GRIEF

                    As for man, his days are as grass….

                                                     --Psalm 103:15

Screen door banged in his wake.

Head cocked earthward and feet splayed,                                                        

he walked to the barn for the work.

 

The mower bar, all shark power, moved

fitfully as he slammed it to the floor

and pulled from the long body a string of teeth.

 

Rivets fell from blows of his hammer

and chisel. Sparks showered from the grind-

stone but appeared to fly from his head.

 

He honed knife-edges and raked them over

a strop—his calloused palm upward and open—

to a sharpness beyond what was needed.

 

He told me that a man’s legs were clipped

at the ankles with teeth like these, that he walked

with two canes, head bent over the earth.

 

PERFECT

We walked a path of pine needles,

bronzed by the mist, from his house

to the Grand River. Nothing was so quiet

as the boat drifted on slow water. We made

no effort. Sky and clouds lay at the gunwales,

and herons lifted with wisps of morning fog

as we drew near. I told him the dream

I had years before in which he left by a plane

that taxied close to our boyhood home;

I watched him board and fly away.

 

In his last days he lies in the bed,

needed things near, and tells me

that colors—he tries to describe them

and can’t say if he dreams—pool deeply

around him. They are perfect, he says.

They buoy him among walls, clock,

bedside table, and curtain as I lean

to kiss him and leave the room.

 

Acknowledgments

These poems appeared in the following magazines, anthologies, or newspapers: “Perfect” and “What May Come to You in Sleep,” Hello, Goodbye: Stories, Essays and Poems For the 21st Century. “Forsythia,” JAMA. “Grief,” Passages North. “Rain,” The Buffalo News. “Leaving” and “Web,” Passager. “Unexpected,” Celebrations: Poetry and Prose For the 21st Century.