Where Have You Been
Suppose the day begins with rain,
and a cat’s song beside the filling puddles.
The way to coffee is a lengthy trip
near the singing cat. Suppose
you have no robe and the coffee cup
dribbles – a slight flaw at the rim.
The day is hard coming.
The cat is not lovely.
For the night before was fraught
with irretrievable wonder
which left you with rain, left you
desperate for coffee – hot
but not so to burn your lips – lips
you almost pressed to another’s mouth.
She had you forgetting the low rent gig,
the ache in your hands,
these weary days woven with trouble.
The two of you swapped road tales –
stories curving around beer bottles
like her mouth in the saying, an F#
breathed from the saxophone’s bell.
Suppose this is the note the cat sings
over your cup, suppose all you need
to hear is hard rain falling.
A black bird flies over the garage –
in its claws some small creature
a mouse or such, carried away
over the neighbor’s yard – the sky today
smoked from fires in Mexico –
I watch the bird as long as possible.
Maybe that is the way to the other life –
I witness the carrying and note
how one small life feeds another.
Now a cardinal, brilliant in shrubbery,
orange beak and mask, obvious
as his mate feeds in secret.
A year ago cancer took my niece.
Two weeks with little rest – she ceased
walking then standing. Speech dwindled
to syllables then nothing.
In that time of extended expectation
the dying know only what we can give:
the mercy of medication and feeble words.
There I am cleaning pus from her eyes,
there is her heart stopped, the mechanism
of breath yet uniformed of its uselessness.
Here is the black bird, the cardinal –
along the way I surrendered my belief in hell.
Salvation is so close to salivation
the way we want a mouth
to be full, the way we want
seconds for that first.
Time is mere taste — no
the first was the seeing
and the aroma, so close
to tickling memory, recognizing
satiety. But not yet, not yet, not yet,