Line-a-day No Dates

A walk through fire;
maples illuminate paths
toward monochrome.

In yellow slicker
and blue boots, the boy catches
a double rainbow.

Against the wild wind —
the architecture of webs.
Spiders and prey swing.

Nothing stays the same
on a wrath of God dark day
in this holy wind.

A dragonfly falls.
Mica wings glitter, flutter.
Crack against concrete.

October sunrise
weaves a shawl of thanksgiving:
pearl gray, scarlet fringed.

Grass, frost-white at dawn.
Groves of skeleton shadows.
Still, still a robin.

Cormorants file East,
their histories strung along
lines and lines of waves.

A saw-whet, banded,
rests in her palm, lifts soft wings,
leaves her like a breath.

Jazz is a woman
not easily satisfied
by hands at her strings.

On Hallow’een, snow.
Vampires: mittened, in boots.
Nature’s trick and treat.

In miniature:
acrylic skulls, lace curtains,
handpainted cups, plates.
Part dollhouse dream, part funhouse.
Stairs spiral down to nothing.

What is this circus?
Like acrobats, lovers reach
toward a trapeze.
If they fall, they fall hard, hard.
Slaves to gravity can’t fly.

Stark on calm waters,
tundra swans’ fidelity:
white against slate-grey.
A morning choreographed.
Grace in every pas de deux.

We walk the shoreline
below dunes, high as ten men.
Geese mutter, shuffle.
We ascend the soft, steep slope.
Pass trees grown tall without soil.

A pause, a breath, then
into a white-powder bowl.
Distant waves chant as
grasses trace the wind’s cycles
in perfect semicircles.

Boot prints, small paw prints
suggest a way to the shore.
We follow on faith
until we stand, as pilgrims,
to worship on virgin ground.

Stillness, such stillness.
Even the wind, quieted.
Fresh tracks to the left:
pads much larger than a dog’s;
no human tread to tame them.

We take flight, career
down a harsh diagonal.
Geese fan to the bay.
In pale sunlight, take solace
in the elegance of swans.

Cornstalk stubble, white
fields, peppered with stalwart crows.
Lesser birds flee South.

She cannot find sleep.
In the tangled sheets of her mind,
crow-black trumps sheep-white.
Eyes closed, she seeks a sunset.
Not any sunset, but one
that can draw her to its night.

She invokes that sun.
Embraced by island cliffs and
mainland hills and bays,
the sea assumes its mantle:
languid, liquid, beaten gold.

A boat’s wake bisects
the surface; a thin, black line
between east and rest.
Becalmed, adrift, she floats on
eddies, with the current. Dreams.

A rival sunset
insinuates its profile.
Upstart? Unwelcome?
Freshwater sea, hard-shouldered;
headland pines in silhouette.

Flawless complexion,
framed by strands of cirrus clouds;
the spectrum of flames.
Mirrored, mirrored on the bay,
which is the fairest of them…

A shrine’s wooden cross,
stranded in weeds, untended
beside the toll road.
Christmas garlands, tinsel-draped;
Death does not take holidays.

One woman wears words,
the dark aura of her grief,
her own crown of thorns.
ERs, ICUs, IVs
lend her language urgency.

A second woman,
unadorned on a bare stage,
stakes them as her own.
Between actor and writer,
a conspiracy of dread.

This cannot end well.
Otherwise, where’s the drama.
But why speak of it:
altruistic warning or
expiation, catharsis?

The facts, complicit;
a husband, a daughter die.
The survivor’s masque:
theatre as oasis
with its well of cold wisdom.

Define who you are:
assigned to sixteen year-olds,
a four-month challenge.
The teacher’s demand blinds him.
Few images, no words come.

What he ‘sees’ is white,
white as the bay in winter.
Surface, all surface.
The expanse, the emptiness —
speak to him of his likeness.

One girl in his class
transfers words onto paper.
Parchment confessions
rolled and tied, suspended from
lines, as transparent as she.

Another classmate:
her self study, scuplted in
blue papier mache.
Scarlet lips, parted, scream out
obsenities, defilement.

