Issue 14
No Words But In Water

There’s no buffalo in Buffalo -
was there ever? – and no elms
on Elm Street though before the Dutch
fungus first found in Ohio, they flourished.
Does the microbe know it’s named after
a people who followed a colonialist path?

On the other hand, the woman named Joy
is delightful and Cheryl too
cherishes life. But Frank pays lip service
while Rose is always droopy.

O what’s in a name? Sun motes? Destiny?

I named one dog Spenser and my next one
Milton just as the latter followed the former.
The first likes short walks and long naps
like a plot that meanders and the second
with saggy ears and high spirit rides
Spenser’s back and digs holes in my garden.

I have forgotten half the names
of the roses I bought and planted
though their petals sort beauty out
like a busy cashier that knows
nothing of the price.

Words float back and forth
across the prow of our lives
to mark a grave or bless a course.
Many find no rest in the ocean
of meaning where, once arrived,
they can be forgotten.

People say “see what I mean,”
as if they were pointing to their shoes
hoping the words they have used
have not left them high and dry.
But words are not slippers or boots.

I call out among the last roses
three persons I knew who shared the name
Linda and two who shared the name Jane,
one of whom nobly struggled all her life
with the loss of her childhood,
understanding that death as practice
for the annihilation she has suffered since.

Though there is no now for those who are not,
I sometimes forget which ones are which
and laugh at the words absence
and nothingness floating
on the rising tide beneath them.

I remain thankful at least the rose
knows not it is the season’s last.