The last flake falls
snow crystals become ice.
She walks to the mailbox.
A stumble, twist --- avalanche
of soft bone slips, her fall gathers
speed, takes her down.
She crawls up the steps, rests
on the kitchen floor.
Blue sky becomes
Like the greening of a scarred
hillside, callus formation
fills the nailed gap.
She shoves the walker
forward, the distance
from bed to hall
a bouldered slope.
Twice a day, she maneuvers the walker
around imaginary rocks, climbing stairs
to an imaginary peak.
Now she's home. Sits to brush
her teeth, spits in that little pan
from the hospital.
And Dad. He can barely walk 10 feet,
sits to fry an egg, wash the dishes.
He hasn't thought about how Mom
will get in the tub with a casted leg,
wipe after using the toilet.
how they will out run
Spring is the best-these dark and pre-dawn walks
I take with my dogs. Squawks, whistles, and toots
announce the chat while the towhee
drinks its tea. Frogs sing, quiet as we pass them,
then pick up again. Some months, the moon surprises me
with my shadow, it is then I look up.
That last morning, there were no signs.
That afternoon, red hay-twine with orange
surveyor tape hung across the road.
Keep Out signs were tacked to the trees.
Next morning, I ducked under the tape. Just
enough light and breeze to see the flags on the shrubs.
And the spiders' webbed cups collect the dew,
do they drink from the strands.
I didn't hear the brush axe slice the slender
pine trunk spear-point sharp. Or the bulldozer
tread grinding the gravel that leads to the electric
line easement. Even though I didn't see it,
I know the operator powered up and lowered
the bucket; the earth lay scraped and raw.
One morning, I startled: something guarded
the road's entrance. Silly me, the For Sale sign.
The bulldozer is gone now, another For Sale sign
posted at the entrance of the woods. Birds
still sing on territory. Most of the trees still
stand. When they fall, I won't hear them,
but I know the trunk will crack, the crown begin
to lean then fall with a swoosh and a thump.
Just as they did when the land was cleared for my house.
MAN ON A BENCH
Spring, warm nights,
moths under street lights.
His sleeping bag a mattress,
he stretched out like a praying mantis:
arms bent, face in a frozen grimace.
He sleeps while the early morning
traffic passes, his gray hair
peeks over the bench arm.
In the afternoon, he crosses the street,
clasping his belongings.
Where does he go
when summer's thunder
and lightening own the sky?
Autumn, leaves of the Bradford pear
brown and settle onto the bench.
He spends nights in his sleeping bag.
He coughs, his breath
drifts in the morning sun.
Did he sleep in cardboard
under iced-covered pine trees
in the highway's median
or crouches over a steam vent,
his tent capturing the heat.
Maple trees bud,
the volunteers plant
early pansies. Today, the man
reclaims his bench.
The Hudson View
Yellow against green
catches my eye
as the tiger swallowtail
walks from under its leaf
to wait for the sun
or buddlea's nectar to rise.
Its flight seems aimless,
vulnerable to the wind,
before landing on purple
coneflower. I rarely see it fight
to protect its petalled stalk.
Not like the ruby throat
that takes on a sphinx moth
daring to visit a bee balm blossom.
Spicebush and pipevine visit on occasion.
Zebras float past but never land.
Summer lingers, tails get ragged,
blue spots less brilliant.
I dead head the bush
all season to keep the colors coming.
One night, the frost is heavy,
leaves curl up,
but I never see a butterfly
with wings rimed with ice.
The Hudson View
LISTENING TO A PATIENT WITH ALS
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It started in my left foot,
it's the worst one right now.
I don't want to get stiff,
don't want a feeding tube,
I want to eat like I always do.
I've researched this disease--
it's stealing my body.
What about your other patients--
the young woman--
does she have children?
And the one
who can't hold her head up.
You know, you can't see the wind,
a word or love. I wonder
if you become energy.
I want to have control at the end.
I think the light people see
is just the brain shutting down.
One week I can get in the tub,
the next, I have to figure a new way.