It is no surprise —
she IS that tortured torso.
His offering, pales.
An aquarium: heavy
with water, silt, his stuff.

A dime, a penknife
join a cat’s eye, rubik’s cube,
an empty pill box,
a rusted padlock, open,
a box of condoms, still wrapped.

Now he adds `ice,`snow`;
a slab of thick styrofoam —
precise cut, force fed —
shrieks as it streaks down the glass.
Afloat, it steals the surface.

Each found object, drowned:
a loser’s pitiable picks.
Too late to change them.
Their weight, heavy on his chest.
Breathless, he hands his work in.

He waits for judgment
as waves wait below March ice —
impatient, pulsing.
Doesn’t know for what he hopes:
Kudos or oblivion?

No one has told Spring.
She ignores the willing sun.
Scowls her cold ‘welcome.’
His designs on her, fruitless,
she smoothes her shifts of snow.

She takes the lesson —
the hard one she learned from Earth:
To yield is weakness.
Earth, deflowered, denuded
seeks vengeance, retribution.

A victim no more,
she dresses herself in flames,
throws off her mantle.
She forgets the children, sends
the wave to steal their future.

Conversations fail.
Voracious grief consumes worlds.
Which death is harsher?
A lover’s, mother’s or child’s?
To answer, dissect a heart.

Ask no such questions.
Find a heart sanctuary
in stained glass fragments.
Light–broken, scattered– can’t warm
stone but colours hands in prayer.

Long-shadow sunrise;
breakers in exultation
recite liturgies.
A eulogy of snow falls
onto stone-cold April earth.

I turn Picasso.
To sculpt as worship or as
sacrilege, homage
or loathing: In wood? In stone?
What becomes you? Must I choose?

She is ninety-three.
Dosing, she breathes well: no pain.
Dribble wets her hands.
Whisper her name. She sleeps, still.
Why shout, wake her for nothing?

Blue tissue, ribbons.
Within lies Spring, hand knit, in
run-off colours, curled.
A garland, crafted by one
woman for her younger self.

Not exactly,no.
Black, white, grey: not her colours.
Fuchsia clothes her.
She creates for another,
full twenty years her junior.

That second woman
wishes to age like her friend:
lined, yet beautiful;
marked, not scarred; in hardship’s wake,
a traveller trav’ling light.

Nets strung, loose across
paths, through forest leaves and light,
to catch a warbler.
Covetous, the watchers wait,
crave beauty, indigo wings.

nets raised at sunrise;migrants
define the seasons.
From thin nylon threads, sure hands
unravel irredescence.

Pilgrims all and each
journey to sanctuaries,
waystations or home:
defined by what they seek there
or by what it is they find.

Salvation: a prize
or a curse. In the striving,
what is gained? What lost?
The spirit struggles, caught in
the cruel silks of perfection.

Clothed in rags and gold,
a penitent, forsaken,
seeks worlds in prayer,
sifts through sands of discontent
that run through, burn her fingers.

Sand against windshield:
she drives through clouds of mayflies,
black above asphalt.
Her final turn off pavement,
down a lane of spent lilacs.

What was she thinking?
‘I need beauty, a place of
quiet water, stones.
Loons’ common laughter, gulls’ cries.
Virginia Woolf beside me.’

She abandons words
and brings a lesson of stones.
Awaiting nightfall,
she’s blind to cirri, radiant
at summer solstice sunset.

Her back to the land,
she no longer finds wonder
in whip-poor-will calls
or flickers of fireflies.
Weighed down, she swallows the lake.

At dawn, not a sound.
Why no warblers, no blue jays?
Why no chickadees?
Baystones on shore understand.
Ledges underwater know.

Her spirit submerged
in the silence, in the depths
beyond requiem.
An object to recover
with a boat and body bag.

On July the 2nd,
no longer celebrated,
a mother’s birthday
gives evidence her daughter
is no one’s child anymore.

A dove’s shallow nest
on a back deck’s cedar rail.
Two, closed-eye fledglings,
under a cascade of vines,
warmed by feathered breast and sun.

