I compare you favorably but inadvisably to the moon

Out your window
a tiny fingernail of moon,
that far dead thing,
pale as a side street
movie screen,
burnished silver of old watch
orphaned under cigar box lid,
lit by the gloss
of magazine and candle wax /
reflected light:
the thing itself dried up:
a buoy, salt-rimed
so long untethered
even gulls slip ignorant over.
I want to conduct life
from my bed, you say.
You have a cough
but you are still able.
A feather ticked loose
from the pillow
dances along your arm.
You do, I say.
You are not so old as that.

Ponderosa

We were reading stories
and the neighbors’ kids came round.
They sat, solemn, in the living room,
while Jean recited her cat book
and I served pink lemonade.
There were brownies.

Two boys leaped up, finally,
when the sitting was over
and ran along the driveway
to the ponderosa on the south.

I would have done the same once,
far too shy for small talk and small rooms:
a better fit
for a harbor of branches,
of pine straw and damp earth.
They were already hanging,
suspended like sloths,
when their mom called out:
“Guys! Be careful there!”

We don’t have kids.
No boys had ever swung
in the giant tree before,
and for me it lived
respectfully apart, an elder,
with a twin on the north side,
keeping the house between them
as a kind of indulgence.

When we turned to look
I noticed one limb
had torn from the trunk,
some way up —
a narrow elliptical scar
the color of country cream,
the scales of the arm less bright,
no longer that rich orange-gray
ponderosas get.
An old injury. Who knows how long?

Apparently you can take an injury
like that through the seasons,
through one summer after another
until it is almost hidden
by new, reluctant growth,
by weather,
by the furrows
and the plates of age.

Articulate

I speak the way I write,
but more slowly,
sorting and disposing of
five different ways
of saying something,
while my companion,
who really
only wanted a brief chat,
ages.
He grows hair in places where
there shouldn’t be any,
where before he was bald.

And meanwhile,
the tectonic plates
of the Colorado Plateau
adjust,
dinosaur bones surface,
sea turtles and bristlecone pines
complete entire life cycles.

“How should I put this?” I say,
when a city or two has fallen
into the ocean swell.
My friend is sallow now,
his skin cool, unresponsive.

“It’s coming,” I assure him.
“Too late…too late for me,” he replies.
“Is there anything
you want me to pass along?”
I finally say.
But he is quiet,
eyes staring, mouth dry.

Once Occupied

The old man who used to own the house
is driven up by his niece
in a car with Wyoming plates.
It stops at the end of the drive.

They had probably come up just to see,
and then, me out on the deck
getting water to the spruce and daylilies
along the lines he had laid
even then, in his nineties.

We heard his wife had died,
but he didn’t mention her:
it was for the niece, to show her the view
and the tile and the wisteria,
to talk about the wild plum, the tame plum,
the peaches big as his fist,
the wrinkles in the road as deep as his.

He said when the house was new
the driveway was a solid piece of rock.

I pointed out how the lilacs
hadn’t bloomed this year and he nodded,
how the cicadas were bad,
how the wasps had left their paper nest.
I had taken it down,
afraid they would reclaim it,
though they hadn’t bothered us —
just flew back and forth along the deck
(he said I put those railings in).

We sat on the porch swing smiling,
time gone and the satisfaction of it,
the rings of the wasp nest
still white as death on the wall.