- Ruby and the Alarm Bird, and: Washing my father’s hands, and: Translations, and: Turnstile
- Ruby and the Alarm Bird
The river has nearly withered to this azure pool where late in the afternoon I swam. My opal body—was it mine?— luminesced. Sometimes we have no choice
but how turquoise to be. Not whether, but how to fold around the muscles of fish, slicked boulders, the yellow leaf floating and the yellow leaves sunk.
Is that Ruby who has brought her dictionary to the edge of the swimming hole? Poem of poems in her hand, evening is falling into the thick book laid open in her lap.
A domestic mockingbird, chanting the watcher’s watch of dawn, has mistaken six o’clock for six o’clock. Dusk is charged with imperatives to wake.
Ruby is sitting on stones rubbed round by years and piled into banks by the floods of many springs. When she rises and walks, under her the dry stones speak almost
as they spoke under the waters then. When Ruby steps on time, time moves. Chirp chirp, goes the alarm bird. A few steps ago, I leapt with my own clad body across
the rock-tops of the autumn creek. A little wobble, a chuckle ran under me, and one rock tipped. A bumped lamp will sway and dip and rock the room; stepping stones tilt [End Page 148]
and jilt the crosser. Ruby’s gone. I sat in an old shadow, and though I pretended to watch the water, I watched her go. She shut the dictionary. She stepped around cairns
stacked in the rock bed by other children. She climbed the slope, disappeared among the trees. But while she sat there, the dusking bird chiming and so many words resting in her lap,
Ruby threw a rock into the deepening emerald of the pool. I saw a crawdad gallop away, silent in its pink, new skin. Like a traveler crossing the last great expanse, the landing
stone gave the waterface a mouth, and through the water plumbed a throat. Ripples loosed the heavens, while from the throat sounded a feeling and inhuman voice. [End Page 149]
- Washing my father’s hands
He situates them directly in the beam of falling water under the kitchen spigot and waits. I take up soap and one by one his right then his left hand in both my own. We rinse, splashing, and I turn off the faucet, grasp two proffered wrists, both at once in an embrace of my toweled hands, and gently pull. I dry his hands exactly as he once dried mine: I press my thumbs into his relaxed palms. Between us terry cloth becomes the rough-soft world entire, and from shadow and air, a cloth worn thin, I gather, one by one, each yielding finger. [End Page 150]
Sonoma County, California
The dropped blackberry, picked and reached for and nearly picked: some things lost are never found. Seven pairs of reading glasses in just a year and a half. A contact lens in Lake Tahoe. A retina tears; I lose parts of my vision.
Waking a second time to the creek’s clear rustle in the dark, the lost is lost and found again: the needed word; a twelve-year-old villanelle, “Emily the Cat Had to Comment of Course,” showed up in a box in my closet.
Some don’t matter: I lost my towel and dried off with my shirt. But once on a deserted tennis court off Norrbom Road, I endured the footfall of a deer, suspended. The year before, my lover and I had spent hours cutting vines.
I carried the clippers and two racquets. She held the raptor beak of a hedge-trimmer. Down we strode the mile-long hill; our love though fierce was immortal, then. Within two solar plexi, the wild elevators
traveled up and down and up through time. She wore her fine hairs pulled back through the gap in her turquoise baseball cap. The wind, when...