A bruised reed

In darkness
A sudden snap-crack
Blind eyes flash open.
I listen for a thud
In the night
That never comes.
The back yard remains
Nothing moves,
Not even atoms of air.

At first light
My eyes search overhead,
Then glimpse
The massive splintered branch
Nestled now,
Cradled by
The sturdy limb below.


My Cousin Jim

In remembrance

Once again as an extended family we find ourselves gathered together in this place to celebrate and remember the life of a loved one: my cousin Jim.

Jim passed away a year and a week after the death of his beloved spouse Diana, and nearly a year after the passing of his mother, our Aunt Jean. That year, I’m sure, was a difficult one for Jim. Not only did he continue to work in his profession as a dentist; he also continued to receive treatments for his cancer, which had spread to his bones. At the same time I’m certain that he entered a period of extended mourning. Such milestones are not easy for any human being to bear.

We exchanged several e-mails over the course of this past year. In one I asked Jim how he managed to keep himself together. I recall his reply: “by deep faith.” In the end it was his faith that got him through.

As I read through Jim’s obituary, one line stood out. “Many of his patients, family and friends knew and loved him for his gentleness and compassion.” That one line brought a smile to my face.

In a telephone conversation this past week, my mother related to me how my cousin Jim provided dental care for my Aunt Poll and Uncle Skip over the course of the 29 years that he practiced general dentistry. Jim refused to accept any monetary payment from them, although he welcomed my Aunt Poll’s apple pies as a token of appreciation for services rendered. I also learned that Jim provided pro bono dental care to countless children whose families were too poor to afford it.

My cousin Jim suffered quite a bit in his life, particularly over the course of these past several years. But it seems as though he succeeded in spinning his suffering into a tapestry of sorts: a tapestry of gentleness and compassion for his patients, his family and his friends.

My cousin Jim took upon himself the yoke of a wounded healer. He used his pain and suffering to create and disseminate a little bit of goodness and love in this world.

That, to me, will be my cousin Jim’s legacy.

Thirteen ways of encountering a blackbird

Wallace Stevens walk I


At The Hartford in Hartford
I inquire if one can park on campus
For the Wallace Stevens walk.
The gate guard directs me to
The visitors’ lot.


On foot I set out
Beneath the burning sun,
Pausing at the first station
Of the eye of the blackbird
To consult the map.


The second station is guarded
By a black wrought-iron fence,
The granite marker bearing
Wallace’s words
A prisoner of the Asylum.


Between verse two and three
I turn to consider
The swaying hips
Of a golden-shod finely braided woman
Sauntering along the sidewalk.


Insignia orange vested workers
Weed-wack the Gengras Center fence.
One wipes his weeping brow
And tips a broadbilled cap.


At Woodland I touch the steel button
And wait for the small white man
To make his appearance.
Three laughing nurses
Navigate the corner.


Suddenly, the demeanor of the neighborhood changes.
Spacious Georgian mansions populate the landscape.
In submission Asylum twists and rolls over
On its belly.


At Scarborough the chiseled words
Are cast in shadow —
The shadow of blackbirds.


Black-bearded men,
ID badges dangling from their belts,
Saunter by with vacant stares.


Three stout women
Step lively to the edge of Woodside,
Abruptly turn,
and retrace their circular path.


At Terry and Westerly Terrace
Stevens’ stone words lie mute,
Caressed by black-eyed Susans.


A small grey poodle squats
On the grassy bank beneath young trees.
His widebrimmed owner
Waves with a smile.


Number 118:
A white house with black shutters.
Stevens’ snow-covered mountain;
The forlorn feather of a blackbird
Cast aside on the cracked sidewalk.


Wallace Stevens walk XIV