I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree . . .
—Robert Frost

The sense of it is only understood
if I consider it outside of time:
a scored trunk soaring, me there wondering could
I climb higher than others might yet climb
(who didn’t even want their names up there)
—then branches scratching, twigs and branches scraping,
the uppermost alive with light and air,
penknife digging into bark, shaping
letters other kids would never see,
clinging to unknowable renown
at last and, riding high there, only me
at the top of what months later would come down
when dozers cleared that tract of land I need
to still think of as theater to the deed.

(from A Tree and Gone, FutureCycle Press)


For lunch we sit uncertain at a table
set up with cutlery, crystal, fresh bread,
wobbly, though—the footing is unstable.
The more we say, the more we leave unsaid.
Nearby a fork keeps tapping at a plate.
Chords waft somewhere hazy as a cloud.
You take a roll, me too, we hesitate.
A child nearby recites her name out loud.
Her voice is like a bird’s that knows its name.
It’s been six weeks since you tried suicide.
We chat a bit about the playoff game,
then silence, smiles. Violins collide
up in the cloud while quiet muffled drums
pulsate and finally here the waitress comes.

(from A Tree and Gone, FutureCycle Press)

Misericordia Hospital Bus

The child hoisted to its mother’s chin
is all a bundle, nothing more—nor less.
The cry against the grinding bus is thin,
one feels, and has but thinness to express,
the way a small fire bristling in the night
might not even warm itself or cast
so much as a sufficiency of light
to give one any faith that it will last.
Bangled arms hold close a life, trapped eyes
seem to breathe in watching, or they dart
out the window for a quick surmise
as to the stop. The engine, like a heart
at prayer, pulses in the heartless red
of traffic ticking toward the merge ahead.

(from A Tree and Gone, FutureCycle Press)