The feast: more than a meal, it’s flesh at its most opulent surrounded by a nimbus of starches and sweets, by anticipation and ceremony, by cacophony and prayer. If fast is a holding firm, feast is a letting go — but no less a ritual for that. Certain foods must be served in a set order. Belts must be loosened along with inhibitions. First the table must groan under the weight of the food, then the eaters must groan as they attempt to rise. The boundary between pleasure and pain must be breached — especially on a feast of thanksgiving. You can say grace before any meal, but Thanksgiving’s mandatory excess imparts a visceral understanding of the cost of consumption: something has to die that we may live.

Walking it off
through the night & fog
the dazzle of home

Autumn haibun

This entry is part 17 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life


Fall is a time of strange promptings, even for those of us who never succumb to vagabondage. If I happen to spot decades-old spiderwebs like wings of dust in a corner of the basement, I glance quickly away & reach for the jar of screws. And when the green is gone, when it has leached from the last of the leaves & the ground is ankle-deep in gloria mundi, I want to know the trees as Indians once did: from the flavor of their ashes. I want to learn restlessness from the natives, stand still enough to become a landmark for a mob of lekking gnats in Indian summer. I want the little brown bat in my portico to find a hibernaculum no other bat knows about, where he can hang all winter like a stilled pendulum, safe from the killer fungus the color of snow. I want my bootprints to collect the November rain & freeze: windows for whatever Argus might still be with us, insomniac, going over & over the dwindling flocks.

The Amtrak’s
quick double blast—
then cricket   cricket.

Ceiling snakes

This entry is part 4 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life


Direct link to video on Vimeo

The night that a pair of mating milk snakes drops out of the ceiling, I do not dream of snakes. I dream of mating, and of breaking through the crust of the earth and discovering another world filled with an unnatural light. I dream of inescapable stairs verging on a cliff-face to which I cling like a wingless fly. When I wake, it’s still humid, if no longer hot, and a wood thrush sings at the edge of the woods, where wood thrushes always sing: one part joy, two parts longing. I find my notebook from the night before, what I’d been writing when I heard a noise in the kitchen and set it down (some writer!) to grab the video camera. Picking at a scab, it says, and worry beads. I’m sure I had something in mind, but I don’t know what. The snakes were beautiful, and if I hadn’t known better, I might’ve thought from their configuration that they were one snake with a head at both ends, curious but calm as milk snakes always seem to be. If they’d stayed longer I might’ve stood beneath them and offered the use of my body as a steep set of stairs. But the ceiling or their unfinished business called them back, and up they went.

night kitchen
feeling in the dark to pour
a glass of milk


On a moonless night in August, under the gourd-rattle din of katydids, the forest floor is dotted with blue-green lights, dim as glow-in-the-dark toys an hour after lights-out: foxfire. I grope toward one at my feet, trace the shape of the log, then break off a glowing nubbin. It’s soft & flexible, & illuminates only the thinnest circle of the hand in which it rests. I slip it into a pants pocket, thinking I’ll show the others, but when I get back, somehow I can’t bring myself to mention it. It doesn’t seem right to parade such a recondite thing as if it were a trophy. A day later, it sits hard and shriveled like a dead ear atop my computer monitor.

I dream I’m sick
& wake to find myself well.
The tree full of birds.