Table for One Gator

A ridge of gray
breaks the surface of brown water—

a stillness like cypress roots—

two nostrils blink like eyes,
suck in the steamy air—

a raccoon ventures too near
the edge of the swamp
and a large jaw
suddenly erupts
in a violent spray,
grabs the poor creature
with saber-sharp teeth,
drags it under—

like the two of us
in a fine restaurant
nibbling on coq au vin,
sipping Chardonnay—

the principle’s the same,
only the panache is lacking.

Love Sick Etc.

Yes it might have been the Thai takeout.
But, then again, it could have been the water from the tap.
Or that kiss you planted on your niece’s cheek.
Or merely something floating through the air.

Sick is sick.
Like love is love.
There doesn’t have to be a reason.
Just throw up, sweat under the sheets,
down some gloopy medicine,
and be done with it.
Or promise that
you’ll stick by her,
be as faithful as lapdog,
For sick is love.
Love is sick.

You feel great
and yet you don’t feel so good.
It could have been the Pad Thai noodles
with red curry.
It could have been the one
who took the time
to bring it home to you.

Spider-Man in the Park

Kid’s dressed in a Spider-Man suit and it’s not even Halloween.
He’s in the park, swinging from the lower branches,
but not spinning any webs from what I can see.
Can’t tell how old he is or even what he looks like.
But there must be someone inside that costume.
Maybe, like me at that age, his own skin
just doesn’t seem good enough, his face unthreatening
no matter how tough he tries to make his mirror image out to be.
So the neighborhood Peter Parker dons the red and black.
He’s the hero of the comic he read last night before bed,
or the movie he watched for the seventh time on DVD.
He can work his way into his dream self
without contradiction from his regular appearance.
His fists spar with the air, the only Doctor Octopus hereabouts.
And he runs and jumps as if the next stop’s a building top
even as he thuds back down to earth again.
Then some bigger kids come by, poke fun at him.
“Gonna save me from the bad guy, Spidey.”
One even pushes him but he doesn’t push back.
A cop in uniform breaks it up before Spider-Man
is set upon, bruised and bloodied. “You okay, kid?” asks the cop.
He hates the question, especially when it’s put to him by Superman.

Cliff, Way Back in the Fifties

Cliff used to hitchhike all the time
but in his navy uniform
so folks would be embarrassed
not to stop and pick him up,
take him to where he needed to be.

But Cliff never talked of the war.
Not even to the stranger
driving him someplace.
He figured that
what he was wearing would
tell the story that the guy
wanted to hear anyhow.
So why waste his breath
contradicting or confirming.

So if the good Samaritan
behind the wheel
passed the time
imagining his passenger
manning the anti-aircraft gun
while planes strafed
the decks of his cruiser
then so be it.
Cliff would just mutter,
“Nice weather”
or “What about them Dodgers.”

Heroism, grit, staunchness,
Cliff left all that
to the other man’s fancies.
He figured wars
were best fought
by the ones who were not there.

The Nest and Beyond

Birds brood,
eggs hatch.

Helpless offspring
totter about the nest.

Beaks open,
as parents depart
to find food.

Soon enough they will
flap wings, take off and soar.
For now, they decry
such boundless freedom.

Pioneers Feed the Horses

From oats out of a burlap sack,
they feed the horses in the barn.

Torsos rough as stumps,
legs bent like willows,
brown boots caked in mud,
from hardened hands
they feed the horses in the barn.

From the cries of children in the yard,
silence of the gutted plow in the field,
the hanging belly of the family pig,
to the chortling chickens,
and the fly-nagged dairy cows,
they feed the sorry beasts that got them there.