Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Elegy for KB

 I went to visit this old boy on Sunday, this "Kitty-Boy" who, at 17 (85 by human comparison) had reached the end of his days. He lived across the street from me with my friend C., the banjo player, whose music is the soundtrack for many a summer night as it drifts from her front porch into my house.

Somewhere in these long years Kitty-Boy had grown into "Kitty-Geezer", and his nearly two-decades of rat-retrieving and finch-filching gradually diminished, giving way to seizures and all the accompanying maladies of elderly felinehood.

I (or one of my sons) was often summoned to help corral one live critter or another that he'd brought in through the cat door. Once I was helping C. ferret out a rat — quite literally! — and as I was peering down into a begonia plant the damned rodent leapt up into my face and quickly scurried into the living room and holed up under the sofa. Good LORD did we shriek with laughter! It's not so much a fear of rats that I have but more a fear of their cunning, their ability to appear invisible and then make themselves known toute de suite. Yowza.

Anyway. We hung out for a little while, Kitty-Geezer and I, and he posed rather elegantly for his photo shoot. He was beside the window, and on the lookout for birds: ever the hunter!

For many years he was a daily visitor at my back door, and got along famously with my ever-changing resident cats. But it'd been months, months since I'd seen him here, as he'd taken to mostly staying in, only going out for brief periods. Confined, as it were, to the house.

But Sunday afternoon, after I'd visited, I was in my kitchen and heard a tremendous yowl from my back yard, and lo and behold, if it wasn't Kitty-Geezer, summoning me one last time! I wasn't even entirely certain it was him, but a phone called confirmed that it was. C. had let him out, and hadn't gone with him. He'd promptly crossed the street and ended up in his old stomping grounds.

I let him in, and he went through his usual routines: check out the food dish, and then find a catnip toy. Sniff, sniff, sniff. All was normal, as it should be. Then I picked him up and carried him home.

It's hard to believe that 17 years have passed since C. brought home the kitten that he once was. There was a summer afternoon when an eagle swooped down into her yard, evidently having spied kitten-meat. As I recall, C. rushed-in to rescue her bundle-of-kitten. That all seems so unimaginable now, considering the entrails of bird beaks/talons/feathers/organs that this single boy-cat has left behind in his wake.

But a wake is what is called for now, and a small vase of forget-me-nots left on the porch across the street.

Old boy, I'm going to miss you.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


In my bricks-and-mortar life, a hazelnut branch hangs from the ceiling in my living room, strung with white twinkle lights and some feathered birds clipped to twigs. (Cut it with the sawz-all from the garden on a grey December afternoon with no birds to be seen.)

In that alternate universe of the nighttime dream, I pulled it down from the ceiling and hauled it outside, and from the branches shimmered dozens of butterflies, each velvet wingbeat a flicker of bright color that fluttered up and into the cloud-struck sky, all of it a wonder and a surprise.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

State of the Union

There are times when I want to leave poetry.
File the papers and be done with it.
Walk out the door, a slam at the end
of the last line. Full stop.
See ya later, alliterator.

I’m tired of poetry not paying the rent.
Tired of washing poetry’s dirty laundry.
Tired of cleaning up after poetry,
nothing but half-empty bottles
and an inbox of rejections.

Poetry, I’m even tired of your name,
how the mere mention of you can kill
a perfectly good conversation.
How even writers don’t claim you,
relegated to your own forsaken slot:
Poets and Writers.

And when was the last time you cooked
me dinner? Mowed the lawn?
Spackled the den?

You want all of me.
I can’t take a walk without you
tap-tapping in my brain, can’t wake up
without one of your lines
jolting me from dreamland.  

I’m late for work because of you.
Skip meals because of you.
Lose sleep over you.

Poetry, you are at the core of my every apple,
under the bark of the alder;
in the curve of the earthworm
and in the droplets of the nimbus cloud. 

You exist in the dimensions of the observable universe,
and in all that lies beyond.
In everything known and unknown,
in everything knowable and unknowable.
In quark (the particle) and quark (the cheese).

You are every word I attempt to write,
you are this poem, you are me
and I am you. Poetry,
I will never leave you.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Fix

I've been fixing things: the bird house, almost beyond my repair, the roof worn into sky, the perch disintegrating somewhere in garden soil. More air than wood, really, but I forced some screws to join what remained, instantly handy with the cordless drill. 

