Warnings

 

Some animals seemed to feel
it coming before people did.
Red ruffed lemurs began
alarm calling.
In the Great Ape House,
Iris, an orangutan,
let out a guttural holler.
The flamingos huddled
together in the water
seconds before people
felt the rumbling.
The rheas got excited.
And the hooded mergansers —
a kind of duck — dashed
for the safety of the water.

~Found in The Washington Post, August 24, 2011

My friend and fellow poet David Weinstock sent me the article.   Thanks, David.

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IN CONCERT ~for Woods Tea Company


Across this village green, a cool evening in July–
The band is playing;  we’re humming and singing,
nodding our heads and patting our thighs.
We’re sprawled on tattered blankets and quilts,
folded into lawnchair wings.  We have grapes,
potato chips, sandwiches, cookies, cakes,
clandestine plastic cups of beer and wine.
I hear you.
The fiddler wears a hat to hide his horns–
no mere human could play like that;
the rusty-haired penny-whistler could be
a satyr, or Pan himself, secret goatfeet
tucked away in respectable shoes.
Are banjo players always lean and sardonic?
I am a sucker for bass men, and this one
has an indigo voice, shoulders like a fortress,
a smile that makes at least one post-estrogen broad
believe there’s still something in there after all.
I hear you, I keep hearing you.
It’s been a long time.
Bare-legged boys with sticks are stalking
around the lighted Christmas tree–
a Christmas tree in July?–
and girls run and tag and slip in their flipflops.
The band is drumming now, wild Irish drums.
Tiny children in long dresses or diapers
bobble up and down in time.
A woman is dancing with her dog.
My husband leans against my knees;
my sister slices watermelon, brother-in-law thrums harmony.
The moon, nearly full, rises above blue trees
in a new star-studded dar, and I hear you.
I hear you–yes–you–
with your arrows and thunderbolts,
owl on your shoulder, golden apple in your hand,
your corntassel hair poking up through the dirt,
your breasts and hips big as Earth.
Right now you’re singing “Alberta Bound”
at the top of our voices, clapping your thousand hands.
You’re here, where you’ve been all this time,
running in your flipflops, dancing with your dog.
You’re cutting watermelon, leaning on my knees,
lighting up that improbable tree,
smiling down from the tilted summer moon.
You’re telling all the stories, old tales of the road–you–
standing under that spotlight in your goatfeet, horns,
shoulders wide enough to carry the world.
Published in Bellowing Ark, 2006

ADVICE RECEIVED AT ADVOCATE HARBOR

A golden cliff above grey water–
how Cape D’Or got its name.

Among driftwood stumps and branches washed
from God knows where, oil cans, buckets, ropes,

lobster claws, seaweeds, the carcass of a seal,
I found a new walking stick.  The old one

was buried with the old dog,
a week before our son left for Colorado.

We two have since learned to travel together,
learned the rhythms of silence and talk,

when to make love, when to sleep alone.
Walking the shore before the rising tide,

shaking stones from our sandals, we met
an old woman in a blue hat.

She laughed and pointed out to sea.
“Watch out,” she said, “for every third wave.”

And she was right:  the next one nearly
knocked me off my feet.  I sat

beside you in that recovery room,
waiting for good news,

wanting one thing–for our walk to go on.
I remembered that old woman

waving over our heads to an old
man coming along behind us with a dog,

and you and I kept walking,
double prints along the hard wet sand.

Written at Reid’s Tourist House, Nova Scotia
August 5, 1999, revised 2011

EMERGENCIES IN PRODUCE

 

Problem:  Lights are out.

Solution:

1.  Open the nearest door and slowly recite “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth;  whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul;  whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet:  and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”

2.  Chant the “Invocation to Broccoli” (in German or Greek, if at all possible).

3. Page Carol, Wellness, Grocery, Tracy, Glenn, Barbara and Mark ALL AT THE SAME TIME and see what happens.

 

Problem:  “Clapping” sound coming from wet case.

1. Create a makeshift wand from lemongrass or burdock root and wave it over the problem area.

2.  Take Glenn to lunch at the deli and explain the problem clearly and calmly while packing sesame noodles or tofu salad (your choice) into the pockets of your official yet unattractive “Coop” vest.

3. Try stuffing all the recyclable cardboard until the sink.

 

Problem:   Water collecting on floor around case.

1. Approach the first customer you see pushing a cart containing a small baby and a bunch of bananas, and tell him/her “the sky is falling.”

2.  Call Alberts and order five cases of overripe bananas.

3.  Steal a hat, any hat, put it on your head, and stalk menacingly out the front door.

 

Problem:  Labels are not feeding properly.

1.Sit down immediately, on the floor if necessary, and write a letter to your congressperson.

2.  Put a “Best of Barry Manilow” CD in the machine and turn it up to the maximum setting.

3.  Form a conga line with as many customers as you can grab and wend your way through the store, singing something everyone knows, such as “Happy Holidays” or “Nessun Dorma,” or possibly “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General.”

 

Problem:  Printer is not responding to commands.

1.  Page “Wellness.”

2.  Collect all the markers and rolls of masking tape, place them in a tote with a “FREE” sign on it. Carry the tote out into the parking lot and leave it there.

3.  Gather in the cooler and sing “The Tunafish Song.”

4.  Build a barricade of totes around the picnic tables in front of the store.

 

Problem:  Temperature is above 45 or below 35 in case for more than one reading.

1.  Send a fax to your mother.

2.  Grab a small child and weigh it on the scale, being sure to enter the “local organic baby yellow and/or green beans from hell” PLU first.

3.   Same as 1st solution for “clapping”  noise.

 

This isn’t really a poem, of course.  The “problems” are actual problems that arise in the Produce Department at the food coop where I volunteer.  The solutions are just silly.

THE PEOPLE OF LAISH

 

The Danites came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting:  
and  smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire.  
And there was no deliverer. . . Judges 18:27-28

In the morning, a woman walked to her field,
stopped, puzzled by moving shadows,
a far rattle of sound she’d never heard.
In the crackling ruin of that night
jackals circled the city,
waiting for the flames to die.

We create gods in our image.
The god of Dan, glorious in battle,
adept with fire;
the god of Laish, quiet and unsuspecting,
no deliverer.

The one time god created itself in our image
we didn’t like it:
too messy, too common.
Bones, and a great deal of blood.
Not the sort of deliverer anyone wanted.

I walked early today down the usual road:
dark woods on my left,
cut hayfields on my right.
Against the blue bulk of mountains,
one wisp of cloud drifting up,
blowing apart in the sunrise.

 

1998