Of Sparring and Sparing
He sits at a picture window watching
the unexpected storm torment an old
tree while he is contemplating his courage.
In his youth, courage meant dressing in a
wetsuit and a football helmet and running
into the storm. But now, it means putting
a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger.
But the battle before his eyes is far
too intriguing to turn his face away.
Death can wait. The tree is holding its own.
It is the tired boxer, clearly overmatched
but determined to hold on for the sake of
dignity. From his frame, he sees only
the one tree fighting. The other trees watch, still;
even their leaves are motionless, as if
the storm has gathered all of its energy
for this one task. This is not a random wind.
The rain stops to watch. The roof shingles and
the floodwaters are also in attendance.
Then the window shakes him back to himself
and he sees younger trees and an unused
telephone pole uprooted, but the one tree
keeps fighting, moving its branches like arms
in hand-to-hand combat, and after the storm
wanes—to him, it fails to answer the bell—
the moonlight is evidence the tree still stands.
He takes this as a sign to come out punching.
for Phil and Francine
If I hadn’t suggested she be your
girlfriend, she would not have become your wife.
Who could know that once you strolled through that door,
the threshold would stranglehold your new life?
This was not a hatched, botched plan devised by
God or man to use your pure love to lure
you both into the grain of tragedy,
making dust of your plans forevermore.
As I write this decades later, I want
to believe he still dreams of her at night
while each day, your memory is a haunt
that will keep him both sober and contrite,
his spirit claustrophobic in his skin,
the fate, it seems, of us who still remain.
The violin weeps, then strains to weep,
its lining wood of willow filled with
tiny fingerprints, its stressed strings with
dried blood, its guts with rib garland,
its upper bouts adhered, its plates flat,
its joints aligned, its purfling inlayed,
its carved scroll fluted, its pegbox, its
fingerboard, its brass bar, its neck block,
its maple back, its half-transferred and
half-pilfered soul groaning—all of it,
by every measure meant to be our balm,
and to call its spilling song a song is to
miss the spirit flowing from each
majestic and unpoetically-named F-hole.