What stakes the moment
to abandon soft closeness:
A predator’s call?
New wings, tight-bound in the nest?
A matter of choice? Instinct?

Does ‘mother’ leave first?
Her example, how to fly,
easy to follow
to shelter in junipers
among silver-green berries.

In 9 a.m. sun,
the adult, two juveniles
nest in a huddle.
At 10:00, the next scene: silent,
without audience. They’re gone.

Pose the question well.
If a tree falls in the wood,
and no one is there,
does that make a sound or not?
A philosopher’s puzzle.

The wings of three doves
would whistle in taking flight.
Were they frightened off?
Could young pinions lift them?
Did they fall if no one saw?

Lightning, a rainbow
in the same yardage of sky.
A sash of weathers
that warp the weaver’s pattern,
disguise the clothes of a storm.

She should have been warned:
one theft begets another.
How not to be caught?
Confidence, experience
cloaked her, blindfolded her eyes.

They met in a song.
Seduction, its melody
with rhythmic refrain,
overrode their histories,
stole for them an anthem: “we.”

For ten years, plus two,
that theft, remembered only
as an air to hum
till he no longer recalls
many words, some of the tune.

She should have been warned.
One theft begets another.
Memories like lace:
tatting, a pattern of holes,
shroud him, steal him from her.

What she needs from him:
she tells him, she shows him what.
He never asked her,
so doesn’t listen or hear.
Perhaps has forgotten how.

Memory, fleeting
or omnipresent, overlaid
with images from hell.
Fear, hate: skyline ghosts scrape heights,
imprint on eyes that still weep.

From her low deckchair
she sees only shoes and legs.
Plum painted toe-nails,
bronze sandals, hiking boots,
sneakers, heels, red ballet flats.

Trunks block her sight-lines;
a grove of stooped backs, straight spines
screen the stage from her.
She hears the addaggio,
sees a plane, white on sky blue.

Listens for her fears.
Their refrain cannot compete
with this assembly.
Minds, hearts tuned to melody,
as leaves turn toward the sun.

A dawn of anger
caught by juniper branches,
twisting and tossing.
Waves, wind in conspiracy.
To dream? Impossible now.

Guests at the table
no longer call to their gods.
Their prayers, secular,
presume a role at centre stage,
dream of ruling the cosmos.

Folly, such folly.
Like the emperor’s fine clothes,
less than gossamer:
their substance, significance —
ephemeral as a breath.

Water, gravity
in a taught conspiracy
with bedrock and shale:
distilled words, drawn down, down, down,
find their voices at the core.

Torrent or trickle?
Forging canyons in the mind,
following fissures,
impurities in the flow
filtered with each narrowing.

Is the way easy?
Does she, like water, follow
courses ready-made
where gravity enables
her soft words to slip through stone?

Or must she travel
a steep sinue of a road,
twisting up, around
blind curves: she cannot know what’s
coming but strives forward still.

Forty years ago,
when almost a woman,
a serious girl
found his features beautiful,
felt the heat of his pursuit.

Now she can still see
how he walked down her front steps,
how he crossed her street:
tall, slim; hands loose at his sides;
steps, fluid as a dancer’s.

Now she remembers
the summer she turned twenty.
He charmed them: boys, girls —
student guides at the world’s fair
let him lead them anywhere.

When he came for her,
when it was her turn at last,
she feared, yet followed.
Midnight flamenco, tangos,
wine, whispers: all real or not?

Now so long ago.
Still, his essence at that time,
what he was to her,
flourishes unblemished, fans
the embers of memory.

Santa on Main Street:
His cavalcade, commercial.
Good will, good business, joined.
Equal measures of dollars
and dreaming of sugarplums.

She speaks of herself
for one hour; portrays how
fairy godmothers,
luck rule her life; this woman
blind to how she makes her own.

He lived tough at first.
His house near the bus depot,
not nearly a home.
he watched through tattered curtains
as wheels turned toward Somewhere.

His intersection:
without lights, five roads converge.
Stops at each corner.
His lifescape: a pub, petstore;
a gas station and buses.

