Transfer of Power

We phoned in our votes
on key issues; young interns,
politely, made a note.  Last spring we glimpsed
an aide from our own state, when our bus tour
gawked at the White house gate.

On Primary Day,
wind blew one candidate's speech
into the bay.  The loudspeakers blared blurrily
all during the rally; red, white and blue
balloons drifted off up an alley.

That fall we peered into the set
at the poised incumbent,
tracked beads of sweat stippling the challenger's lip
as he denied indiscretions, mikes bobbing,
spokespeople shouting "No more questions!"

At the Inaugural,
high school fifes tootled off
sharpshooter-defended walls; agents glowered.
When the motorcade finally passed, we snapped a dim hand
waving behind black glass.

Buying the Farm

Crossing over—
will we be standing at a dory's prow,
clouds cooperating grandly in the background,
profiles like captains charting the Passage,
new moon, ice floes, capes?

Pass away
like an unlucky dynasty
or a craze for snuff bottles,
our lives no thicker than a snowflake?

A little folding of the hands to sleep—
straw hat tipped over my nose,
I'm dozing to the lilac's inquisitive wrens;
you, your spade flung aside,
sprawl, just starting to snore.

It's curtains for us,
clasping hands behind the dusty, still-swaying swag—
at last these doublets can come off,
the swipes of rouge and sideburns, then we'll stroll
to greet the flashing city with our true faces.

Let's sleep with the fish
—yellow tangs flocking like suns,
eels with Sid Caesar eyes
easing into a Romanesque coral-arch.

It's the end of the line,
the train nudges its way to the platform's edge,
we're the only two in the graffiti-swirled car
soft-shoeing down the gum-gobbed aisle.

And yes, let's buy the farm—
the loft's tucked full of hay,
the combines are waiting,
here is your morning basket of fresh eggs.

Viullard Interior

Against brown walls, the servant bends
over the coverlet she mends—
brown hair, brown flocking, a dun hand
under the lamp, the servant bends
over the coverlet she mends
draped across her broad brown skirts;
knotting, nodding, the servant blends
into the coverlet she mends.

Chemo Side Effects: Memory

Where is the word I want?

in the thicket,
about to pinch the
berry, my fingerpads
close on

I can hear it
scrabbling like a squirrel
on the oak's far side.

Word, please send over this black stretch of ocean
your singular flare,
your topaz in the mind's blank.

I could always pull the gift
from the lucky-dip barrel,
scoop the right jewel
from my dragon's trove....

Now I flail,
the wrong item creaks up
on the mental dumbwaiter.

No use—
it's turning
out of sight,
a bicycle down a
Venetian alley—
I clatter after, only to find
gondolas bobbing in sunny silence,
a pigeon mumbling something
I just can't catch.

Two Monuments

1. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

White marble. Rolled sod.

Black-shod guard: shining shoes
glide up and down red carpet.

The charger's bronze lip curls.

Inside a colonnaded rotunda, 
under a Latin diadem,
cases of medals and rosettes.

2. Battlefield

One-room museum:
a letter from an eighteen-year-old, bragging
we'll whup 'em yet!

His dingy, bullet-shredded epaulet.

The wire-rim glasses and dogeared Bible
of the grandmother who refused to leave her house
when the battle started.
(She died at noon under an exploding shell.)

A grasshopper, clinging to a swaying stalk.

A mower roaring over the field.

Unknown Artists

In the picture snapped at the festival,
she's standing, fifth row, twenty-fourth from left,
her face partly hidden by someone's fedora.

She bourréed, stage left to right, in The Nutcracker.

He daubed a cow's haunch into a master's Nativity.

For an August Figaro, she lobbed her notes
with the chorus's into a pink-swirled sky.

The viola part she played at her quartet's recital
was carried home that night, by a whistling couple.

His winged saint, like a nuthatch inching down a pillar
(fourteenth century, "from the workshop of")
survived in one corner of a dim museum
open twice weekly at the curator's discretion.

The red scalloped tails of the kissing birds
she'd inked on the baptismal scrip
for that Mennonite child, April 1810,
were admired again when a grizzled farmer, 
rummaging in his great-uncle's cabinet,
unrolled them, presented them to the county seat.

One poem he wrote was glanced at by a student
riffling through a book, looking for something else,
in the clammy stacks of her college library;
like a purple lupine by a hiker's dusty boot,
it pleased her and refreshed her, before she trudged on.



Extinction can be documented only for species known to have existed in the first place — and only when an observer has noted their passing.  Because at most only 10% of the species suspected to be living on earth have been identified, it is certain that many more species have become extinct in the past than are listed here

— Museum of Natural History, New York

Luna County Globemallow
   Tombigbee Moccasin Shell
Ascension Flightless Crake
   Rodrigues Little Owl

Brazilian Diving Beetle
   Reunion Solitaire
Mt. Diablo Buckwheat
   Thismia; Orkney Char

Shasta River Mariposa
   Umbilical Pebble Snail
Robust Burrowing Mayfly
   Great Auk; Red Gazelle

Dobson's Painted Bat
   Sloth Lemur; Stumptooth Minnow
Mauritius Night Heron
   O'ahu 'O'o

Pig-Footed Bandicoot
   Xerxes Blue Butterfly
St. Helena Giant Earwig
   Parras Pupfish; Franklin Tree

Ilin Cloudrunner Rat
   Maine, Old Veteran Rush
Yellow Kite Swallowtail
   Pt. Reyes Indian Paintbrush

Guadalupe Caracara
   Long-Nosed Island Shrew
New Providence Hummingbird
   Broad-Faced Potoroo

Cerulean Paradise Flycatcher
   Whipple's Monkey-Flower
Farwell's Blue-Eyed Lovegrass
   Sugarspoon; Phantom Shiner.


A Late Writer's Desk

They couldn't give it away, I guess,
so left it beside the road, 
where, obdurate, it warps.
No gnawed pencils now, no fingers drumming,
just catkin loads

floating across this escritoire,
nailed after Oberon's band
skewed Snug and Quince's vision—
an improv, overnight effort
planed with a moonstruck hand,

its driftwood-assortment legs
unanswerable as a colt's.
Scrap-yard rescue, no single
edge flush—three fraying planks,
three widths, burled with gunk-smeared bolts.

Not for a codicil flourish
or crisp blueprint. No pressed-wood-and-glue,
but a landing-strip for particulars
of uncertain provenance—
not a board true, for the true.