Graduation Day: 2 Tankas

In the photograph,
my father’s seersucker suit
is too big for him.
He will die four months after
this, my graduation day.

North of the city,
near the edge of a small lake
scarred with August fires,
we drink ten-year-old champagne,
the green shoots soft at our feet.

Magpie on the Reservoir Wall

Slow, driver.
I’m all that’s left after the thrill
of homecoming and nesting,
in my black and white,
skipping into the road
for car kill, to pull
at squirrel skin and
your suddenly toneless thoughts.

I’ve come into focus again,
tailtip glistening
like spilled oil / I’ve remembered
where I keep
the bones of winter.

But they were always there,
weren’t they?
while you summered,
distracted by the full green,
the snapdragons, the pink petunias
hung on the railing,
the spending cloud.

It’s more pensive now.
Can you feel it?
Even the escarpment frowning over
the reservoir stays in,
writing its journal
with cuttlefish ink and sienna.

And while it was not
what you wanted, this year:
you didn’t have her,
the pool was less clear,
the work was unsatisfactory,
you aged ungracefully —
whatever it was.

I’ve watched you.
I’m here to help.
If you let me,
we’ll pick clean
your memories, too.


They say the Fern Lake fire is still burning
up around Estes Park.
It started in October in dry brush, open flame,
and then the snows of the eastern Rockies came,
but it still burns on below, Inuk fire,
too remote for hotshot crews,
and anyway it is April now —
who fights fires in early spring?

The last front dropped fourteen inches in the garden
around the new birdbath,
but memory being what it is,
full of non sequiturs
and awkward prompts that pull thoughts
where they wouldn’t choose to go,
I can’t see the birdbath, its blue supplicant bowl
piled up like a wedding cake with snow
and not see Berkeley evenings.

There was a lime tree in the back
wasn’t there?
on Dwight Way or Parker Street,
tart-green on the tongue, bittersweet —
and spaghetti dinners, a honey-skinned guitar.

But here in the foothills,
far below Fern Lake,
almost three decades gone,
I’ll wrap the snow in my arms
where it has piled up on the birdbath,
where the snow has bent
the branches of the sour cherry,
bring it melting to the kitchen,
so it came,
and so we came and went.