Wanted: dead or alive,
a new dancemaster for death.
Well schooled? Yes, of course,
in the arts. To pirouette
to life’s choreography.

Her sharp reflection
in a mirror framed with vines.
She stares at her face,
the mask that hides what she knows:
under lips, that smile — her skull.

What is she, she asks.
Bones, flesh, gray matter, veins, blood?
A prison of cells?
Her body confines, defines
her essence; when she lives, dies.

She, shackled and bound,
rejects her physical self;
seeks freedom elsewhere.
Spirit, soul: free in her mind
where cell walls wait to be breached.

Exit the balsam.
Chains of gold, ornaments: boxed.
Without scent or lights,
the room emptied of Christmas
becomes itself, unadorned.

The nature of cold:
as a colour, blue as ice.
Replace that cliche.
As a colour, colourless:
diamonds in winter’s crown.

A life line of crowns:
palm, crosshatched in diamonds,
Jewels of experience
nestle in fate’s filigree.

A lifetime: long? Short?
Life is nothing without death.
Like those much-married,
they become one another:
similar in looks, habits.

Their resemblance lasts,
survives the dying moment.
Without injury,
only the absence of breath
severs their intimate bond.

In the aftermath,
absence of life becomes large,
fills the chamber.
Life force, animation, soul —
in memory, still prevail.

What’s life without death?
Life eternal: valued less,
as would be diamonds,
if they deposed grains of sand
on shores of hourglass seas.

Eighteen pelicans
roost in one of four pine trees.
The entertainment:
White women, mainly sun-hatted,
stoop, pan for shells at high tide.

It’s not their ocean:
The two-legged creatures that can’t
glide, soar and plunge,
pouch a fish, swallow it whole,
leave a morsel for a tern.

Top heavy, these pines
grant superiority
to the pelicans.
At least, at this island’s shore,
their mastery, unchallenged.

Absence: Nowhere
to return from or to.
No beachside haven.
No cloud-crowned mountain summit.
No sun-blessed glade or bower.

No haven for thought,
not inside walls of cells or
All absence rings: muted,
without breath, the balm of voice.

Glasses by the bed,
a hospital mattress, stripped.
Places cry empty,
even as music lingers,
still infuses memory.

Infused by absence,
rooms where he worked, whatever
he touched, survive him.
A concert grand, notes, books, wait
for his return from nowhere.

Blond, tanned, Eve waits
on the bridge to Bowman Beach;
her gown, high-waisted;
gold, sequinned flip-flops; a bouquet
of stem orchids, dyed turquoise.

This bridge to Eden
spans a rare-bird habitat.
Poised at its apex,
her spouse of twenty minutes
caresses her bare shoulder.

Two little bridesmaids
in aqua tuck under her wings,
make themselves so small
they fail to hide the new life
in their mother’s silk-draped womb.

Saturday morning,
a fox with dance and a feint
claims cliffs and shoreline
as his own, hoists his standard:
red on aqua silk, rampant.

We, the visitors,
his audience at ringside,
watch the tournament:
spike-crowned mergansers en garde;
the thrust and parry of waves.

Waters play restless,
even at this no-tide shore.
They lap, slap, clap till
after midnight calm returns,
summoned by the call of wolves.

Hands pull at harp strings,
as wind calls to high grasses,
ripples, rifles them.
Wild sheaves sway to its rhythms;
their heads bowed to melody.

Dead birds cannot sing.
Their melodies, lost to winds
that rouse high towers
to turn great blades of steel
that churn songs and soft feathers.

What will children hear
in forests bereft of trees,
fields without flowers?
No songbirds. No Chorus frogs.
Only a harsh hush, man-made.

She’s a madonna.
No man could ever paint her.
Brush stroke caresses,
lust-red, would taint his palette:
A saint, man-made, thus undone.

This woman: a myth
or real? Her calm tames sorrow.
Her tears bless the earth.
All creatures, worthy of love,
mourned whether full fair or plain.

The death of a child
gives her just reason to mourn
for eternity.
She will kindle love with loss
till her eyes close to their light.

