NOTE: 'Crows in the After-Fog' came from a friend describing an early morning scene from her porch. 'home to a strange land' came from a poet friend's description of his homecoming, and what he found vs. what he expected. 'spring cleaning' followed some intense preparations for having 2 teenage grandsons coming to live with us. Lots of unopened boxes were tossed, with some attendant anxiety.
Crows in the After Fog
Morning comes, soundless.
The weight of coastal fog
lifts from our dreams
and we, eyes still dull,
begin to count crows
as the retreating gray
reveals them, noisy
and dark on the beach.
First, just one.
Not enough for a killing,
or even a little mayhem.
His signal strut betrays
his species, though blurred
in the lingering mist.
Two. Dimly seen, but still
a harbinger of joy.
Three, a girl, four a boy,
and then a break in the clouds
shows us five and six—
silver in the waves,
gold in the rising sun.
We laugh at ourselves,
counting crows in the "after-fog."
It may well be they count us too.
These proud, intelligent birds,
making of us their own rhymes, prophecies
predictions, superstitions. I wonder—
do they also call a group of us a murder?
home to a strange land
for Stephen Howarth
on his return home from Shetland
nature, that slow, inexorable gal
has pulled a fast one this time
and by fast, i mean the rate of growth
of the lawn i can't coax into green
for anything when i want it
ten inches tall, in ragged patches
thumbing a collective nose my way
with a snicker for the mower
now lifeless, battery dead
the gardener’s got arthritis
worse from the wretched wet winter
and can't be hired even one last time
to help me tame this overgrowth
roof tiles loosened and gave up,
letting the rain rush in and down
leaving a natural piss-puddle
smack in the middle of the parlor
not the conversation piece i dreamed
of coming home to find, but oh,
it's home, and even if it's ragged
about the edges, it's nothing
that a metaphorical barber can't clip
we'll stoke an amicable fire up
pull out a book or maybe two
sip tea and rock in rhythm
to something formal and metrical
before we turn our thoughts and hearts
to free-versers across the ocean
friends who wander in and out
of days and lines and feelings
that grow just like those scoundrel
patches of grass that must wait
for another day. tonight
holds out for poets.
or is it autumn arranging
if i start it this late in life
brushing dust from boxes and bags
stored for longer than i remember
stored against the fear of need
held for that moment when
my very existence will hinge on
the contents of this container
yes, i have my father's genes
his dna that was forged
in "the great depression"
where nothing was wasted
nothing ever tossed because
"you never know when you might need"
was the sung and unsung mantra
of every day's survival
so i keep a scrap of sandpaper
a used paint roller that cost me
less than yesterday's lunch
because i know the house will need
repainting sometime and i'll smile
at not having wasted anything
because i never know, i never know
then reality hits
a quick calculation tells me
that whatever is in this box, this bin
has been untouched for years
has, like me, begun to unravel
may not be up to the vigorous task
for which it was designed
and again, reality
the cost of replacement is small
the cost of retention so high
when every square inch of space
is needed for today's challenge
perhaps i'm better off
not opening that twenty-year box
not finding that thing
i never used
couldn't bear to part with
and don't need, even now
i would keep it another twenty years,
out of sight, out of mind,
until i'm out of time
better to just leave it closed
drop it in the black plastic bag,
tie those handles shut, and move on
to the next unopened item
knowing that tonight,
my dreams will twist and groan
with great "what ifs"
© 2018 Jim Lewis
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