The back gate (again, the wood given way to more air than tree fiber). Now it doesn't hang askew, doesn't droop on one side into a frown. Mossed, lichened, host to any number of microscopic organisms; if only I could see them all, could record their names (in Latin!) in a tiny notebook in precise handwriting, to remember.

The old grape vines support the fence; the old fence supports the grape vines. All of it, a system that holds together enough to go another year, and hopefully one, two more beyond that. The lattice that sufficed for fence boards now re-imagined into a structure on which my sweet peas will, hopefully, climb.

But my car, well, that reliable cordless drill is not good when it comes to that kind of machinery. Dark smoke billowing from the exhaust, off and on, into the shop once and no results. Months passed, anxiety festered.  The smoke got bigger, lingered, billowed in my mind to the size of thunderheads. Googling "smoke from exhaust" only amped up the worry. Speculation from my sons. Worst-case-scenario became most-probable-explanation.


Finally, yesterday, I womanned-up and brought it back to the mechanic. Walked the two miles to work from the shop. Dithered, tossed around price tags in the thousands. What if the engine was shot? What could I sell to get a new (used) car? Could I get along without a car? (No.) Would it be worth it to rebuild the engine? How much was too much? On and on.

But a reprieve, from the revving engines of anxiety, in a repair for under a thousand $, and everything else checked out Just Fine. I can't remember when I did a jig for a $700 car repair bill, but yesterday afternoon I was high-stepping to some reggae. (Can one high-step to reggae?)

Next on the list is the listing house foundation, a nasty job under the deck of digging (and putting in drainage tiles) √† la Welsh miners c. 1900. This — yes this! — makes those years of child-raising all the more worthwhile. I don't look forward to the mess, and my sons are in denial that this will be their summer occupation (incarceration?).

Ah, my dear sons. If only a Makita cordless drill was all you needed to bolster up the world.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


I go a little crazy over acoustic guitar, and this morning at work we were listening to a local radio station, a great program called The Caravan, which we turn on every morning from 9-noon. There was some acoustic guitar playing, and I was half-listening while directing the day's tasks. No idea who the musician was, but the DJ said that they were giving away a pair of tickets — to the second caller — for a show the guitarist was doing Thursday night. He said the phone number — ten digits — and with my left hand (the right one was painting), I turned on my phone and punched in the numbers, not at all certain if I'd remembered them. And then this:

"Hello, this is KBCS, and you're the winner!"

Shrieks of glee! And the venue is a mile from my house!

And he even announced my name (T.) on the radio as the winner. (Twice, in fact.)

(My five seconds of fame.)

(O how easily we are made joyful.)

Here's the artist and the piece I heard (dig his wild floppy curls!!):

Sunday, March 8, 2015

An Emptied Nest

It was a day for birds' nests, stark against the blue. This one was tipped sideways, and I couldn't help but think that Bird-Mom did it to hasten the launch of her fledglings:

"Okay guys, time to take the leap."

And these pussy willows were so stunning with sunlight caught in their pale yellow gone-to-seed edges, almost more lovely than the the silvery mouse-nubs that mark winter's halfway point.

Anyway, I walked and walked, up and down hills, along the lake where a lone eagle swooped down over a flock of coots and buffleheads, causing them to lift up not quite out of the water with a tremendous show of churning spray before settling back again, the eagle having lost interest.

I think the entire population of this city was outside — our almost-winter seems to have fled and the temps soared up into the low 60's. No snow in the mountains: a not-minor worry.

Everything is blooming too early, and my heart isn't in it yet.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Crow & Moon

A waxing gibbous moon rising over the mountains, and a long — miles long — line of crows intersecting the sky in a southerly route to their nighttime roosting place. Late winter, chilly, and too many things in bloom: flowering plums and tulip trees, narcissi and forsythia, and the impossibly sweet scent of daphne everywhere.

I was the crazy person on the sidewalk, struck dumb, face turned to the sky in awe of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of crows. Just when I thought that was the end of them, along came more, and yet again more. Envious of their ease of flight, their utter unquestioning direction. Knowing that, like them, after a long day of making my way in the world, I was headed home.