No light before dawn.
Loneliness lies awake with
its lover, silence.
Silhouette landscapes merge
with birdsong to end darkness.

A song in praise of
this friend for fifty-two years.
Like lines in a hand,
her presence, her love, etched deep,
framed the child, formed the woman.

The language of life —
images and sounds from worlds
in evolution.
Before letters, cavelines drawn
by the hands of history.

All ephemeral,
spoken stories lose to tides
that heed but the moon.
Histories, written, survive
above the high-water line.

Words anchor minds, bring
imagination, spirit
home to wide harbours;
whether on paper or on a screen,
treasures, ideas, unlocked.

Three men on a porch.
Beer cans — one, two, three, four, five —
line the roughhewn rail.
The wide bay, shawled by sunset,
stays calm as they reload.

With rifles, handguns,
they shoot toward deep water,
where soft clouds shimmer.
Such weapons, such aimless hands
shatter surface, silence, calm.

Calm, tame your anger.
As scissors alter fabric,
anger transforms heart.
Tissue — hardened, constricted.
The warp, weft of life — altered.

Love as carapace?
Whether carried by the heart
or mind, it transforms.
Without shield or hard-grown shell,
openness lies, unguarded.

Openness defies form.
No trellis supports its weight.
It’s invisible.
Limitless, it can be bound
by love’s elasticity.

She vowed she loved him,
demanded a home from him.
He was not as sure.
How she had pursued him then,
her bow taut, arrow ready.

He wanted to leave,
to seek wisdom on his own.
She used weapon tears,
siren calls to pull him back,
hoist him to her trophy wall.

Now words cut him down.
From a continent away,
she draws back her love.
Wounded, he flails, falls and folds.
Bleeds more with her arrow out.

Rain makes summer grow.
In a green county, proud corn stalks,
Sharon roses thrive.
Tendril vines twist ’round wires.
A fall of sun brings Riesling.

Hard to distinguish
Old World Swallowtails from leaves
burned ochre by drought.
They glide past falling petals
till rain offers them lilies.

Rain: yes, yes, yes, yes.
High clouds gave rain leave to fall
on desperation.
A double rainbow cliche
undone: no drops reach the ground.

Too much, too much noise.
Morning rain spits and sputters.
Chickadees complain.
Blue jays call, insult the calm
craved by the sole penitent.

No pleasure comes from
the conspiracy of doves,
their three-note secret,
soft and sure, offset by terns,
aloft with rasp and cackle.

What does calm bestow?
The same as quiet offers?
Is it more? Or less?
What if he finds no refuge
in what he believes, he seeks?

He thought he knew it,
how calm would feel: Petal-soft,
breeze-easy, pastel.
Instead, a room of concrete
echoes with his own heartbeat.

From the beginning,
as he grew within her womb,
the child was not hers,
not really hers to possess.
Their hearts beat in counterpoint.

She expected it.
Knew no escape, no rescue
from consequences
robed in slick silks, beaten gold
or naked, shawled in tatters.

Would he speak aloud
in arrogance, righteousness?
Weave no excuses
to cloak lies that rest easy
on shoulders unbent by guilt?

Or would he whisper
words of humble penitence,
seek forgiveness?
Without excuse, beg trust to
knit the savaged skeins of love.

The fabric of love,
as fragile as gossamer
rent by deception.
Slender strands release lovers
who fall from where they were bound.

Or not? Love’s fabric:
a post-modern construction
of titanium.
Mesh, when bent, curved, sewn, stapled,
protects better than the skull.

Bent, curved, lined, he lives,
sees his life in retrospect.
An iron mirror
frames his vision, confines him
to one dimension: surface.

His face displeases.
Years become topography,
transferred onto skin.
Reveal him, a landscape of
spider veins, pockmarks, wide pores.

Better not to look,
at least not as closely.
Better to look past,
to the past, its promise then,
not at what the future wrought.

What future, the boy?
Heavy set, teen-tall,
his vantage all his own.
Few understand what he sees
wherever he looks around him.

