Dear Heptathlete

What haven’t you done,
around the quarter-mile cinder track,
at the pits for high and long jump,
or before the field events netting,
where you tossed the javelin
like an Amazon throwing a spear
and grunted the shot put fifty feet
in front of you?

I stand at the fence to watch you train.
A coach screams at a bunch of tired runners.
Another shakes his head
when his protégé gets tangled up
in a hurdle.
You’re on your own,
too restless to specialize in any one event.
You sprint, you leap, you spin,
in accordance with your moment’s mood.
Only you know
how you put it all together.

So what can I do for you?
Shine your shoes?
Time your laps?
Measure your heights, your distances?
Or, enough of this athletic fad—
why not pop the question,
front you up at the altar?

I catch a butterfly
and let her go.
There’s my answer.

To an Asthmatic Son

Too often
the windows are shuttered
and your mouth gulps like a fish’s
while your lungs are beggars
holding out their caps for oxygen.

All of you is like this entrance exam
that must be passed
before the air can infiltrate
your weakened body,
give you words beyond a whisper,
project you outward
and back into the world.

and open that window,
commit yourself,
fly if you have to,
out of this bedroom prison,
into the healing blue.
recovering on the wing,
beyond the farthest hills
or, if not,
just breathe normally.

A Brief Disturbance

Dark sky over oaks and maples,
air chilled and ready to take the blame
for my shivering hands,
my footsteps crackle on fallen leaves,
stop short for animal remains
on the trail ahead.

It’s the insect-riddled corpse of a hare,
fed on by coyotes or foxes,
and before the crows and turkey vultures
have pecked it clean.

It’s a mush of rotting innards and bone,
lumped like its own tombstone
on my favorite track through the woods.

This is the autumn path
that I love as much
as the lake in summer,
rendered somber by a quick kill,
not the reassuring slower decay I’m used to.

But I must accept nature’s covenant,
the beauty with the violence,
not let my soft heart magnify
one or the other.

For the good of all,
prey mulch into newborn.
And the predator is no stranger to survival.