Jobless on the First of June


Coffee during the morning commute,
The hour of the ass-over-teakettle rush,
Tastes on the front steps like the brew
You sip on a Saturday: not the stuff
Gulped in haste with eyes on the clock,
But bright in the clear cup, and rich
With gold flakes when the sun strikes.

I sit on the steps, contemplating life,
Eyes wide open to the wondrous world
I pass on the Monday-through-Friday express,
But never again: no more will I miss
This incredible sight, right here in reach,
Ripe for the plucking, but for my sense
Of propriety when station mattered most.

I see two golden specks in flight,
Two golden insects somehow off the mark,
Like tiny gold angels with folded wings
Ascending heavenward. Ah! no angels, these,
But spiders! borne aloft on laser threads,
And more! there on the juniper bush
On a platform of air in a mesh of web,

The tiniest spiders I have ever seen!
And another lets go, and goes straight up,
And never lets go, its lifeline taut,
Till it reaches the trees, and the leaves
Close in beyond the exercise of eyes,
And I drop down from a powerful high,
Wondering why I had been so blind.

2/The Duck

The supermarket was a Saturday trip
When most of my life swept lickety-split
Past eyes out of focus, in sepia tones
Like a silent movie from the orchestra pit,
But never again: I seize the day, and swing
To the freeway with the greatest of ease
Since everyone's elsewhere, working away—

But I jam my foot down hard on the brakes!
A duck! running round on the median strip,
And no one can stop it from getting crushed!
I leap from my car and quick, gather it up
As I'd gather a child who's frightened cold,
And hold it close as I can while I drive,
A hero in virtually everyone's eyes—

But where do you drop off a motherless duck
When the duck is too small to know much at all?
Ah yes! there's a pond just beyond the farm
Up the road where willows and tall weeds thrive
As a guarantee of safety to a very lucky duck
With a lifetime to spend in profit and fun
Where summer grass grows gold for the fall.

I stand on the bank and watch the duck explore
Weeds on the far shore and willows on the near,
Catch a fingerling, dip down for a drink,
Rear up, quack, preen its fine feathered wings,
Conforming in a blink to a perfect place to be,
Where needs are met and wishes beg for wants,
And unemployment is a nonexistent state.


Home from the store, I strip to the skin,
Spread myself flat on a white cotton sheet
And soak up the sun: no creature on Earth
Knows what I know of the whole universe
Seen plainly in dots and dashes of clouds
As a code embroidered on a vast pillowslip
For dream-seekers bent after beauty and truth.

Look! Two birds drift wide-winged into view,
Two golden eagles skimming a thermal crest
In the ocean of air holding life in its place,
As one folds wings, and missile-like, shoots
Toward the valley floor with incredible speed,
While the other one keeps an eagle eye peeled
Till the first again soars: and then follows!

My eyes pursue till trees bite the sky
And a piece of me falls, wounded on the wing
By the distant blast of a diesel truck's horn,
Its air horn, there at the freeway interchange,
And tilting at the Monday-through-Friday express
As a knight sallies forth for glorious deeds
In a dragon's lair before the golden maid,

I break through barriers of light, a free duck
Transplanted by some miracle to a perfect pond,
And every wind-borne spider bears my name
As I aspire to the high branch beyond, to build
With a difference bound to be, when the only way
It was no longer is: when everything is new,
And all you can do is roll and trust your luck.

[First published in Bellowing Ark]