Tag Archives: Duke MALS alumni

Two Exit a Poem

we walked apart, for the most part,
rarely hand in hand,
in separate lanes, using different guides,
only one foot of four
ever touching the ground,
making it odd
that we step on each other’s toes
when we never danced closely.

we never danced closely.

Still Lives, No More

Still Lives, No More

It Soothes the Soul Like Warm Milk

It Soothes the Soul Like Warm Milk

Miss Havisham Mails a Letter

She was gifted on horseback,

though reckless in a crowd,

and was not much liked by townsfolk

who read the fury

in each jerk of her head

as contempt

for their small lives,

lived in simple houses

along lanes paved with oyster shells

which fed into Main Street

as offshoots do.


Haughty and hard riding,

dressed entirely in black,

she galloped into town every day

like Hell’s hound


amplifying her aggression

with the piercing cracks

of a riding crop,

commanding her charger,

but mainly, unsettling shoppers and

those out for a stroll.


To them, she was an unstoppable nuisance,

a conceited and spoiled over-aged youth,

with nothing better to do

than block the light from its sundial,

becoming the moment, the reason,

a day of unhappiness anticipates the next.


“But wasn’t she acting,”

I asked my mother,

“you know,

simply playing a part?”


And Mother acknowledged

a theatrical quality

in the dark rider’s daily stampedes,

the urgency in her dismounts,

her sweeps into the post office,

clutching a single blue envelope 

in her left hand.


And so perfect was this effect,

I would have clapped

had I been there.

And she might have acknowledged me,

ever so slightly,

for my rapt attention to a well-staged play.



she might have been a relative of mine,

an eccentric cousin, twice-removed,

who insisted Mother

learn to play the harp

as she was bright-eyed

and talented on the piano.


But everyone to ask about this

is long-since dead.

And I question the strength of my memory

to position her as she was,

as Mother told it.


Though it occurs to me

how effectively

a dark riding costume conceals

feelings of impotence,

allowing a Miss Havisham

to venture into the light.


And I suspect

her lifetime achievements

were bound to the blue letters she posted,

the licked and stamped keys

to her anger,

and disdain for the ordinary,

of which she would not be one.

Density and the Small

The density of saplings

around mature trees

obscures my view

and creates a metaphor

I neither like nor seek.

For I am inclined to trim my forest

and discard the spindly,

open a vista,

like Capability Brown.


Were she alive, my Mother would liken

the young trees to small and unnamed fish

added to coubouillon

to thicken the roux,

purposeful only as starters for

fires in the belly,

alive to be others’ ideas, plans, and tastes.


Best laid plans are important,

are they not?

How else can the concealed be appreciated and enjoyed

when nature is so random,

and growth is unstinted

and the broth has thickened

and only the small have

a view.

Life and Death on the River

In my life on the river

I have watched

boulders erode

into crowns on the surface

of a tightening food source.


I have seen mighty eagles hunt in pairs

from rocks

soon to be riverbed,

usurping the fishing lanes of osprey and heron,


who adapt

unaware of impermanence,

believing breakfast is but downstream,

and their wings are mighty.


As are mine.


Though I will not be moved from my ancient perch

where I measure time

in boulders and rivers,

and am active only as an usher

from one era to the  next

in a world that is changing

but is without end.

Morning Walk

I was slapped in the face this morning

by a leaf forced from its moorings.

And it might have lingered awhile on my cheek

had not the wind then pulled it away,


which was fine by me,

for it had become uncomfortable,

a foreign thing,

a scab in need of picking.


Yesterday morning, a dried and curled leaf

brought a smile to my face

as it slid across the road

on its edges,

like some sort of crustacean, a crab, perhaps,

fast stepping an escape from the fisherman’s net.


Like a slap on the face,

the season’s prompts

fuel full days of mental exchange

between suddenness and memory,

God and man,

a leaf in time and me.

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