How I Met Santa Claus in the Off-Season at a Roman Watchtower in Germany

Light dim within this whitewashed

reconstruction, yet his blue eyes twinkle,

his beard shines full snowy, his hair curls

to yellow, he bustles big and cheerful.

Wire-rimmed glasses, of course.

 

October, ground leaf-muddy, skies gray

and in this out-of-the-way museum,

he warms to the English, warming

mostly to the freckled girl. She nods wisely

at his strongly German strigil, sword, shield.

 

Now he takes a bowl, two thousand years

old, lets her hold it how the young soldier

once did, his named carved in the bottom:

Matreus. He speaks as if he knew him.

Perhaps he did. The auxiliary troops, he says,

 

were mostly local men. He mentions

how the earth still shows marks of the wall.

Does she feel this same awe of connection,

gifted down through the years? The tower

closes for winter tomorrow. Our guide

 

looks surprised at the thought

of a holiday.

 

Unraveling

I am cleaning house in the rain. Beginning

with this labor of unmake and pick apart,

these scraps and bits unused, those no longer

fitting. (Like the memories of a two-year-old

scolded for not knocking, bitter childish snickers

over fashions homemade. How we fear our bodies,

are jealous of our minds. Those elaborate teenaged

stories that told the wrong thing: heart-burning,

stomach-churning, love bottled and thrown

and unshown.) It is a long row, my fingers stiff

with unstitching, shoulders hunched with winding

all threads back to a ball. (The socks sparkled, but

were they warm?) Neatness counts. (In this, as always,

your servant.) I can no longer haul this colorful mess

from one continent to the next.

 

Housework

things are gathering dust:

a mountain of must to sort,

slates to clean, a mean pile

of work to make this smooth

clock tick

 

but we have time, a garden art,

in these few hearts planting seeds

where the world’s wind will

snap no branch, let spirits

grow sky-straight

 

it’s not too late:

a touch of forbearance

at the end of the world

goes down cozy as coffee

and heartening as wine,

true-vine compassion

that forgives this mess

 

To My Father

1.
By the wayside goes Tennyson’s Idylls—
the best of knights laid to rest
among constellations, comets, nebulae
and any splendor spared from sunset

2.
My unpacking is eternal
Roman ruins, crumbled castles
Stonehenge, Starnbergersee

3.
I used to think that too much poetry
caused my worship of starship captains

4.
You, pipe-smoking Sherlock
were the silent-gunned cowboy
singing Simon and Garfunkel
reading books about dragons

5.
Lifelong Texan, I dream you
in New England rain
Welsh hill-mist

6.
My hero ageless in black socks
mowing grass, drinking tea
(sometimes whiskey)
pitching horseshoes

7.
There is a heart to this–
somewhere
 

Gradation

I will avoid tints of sentimental;

if there is one thing we both hate

it is someone telling us how we should

feel. I will only say thanks

for allowing me to mother you

through trial

and error.

 

I will not say go forth and conquer,

but I will say continue and become

in every hue even when you don’t

believe any action or non-action

is of consequence.

It is: every shadow,

every glint.

 

Great Depression Love Story

Everything dust but his cool words

in the diner, that just-different drawl

that marked him as from not-around-here.

A tall drink of water, hair dark beneath hat

and if his frame was rail-lean yet the sinew

was tough and railroad work demanded

muscle. He talked to you (he loved to talk),

charm reinforced by the monotonous

backdrop: bleached-dry tumbleweed

ranchland, scraggled ranks of prickly pear.

Your courting not about picture shows,

fast cars, stolen touches; only coffee

and maybe pie, sweet talk and dreams

of a lush green future, anywhere else.

 

Inspired by this dVerse Poets Pub prompt, writing about family history.

Youngest

I’ve watched you on the beam,

all long legs and determination.

Over and over the cartwheel

launched with good vision,

feet seeking blindly the graceful

finish, perfection.

 

I have to tell you now,

there is no perfection

on this gravity-massive earth.

But there is always-getting-better.

 

I’ll tell you this as well, though

you are not the girl for metaphor—

You need these same skills

for every challenge: balance,

trust, strength in the core.

 

In the Absence of Reunion

I have been looking at time

down the wrong end of a telescope

I have been gone only a moment;

I have been away forever

 

(The calendar pages keep turning, the year

swells, shrinks, fades: sow, plant, reap, sleep)

 

It’s not that I can’t feel

but I’ve suspended my heart

that can’t touch yours by look

or by daily sharing of bread, of space

 

(Far away from me, you grow up and grow old

and become a person I would have liked)

 

Of course you can no more hold still

than either of us can will the earth

to stop spinning. You were the star

in that time-lapse of an opening flower

 

but now we are dried, mounted, framed;

discounted by the casual observer,

unrelated. These piles of photographs

are unable to convey any essence of life

so I stare at them, willing myself to be moved

 

Inspired by We Drink Because We’re Poets: Moments. I got off-track from the prompt–kinda went opposite to a single moment–but this is where it took me.

Houses (A Love Poem)

The one where you built, brick by brick

the half-walled flower bed, where we never

got around to the deck, where scorpions came

in the showers, where we set up the first crib.

 

The one-bedroom up a flight of dark stairs

where I wrote stories and school papers,

where we ate Hamburger Helper and the kitchen

rack slipped our wine-glasses to the floor.

 

The one with 1940s flooring and south view

of winter sun, where the laundry chute

opened on the basement where I worked

while my father died. The crib again, there.

 

The one with the teeny yard we cut with shears,

marigolds on concrete and opossums on the fence.

The one on the cul-de-sac with kids, a military circle

of playground, hospital, sleepless nights and 9/11.

 

The one I loved and you hated, money pit with

garden surround. Another crib, endless contractors.

Where you built, board by board, the deck,

where for 10 years we slept to rain on skylights.

 

This one, concrete-modern, echoing white and screenless,

where I have my very own workroom overlooking

neighbors’ lush gardens, where rain and stars are muffled

by a host of concrete houses, strangers shut within.

 

It is easy to forget, day by day, the places outside

of photos, the 22 years of furniture, curtains, carpet.

Where we fell into bed, fell into and away from each other,

began a new day again and again and again.

 

Last night, I glimpsed the full moon shining

through the balcony’s metal blinds.

You were sleeping but I wanted to tell you,

I would go with you anywhere, and still be home.