How to love the boy?
He sits apart, averts his eyes.
Wordless, he cries out
a single note, at random.
His calls, a plea for something.

What does the boy hear?
He sways to his own rhythms,
calls in counterpoint
to those around him who don’t
understand what it is they hear.

He can see, can hear.
Caught by a prism’s spectrum,
its sole prisoner,
drawn to the sound of its light,
loses himself in colour.

Oak-leaf strewn, rough steps
to the lower waterfall,
lined with plump pumpkins.
Each orb carries one letter.
They spell “Will you marry me?”

Such an offer, made
in snow-squall bold November:
how can she not take
one hundred and twenty-three
joyful steps to her future?

Why does it matter
who it was cast the first stone
when all that remains
of the staircase toward peace
is rubble and blood and hate.

under the weight of these stones
from quarries, beachheads,
roadsides, ruins, prisons where
humanity languishes.

And yet, new snow falls
on laneways, stones and grasses
still green, summer green.
A lace veil of soft, bright cold
transforms landscape into bride.

At the edge of lakes,
freed from scarves of ice, waits Spring.
And in weaves of waves,
on elms with bud appliqu├ęs,
at the hem of tufted clouds.

A garter snake basks
on bedding of shore-worn shale,
near the watermark.
Loons dive into veiled shadows.
Snowgeese embroider the sky.

Cedar branches wear
garments fashioned by winter.
Encrusted, ice jewels
glitter, bend boughs toward Earth
who draws them into her heart.

‘At face value:’
What you see is what you get.
Sometimes, only sometimes.
Take a fifty-dollar bill.
Choose fine goods, foods to consume.

Don’t bother to check
from what sweatshop those shoes came,
from what grey waters
grains of rice emerged, to blend
with rat shit in fine boxes.

Check out the thin sole,
what connects you to the earth.
It has rubber’s feel,
cushions against rough terrain
but on wet pavement floors you.

Mundane examples
of how nine-tenths lurks below
whatever surface.
Learn now, how a shipwrecked mind
set Sirens’ songs to gunfire.

You know something is coming.
You sense its goodness.
Feel its warmth, how it teases
promises desires, fulfilled.

A birthday? Christmas?
The celebration
as much in waiting,
in the preparing, as in
the event, the bows, ribbons.

This time, you feel something near.
You sense it breathing,
how it lurks in the shadows,
clothed in the trappings of dread.

Illness? A deceit?
The moment between that point,
not really knowing,
and when truth overtakes hope:
A last chance for innocence.

But, without either,
without some foreshadowing:
apprehension, both absent,
create an ambush that sears.

Winter’s two faces:
One turned to Spring, one to Fall.
A perfect Janus.
Monday — cloudless, sun-happy;
Tuesday, a harsh about-turn.

A cold countenance:
Centuries of freeze and thaw
gauge pits,etch deep lines.
History, climate unmasked,
etched on rock by winds, by waves.

It’s alright, okay
to become so like the sand:
Wave-weary, sun bleached,
reduced to grains that glimmer
as the tides advance, withdraw.

Resist temptation:
to read the shoreline as prose
is pure folly.
Without plot, beginning, end,
hear its rhythm, poetry.

Take aim, sight with care.
It’s not the calibre of
love which brings its end.
Rather, its velocity:
the speed trust leaves the barrel.

Too late, the rabbit.
By one day, the cottontail
missed the moment when
fiction conspired with cash
to deliver chocolate.

Heat, in abundance;
‘blue devils,’ a thorn’s excuse
for garden flowers.

Flight, immortal
The boy and his retriever shuttle
down Rose Crossroad, hemmed by
poison ivy in autumn scarlet, by squat junipers
cloaked in white flowers

The dog, nose to the the ground, surprises a garter sake
threading through scrub grasses after a toad
The child looks up into silence
A trio of vultures soars on spools of air

The dog, the boy round a bend
Approach pinions, black as velvet
Naked, abandoned on the path
Remnants in a heap

What once sought death now has found it
where footprints, pawprints weave with
tracks of deer, coyote scat, feathers
a tapestry