The game of ski, snow skating,
wooden wings--Even those intrepid pioneers
remembered on caves in Norway and Russia
3000 years before Christ, must have shouted,
Look at me, after willow branches
tie split femur bones
on fur-covered feet and men step
into the white sky centuries before
ski poles and military strategists
further exploit their practical
efficiency. The heel strap
turns hunters into guerillas,
but nothing prepares these men
for the rich coming with their money.
I am a boy from the Dakotas
in overshoes. Skis show a way
out, sending me into a descent
no edge or howl or gravity can stop.
Not man either. Marvel-wings
pointing me at heaven.
30 March 2010
ON RECOVERING FROM EL SALVADOR
May I never recover,
Karen, from loving,
and being loved, by you.
You have ruined me for life.
13 November 2009
--for Karen on our 41st Anniversary
Sister of Sifting Sand, shifting
in the year that cannot be put into words,
accompaniment with you
be my blessing this day. May I
know something of the door
opening for me as you walk down
the stairs this Monday morning
of thanksgiving. Sand into water
and cement be your name in concrete.
Ceremony in El Salvador.
Each breath a counted gift lost
in countless acts of repetition.
23 November 2009
Yesterday, on the artificial new year,
we walked Franklin Park
trying out your new snow shoes.
Sadie ran in the snow, and I tracked
the sound of your feet crunching snow
with the video camera. We looked at each other
across the room through binoculars
and ate crab marinated in olive oil
and garlic. We ate apple pie
and ice cream. You took calls
from your daughters planning
birthday spaghetti. This is how life
goes, sometimes, for executives
in retirement. The internet, still new,
also sends birthday greetings
from corporations who also know
your date of birth and the fact
that you have money in your bank account.
You've been to El Salvador, built
a house for children modeled after
this house you made with me in dreams.
Four times this year we've crossed water
to Holden Village. We've traveled
with grand children, been in over our heads
again and again. We call this year
a dark time, but looking at you I see nothing
but light. We accompany each other
in the world. I ask you, How can this be?
2 January 2010
NOON SWIM AT THE YMCA
On my back in the water, Lord,
my hands are folded
as I kick my feet against the water
listening to Karen tell me
that I am a mountain
with its own weather system.
This is my daily swim.
She didn’t use those words.
Her words are seeding themselves
in these last days of January
where I will have ready access to them.
The illness must always be the teacher.
I believe this, as I believe
there is also a cost to the vessel.
If this be a prayer, Lord,
it arrives and contains your grace
lined and aligned with gratitude.
20 January 2010
THURSDAY, IN FEBRUARY,
TWO DAYS BEFORE VALENTINE’S
Spend more time in the water, I tell myself,
getting out of the Y pool and into the shower.
Two grand daughters curl into our arms
after vomiting all night. Grandma and Grandpa
time arrives in times like these. Times
are changing, just like Bobby Dylan sang
last night at the White House before
Barack and Michelle. My President.
Dylan sang the song like he believed,
but not in the changes taking place.
His fingers played high on the neck
of his guitar, and he did sing those
senators and congressmen out of his way.
I didn’t even mention it to Karen
this morning over coffee, waiting
for kids to arrive. Every singer should serve
part of his apprenticeship with L. Cohen’s
Alleluiah. I need only listen to one line,
…the baffled King composing, alleluiah.
Baffled King stops me cold, and I’m struck
again with composing. The baffled King composing…
That David, strapped to his kitchen chair
utters at all, devastates. But one forgives all
when he gets to Alleluiah. 16 laps. That’s my
swimming the past two days. 16 makes
half a mile. Nine in a crawl,
and seven on my back. Two sick kids
grieving with me. They have cause.
Our young soldiers, warn out
from two wars, want alcohol.
12 February 2010
WHEN WE TALK ABOUT SKIING
- for Tim Bodeen
The foot of dry powder that fell in the night
reminds the man on the chairlift
of snowmaking machines at Sun Valley.
They have it down, he says. Different formulas
for different hills. Another man,
on another day, likes my helmet's snake-like
pattern. He wears a GPS on his collar
that tracks his speed, and so far today,
so he says, he's topped out at 56 mph.
His language tells me he's American.
In Canada, the skimeister in the gondola
talks to his young class about his assigned
movie on risk. The nail that sticks out
in Japan gets pounded down, he says.
The boy he talks to listens to headphones.
We're sitting across from each other.
I put my Anarchy Goggles over my eyes.
Here we have to look at each other, my son says.
The man driving truck from the pipe line
says oil money puts his daughter on skis.
We're in a camper, crossing ice fields,
father and son, Living the risk for ten days,
night and day. Transforming the culture
of materialism in American alpine skiing
won't be easy. We share a century of time
and experience, Trans Canada Highway
with Neil Young and Spearhead. Once,
we took a second-class bus from the southern
tip of Mexico and headed North. Crossing
borders is what we talk about, doing it.
24 March 2010