternal? The one time I want
false understanding, meaning
garbled in the ear.
He folds his hands, carefully.
I see his clenched jaw, offer no advice
or observation, just keep quiet
for once, don’t lie and say
it will be all right.
Meanings of “terminal”:
nadir, ending, point
of no return, but also
point of activation: bud
quivering at the end of a branch,
railcars lined up to depart. He often
sat at his computer crunching
the numbers, looking
up routes to get somewhere, all those
various destinations. A terminal—
waiting room where you
expect something wonderful to begin—
your anticipated journey, your
zenith, your best time ever.
That Doesn’t Count
Fluorescent light in his nursing home room,
no other illumination but
from the dim window, now drawn shut,
sometimes flickering blue light
of a baseball game or
the news, his eyes closed,
pain has shape
and substance you
can grasp. He winces
often, bedsore growing
at the base of his spine where
all the nerves converge. That doesn’t
count, he says, as if some pain’s more
noble—no morphine, he says, no thank you.
it was a fawn at first
and then a fox, or a mutant
blend of both,
but it looked too gray, and thin,
as it ran
between the graves.
It stopped, looked back,
not a lope, not a gallop,
not a high-footed trot—
more a fast slink toward the trees.
Would it have attacked
the dogs? my mother asked
more than once
as we crept forward in the car,
for one more glimpse.
We’d been walking
the dogs off-leash
after visiting my father’s grave,
placed stones inked with Happy birthday!
and We miss you!
among the mosaic of stones already
left behind. One year gone,
and I wanted to feel
something, something more
than the vast indifference of death,
but dry grass
reflected nothing, and the earth refused to stir.
could have been a coyote, could have been
anything—signified nothing more
than a wild creature lost among the dead.
Perhaps the trickster, the one who fooled
his neighbors countless times.
I drive my mother so slowly
along this narrow road,
our dogs safe in the back seat. Would it
have attacked? she asks again,
craning for one more look.