Under the Southern Cross

The Southern Cross
hovered over the city of Brisbane,
even the spreading suburbs,
Alpha Crucis, Beta, Delta, Gamma
and Epsilon, and most precious of all
that sparkling cornucopia, the Jewel Box.

None of my family were aware but me.
My mother lived ninety thousand nights
beneath the darkest nebula known
but never saw it the once.
The thoughts, the fears, of my three sisters
never stretched beyond moon-gazing.
That chunk of shiny rock was all the night sky
they ever needed.

When I lay, almost pegged to the sheets,
trying to convince my lungs to function,
the open window, supposed air freshener,
was really a gateway, a launching pad
for the smoothest, sleekest starship in the fleet,
the one I captained,
whose destinations seduced me from afar—
the Southern Cross—all systems go!

When I was a boy,
the city of Brisbane
was a clanking tram ride away.
It too offered lights
my bedroom could barely imagine.
My sisters talked up its excitements.
My mother worried for the trouble
it could bring.
My city was distant, floating,
in the shape of a cross
and made entirely of light.
Luckily, the only way possible
was my preferred method
of getting there.

On a Beach in Bali

Such a place.
Fish fly like birds.
Breadfruit trees come down to the shore
to blow in your ear.
And the hens are loose.
No backyard cages for them.
They know where the breezes blow.

And their cackling never stops.
You could swear the town has feathers/
Not ten feet from where you’re sprawled,
a handsome rooster is mounting a shy hen.
He follows up sex
with a vibrant bugle blast.

No portholes here.
The windows are wide
and your undertakings minimal.
From the motel to the sand
involves no head-scratching/
A few more days of this
and your body is restored to what it never was.
Like that rooster,
you too rattle a red coxcomb,
shake the bamboo down to its roots.

The assurances of heaven
are met here
by a stretch on tropical beach,
doused in oil
that smells of cocoanut,
light throbbing where it meets flesh,
sun turning your skin auburn,
and your heart and mind
into hibiscus flowers.

A Man’s Thoughts at 30,000 Feet

No, this plane will not crash.
We’re far safer up here
than we were
when driving to the airport.
But, if we do go down,
(and the odds on that happening
are the same as me winning
the lottery three weeks in a row),
I just want you to know
that you are the only woman
in my life that I have truly loved
and all those others,
(I won’t bother to mention
their names)
meant absolutely nothing to me.

I know what you’re thinking.
The likelihood of that being true
is roughly the same as you attaining sainthood
in the Catholic Church.
But why would I lie to you
when we’re 30,000 feet in the air
in a giant steel cocoon
flying peasant class at 500 miles per hour.
We could go down any moment.
And you’ve been a saint, you know that.

To Prove Joy in Other Ways

I number a handful of days
of great things richly formed,
and days, beyond account,
that are just like every other day.
So these days, I prove joy differently.
I appreciate how much it’s stabilized.
No longer vexed,
but hesitant to say how
the measures of our life together,
these metaphysical ironies,
depend less on the flesh, bones,
whatever the grave deems obscure,
and more on what we internalize.

When I turned forty,
all of the ways of love seemed quaint.
Nothing to do with here and now.
Our touch no longer equal
to a good meal, a satisfying book.
It’s not merely the aging of our hearts.
It’s what we simply mean
when we say anything.

Once, solitude felt like fear.
Now, it bolsters me.
Thoughts take over,
apply a kind of subconscious grace.
No worry, I won’t be leaving you.
Many are the factors in restraint.
Besides, the life together contrives
to eradicate all other possibilities.
No longer erratic, I’m defined,
have found a purpose in our chronology.

And the devotion has continued
even if the romance proved too frail to last.
Twenty years has it been?
I promised not to mention time at all
but as a classroom in which we’ve slowly learned
to value each other’s breaths,
to speak a common tongue.
Once fierce, now tender moments,
love will come of what we are,
an unforced rhythm with its various human tones.