Monday, October 12, 2020


Here in my car by the side of the road,
close to a field of short stubbled corn,
a solitary junco is my entertainment
while I wait in the snow for my tow to arrive.

Surrounded and swayed by a brisk winter wind,
he rides on the lee of a cold cornstalk's stump
busily gleaning whatever is there.
Perhaps a few seeds, or a huddling insect
has drawn his quick eyes and small beak to that place,
to that one small cornstalk amid all the others,
where my human eyes can see nothing of value.

If I had not chosen to drive up this road
and then drifted wide into wheel-deep snow,
I would have not shared his fortunate visit
and he would have eaten his breakfast alone.
But I had come out, a solo explorer,
to view the sweet sight of another new snowfall
smoothly spread out across harvested fields
and to view all the contrasts that winter days offer,
of crystalline fluff upon evergreen boughs,
or of empty bare branches, dressed for the cold,
etching their essence of structural strength
upon this flat canvas of overcast gray.

It's a good place to pause on a Sunday morning
and to meditate here, with my pen in hand,
within this my temple of sky and soft snow.

When I turn to look, my junco has flown.
Unlike me, he is quite unencumbered,
floating so free above my snowy jail,
while scanning the fields for another small meal.

My tow is here.  Securing a hook,
he effortlessly pulls my car back on the road.
I and the junco are free to continue.
It's been a good drive.  Time to go home.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

To my half-brother, Robert, 1934-1949

Dear Robert,
you were the first child
that my father fathered
but also the first to die.
Brown-haired, smiling,
bearing the high forehead and glasses
that I would later wear,
you were the successful prototype
of the child that I would soon become,
conceived just eight months,
and two wives,
after your death.

My father had moved on,
leaving you behind eight years before
when you were only seven.
I may never know why.
The divorce papers had read
"extreme cruelty"
yet my father was never cruel to me.
Perhaps by then
he had seen enough of cruelty
as he and his soldiers killed, and were killed,
in the swamps of Leyte -
on the ridges of Okinawa –
eight thousand miles away
while you were turning eleven.

You were keenly interested in aviation,
but would never spread your wings.  Instead,
you sank beneath the chill waters
of a muddy Nebraska creek
when a summer frolic
took your breath away.

I wonder –
did your spark then defiantly rise
and swing westward across the Rocky Mountains
before coming to rest eight months later
where I was just becoming alive
in my mother's womb?

Perhaps you grew along with me
and shared my own delight
as I assembled models of rockets and missiles
and watched two men
walk across the Moon.

Will you wait for me?  Before I die
I hope to stand above your grave
and read this paltry poem to you.
Perhaps some warmth will find its way
into your long-cold bones or ashes
and soothe you as you lie there.
Perhaps, if I am quiet enough,
I will feel your subtle presence
and hear your simple voice
whispering in my ear.