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I was three years old—it seems a world away, now—sitting in the front room, looking out the big window.

Our house on Oak Drive was a two-story affair on the uphill side of the street, and from my vantage I could look down on the massive junipers that bordered our small yard. When I played beneath them, they would tower over me, reach for me with scented claws, and dust me with clouds of pollen so that, when Mother called, I would come inside covered in red weals, begrimed with a patina of yellow, and redolent of resin. (more…)

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Today
I turned aside
from tragedies and trials
and sought instead
quiet marvels.

Today
I heard the winds of Mars
a thrum felt in the feet
a whistle filled with loneliness,
and heard Tesla coils singing
of sorrow and shame
in a house called
The Rising Sun.

Today
I saw a phoenix
rising in auroral hues
across Arctic skies,
and saw bridges of fire
Strombolian rage
spanning the Sicilian night.

Today
I felt the warmth of the sun
captured in the cat’s fur
as she slept by the window,
and then felt fingers go numb
as I worked outside where that same sun
provided light but no heat.

Today
I tasted watercress,
crisp and green and sharp and cold
fresh from my garden,
and tasted the salty age
of succulent panes
shaved from a joint that spent years
in a Spanish cave.

Today
the world holds more wonders
than we can possibly imagine
but they exist if we choose
to seek them.

k

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For decades now, a ginger-haired girl has lived near us. Not the same girl, mind you. We’ve lived in three places in the past thirty years and, at each address, a ginger-haired girl has lived a few houses down, across the street, or around the corner. There has only been one such girl living near us at any particular time, as if there is some sort of limit on how many redheads a neighborhood can sustain.

I’ve never spoken to any of these girls, aside from chitchat about costumes on Hallowe’en night, but nevertheless, I’ve gleaned something about their character, their personality.

When we lived up in Richmond Beach, there was the young redhead who we only saw as she ran by our house. I never, ever saw her walk. She only ran, a blur of that grew ever taller as the years went by. To school, from school, out to meet friends, coming home from play. Run, run, run, faster each year, as her legs grew longer and her speed increased.

She is Energy. Vitality. Eagerness.

For the past dozen years or so, there’s a girl with wild, ginger hair who lives behind us. From our kitchen window I can see the swing set in her yard and a day does not go by where I do not see her out there, kicking her way, to and fro, through the upended arc. She swings rain or shine, heat or cold. Her hair, once left wild, has now been tamed by Beats headphones. It is her haven there, alone on that swing.

She is Focus. Solitude. Diffidence.

And then there was the little girl who lived across the street for a few years. Vivacious and vocal, she was a true individual, as full of questions and unpredictability as only a seven-year old can be.

There is one day I remember clearly. It was December, closing in on Christmas, and it had snowed, just a few inches, just enough to give the world that magical, unsullied patina. I was on the treadmill, listening to McCreary’s “Passacaglia,” a serene piece for strings in 3/4 time, and I noticed our redheaded neighbor out in her yard, walking with a friend. The two girls were bundled up, wearing swing coats and knitted caps. The redhead’s parents had put up, along with the strings of lights along the eaves, a giant inflatable snowman on their lawn. The snowman, with carrot nose and top hat, rocked gently in the breeze.

The two girls, hand in mittened hand, walked across the snowy lawn and up to the snowman. They stopped a few feet from his round belly, both looking up at his face. It was an idyllic picture, and the music made a perfect soundtrack.

Until the ginger-haired girl, this sweet, inquisitive tyke, stepped up to the inflated giant, and began kicking the crap out of him. Her friend clapped her hands and ran forward to join the assault. Together, the two girls kicked and kicked, little boots punishing, snow flying. The snowman wobbled under their attack, reeling side to side against his guy wires. The girls continued the onslaught and the snowman began to sag, one side crumpling, his painted smile belying the tragedy as he slowly sank down onto the trampled snow until only his top hat remained upright.

Hand in hand once more, the girls walked up to the house and went inside, leaving me stunned, gaping, caught between laughter and mild horror, as the passacaglia finished.

She is Chaos. Complexity. Unrepentance.

Redheads. Go figger.

k

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We keep it out
shunned
banished
beyond the electric glare
past heavy curtains
behind double-glazed panes

We fear
its cold
its dark
its unspoken secrets

I say
open the drapes
shut the lights
put flame to a candle’s wick
and let it in

Invite the night inside
forget its chill
forgive its inky mien
offer it a seat
and pour a wee dram

Enjoy its quiet
the stillness of its nature
and listen closely
as it whispers
of secrets
eager to be known

Let it in

—————-

k

Moon and Cedar

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———

the cat and I eat twice a day

I serve her before myself

a rule I learned from a rabbi

and she finishes her meal

before I even sit down

covering the leftovers

with invisible leaves before

returning to the maintenance of her fur

or to toy with a dirty sock

panther-dragged from room to room

as she mutters disconsolate subtext

I used to think the rabbi’s rule was meant to instill

respect for our animals

a lesson in responsibility

empathy for those in our care

but now I understand

it’s merely to avoid

her judgmental eyes

———

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——————

September’s broken Summer’s back and strewn
the brazen vault with patchwork gauze
to tease the thirsty land
with promises
of rain.

——————

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Value

————————

the day I learn
what I am truly worth
to you
is the day I learn
what you are truly worth
to me

————————

 

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