Dalí ‘s Clock

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Dalí ‘s Clock
Salvador Dalí

A clock, a sheet hung out, strung out,
on a canvas washing line. No wind,
no pegs, soon to be sun-bleached, dried,
then folded in on itself, corner to corner
the sheet, and the watch, how will it fold?

Face to face, in half circles, perhaps, or
back-to-back with time cut in half, a tick
without its companion tock, a stutter of time,
halved, then quartered, then in an eighth,
a quesadilla of broken springs and tiny
wheels within wheels, all disjointed,
with glass fragmenting, shattering.

While we watch, our clockwork universe
disintegrates before our eyes, in a tiny
explosion as all chronological creation
implodes into a logic of carnival, absurd
our words and world, devoid of meaning,
a pocket-watch going over a waterfall,
a timepiece soon to break into rusty pieces,
painted by a man who dreams he isn’t mad.

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Hollyhock

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Still Life with Hollyhock
for
Geoff Slater
the inventor of line painting

How do you frame this beaver pond,
those paths, those woods? How do you
know what to leave, what to choose?
Where does light begin and darkness end?

Up and down: two dimensions. Easy.
But where does depth come from?
Or the tactility, the energy, water’s
flow, that rush of breathless movement
that transcends the painting’s stillness?

So many questions, so few answers.
The hollyhock that blooms in my kitchen
is not a real hollyhock. It is the painting
of a photo of a genuine flower that once
upon a time flourished in my garden.

A still life, then, a nature morte, a dead
nature, portrayed in paint and hung alive,
on display in this coffin’s wooden frame.

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Man of Glass

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Man of Glass
After El Licenciado Vidriera
(Miguel de Cervantes)

“I am made of glass,” I said.
“You can see right through me.”

But the harder you looked,
the less you saw.
You claimed
there was nothing there,
just empty air.

“Your glass is an illusion,” you said.
“It’s not half full
and it’s not half empty.”

“Glass is fragile,
I break easily.
Drop me, I shatter;
hot and cold will
make me crack.”

“Your fragility is in your mind,
not in the fact of your existence.”

“When light passes through me
I break into a million colors,”
I said.

“You are a prism,
the colors that you cast
change you and rain
rainbow lights
that change others
too.”

“That’s because,” I said,
“I’m made of glass.”

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Chaos Theory

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Chaos Theory

Chaos theory:
it states that we don’t know
what we’re doing and
it wouldn’t really matter
anyway, even if we did,
because life lacks meaning,
chance rules, and Lady Luck
with her lusty locks attached
to her forehead and she,
all bald and hairless
from behind, must be caught
as she arrives, because later
is much too late, and when past,
she’s gone for good and
our good luck’s gone with her,
and we’re left for ever,
sitting there, head in hands,
bemoaning all that milk spilled
before we ever had a chance
to actually taste it.

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False Spring

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False Spring

Winter whiteness slowing now,
and the tide that full bore crashed
white waves against our house
receding to garden’s foot where
warm roots wait their waking.

But winter still stalks the land
and April brings snow, more snow,
as if there will never be an end
to these waves of whiteness,
thinner, trimmer, true, but
unwelcome as spring days grow
longer and sunrise beckons
ever more early with Crow
and Blue Jay breaking the morning’s peace
into raucous pieces
as they bounce from branch to branch …

.. and brown the earth, and barren,
and bare, the robins finding no food
and flying on, while the passerines
just call and pass us by, finches at the feeder,
purple and gold, yet singing no songs,
and the robins, hop-along casualties
of this long-delayed spring that promises,
to come but never arrives …

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Comment: Not so bad this year, the weather, but it’s been a funny winter, most strange, and totally discomforting, what with the pandemic, the lockdowns, the relief of going back to yellow, fresh lockdowns, and so many things happening everywhere while we were trapped inside where nothing was happening, save in the various forms of virtual reality that replaced quotidian reality with a mixture of faux, fake, and false, all wrapped up in a brown-paper bag of honey-sweet smiles and scowls, raised voices, and bottled anguish.

Not on my watch!

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Not on My Watch!

The black-and-white cat
sits in the window and watches
the ginger cat that lounges on the porch
and watches the five deer
that stand in the woods at the garden’s foot
and watch the neighbor’s little dog
that watches the raccoon
that disdainfully removes the garbage can lid
and fishes out the food, scattering
paper and wrappers and cans
as four crows sit in the tree and watch
the wind as it whistles the papers
round and round in a windmill
that wraps itself round the feet
of another neighbor who is watching
the raccoon with open-eyes
as a seagull flies above him
and bombs him from above,
damn seagulls, and the bird poop
falls right on my neighbor’s watch face
and he cries out
“Oh no, not on my watch!”

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Comment: The photo shows the Omega watch that my father gave me for my 21st birthday. I am wearing it now, together with the bracelet that my four year old granddaughter, his great-grand-daughter, gave me for my birthday two years ago. Four generations in one photograph. Unbelievable.

GBH on the TCH

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GBH on the TCH

She climbs up from the river
where she’s been drinking.
She ripples tawny, red, and orange
across the TCH.

 As quick as a fox, they say:
black socks, brush winter-thick
held high and proud,
as quick as a shadow
melting into dark woods
on the highway’s far side.

Her cub follows close behind,
but he’s not quite as quick.
A passing car tries to swerve
only to grind him into the gravel.

Sudden, that fox-stink,
still clinging to my nostrils
 like a slow-motion death,
dreamed at night,
frame by bitter frame,
until a life-time of silence
seals the lips of parted lovers.

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Wake

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Wake

Such a miracle:
the first steps of the cormorant’s flight
taken over water.

That first step heavy,
the second lighter,
and the third scarcely a paint brush
pocking the waves.

The need to take flight
lies deep within me.

Like a ship at sea,
or a seabird over the waves,
I will leave white water in my wake
to prove that I was here,
for a little while,
but have now gone.

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Rainbow Return

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Rainbow Return

I opened the car door
and he ran across the parking lot
and jumped into the back seat.

“Where have you been?” I asked.
He thumped his great tail, sniffed,
and licked my hand.

As we drove home, he thrust his head
between the seats and placed his paw upon my shoulder.
Then he licked my ear and the side of my face.

I pulled into the garage and let him out of the car.
He raced to the end of the drive, surveyed the neighborhood,
and drilled an invisible pee into the snow.

I whistled, and he ran back to the door,
whimpering and scratching, impatient.
I held the door open and he bounded in.
“You’re back home now,” I told him.

He ran to the cat’s bowl and lapped some water,
scoffed her kibble, and lay down in his usual place.
At night, he lies beside me in bed,
a fluffy spoon carved into my body’s curve.

In the morning, he walks through the kitchen
and doesn’t make a sound.
The cat senses he’s there and bristles and hisses
at rainbow motes dancing in the sun.

He’s sitting beside me now,
head on my knee, as I type these words,
one-handed, because I’m scratching him
in his favorite spot just behind his ear.

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Brandy Cove

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Brandy Cove

I remember teaching my granny
how to climb the steep slope
from the beach to the headland.

“It’s easy, gran,” I said. “Look!”
I leaped from tussock to tussock,
up the path, each patch of grass
a stepping stone leading me upwards.

She stood there, below me,
breathing hard, her left hand
held against her chest,
just beneath her heart.

“Wait for me,” she said, panting.
“I’m catching my breath.”
I ran back down, then held out
my hand to help her.
It was so long ago,
but I remember it well.

Who now will hold out
a helping hand
as I age, pause, hand on heart,
to catch my own breath,
as I climb, not a steep cliff path,
but the stairs up to bed?

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