The Tale of a Fat Ugly Crow on a May Afternoon
In front of my living room window,
on a splendid May afternoon, warm and sunny,
a fat crow rapturously caws over its good fortune.
I watch in morbid fascination
as it tears apart a rodent.
Can’t fault the crow, a natural predator.
It studiously picks away at that small, unfortunate animal,
guts torn, splayed.
The next morning, not a morsel left on the street,
not even a bloodstain, I checked.
Russia is tearing apart Ukraine without remorse,
destroying homes, churches, schools, hospitals, piece by piece,
disrupting millions, traumatizing the children,
injuring and killing civilians,
ripping away the guts and sinew
of a once proud sovereign nation.
Soon it too will be left without a morsel
while the world watches from the window.
“Poetry arrived in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where it came from, from winter or a river.“ — Pablo Neruda
I went back to my old neighborhood,
wrote about the cracked skylight in the too-warm kitchen,
the Norman Rockwell calendar,
hanging next to crinkled appointment cards under thumbtacks,
and recalled my immigrant mother serving lunch to Mr. Cooper,
a crusty handyman in overalls,
her thick deviled egg on challah and a fat slice of marble pound cake.
I wrote about golden poppies trailing over the splintery fence,
the glorious lilac tree in the backyard,
Mrs. Fishel spying from behind her living room drapes,
keeping the street safe,
and Mrs. Hetrova, our piano teacher, who came on Wednesdays,
with her pillbox hat where she hid her money from hooligans.
I wrote of “going downtown” on the 5 Fulton
with my mother and sister,
wearing little white gloves, a dress, never pants,
for school shopping at the Emporium on Market St.,
then tuna on toast at Blum’s and sharing a piece of crunch cake.
And it all came flowing back to me,
the fog shroud, the briny smells, the eucalyptus trees,
Saturday afternoons in Golden Gate Park
rolling down and down Lindley Meadow with my cousins.
And when I journeyed “home,”
it was as if I viewed my life through a new prism,
but I couldn’t stop the sad memories from showing up too,
party crashers, poking and prodding,
stories I did not want to dredge up
but could not leave untended or unwritten.
I had found my voice.
It Began with an Ordinary Tuesday
in homage to Wislawa Szymborska’s, “The Sky”
It begins with the sky,
on a lazy, ordinary, August day with errands to do on my list,
but the sun strange, reluctant, foreboding
obscured in thick smoky haze drifting from the Sierra fires
I should begin with how I feel, a malaise encircling me,
nothing quite right,
though nothing really wrong
that I could call out until I think about it,
I should begin with what is bugging me:
the Delta variant, the shitty state of our world,
the fires ravaging California,
but if I dig deep, it is something else entirely—
memories niggling from years ago
of Taliban fighters destroying priceless Buddha statues.
I should really begin with the Afghani evacuation;
chaotic, hopeless, disturbing,
my swelling fears for the girls and women,
their fate, their bleak future,
denied education, denied basic rights.
And even when I get to the senior center
to register, a simple, mundane task,
first time there in eighteen months because of Covid,
I am taken aback by a new homeless encampment
entrenched on the lawn in front of the building,
refuse and garbage scattered like a junk yard.
Finally, mask donned, temperature taken, hands sanitized,
forms filled out, check written—
but I am lost, alone, bothered,
overwhelmed by everything,
and annoyed by the new Covid protocols
It began with just the sky, on an ordinary Tuesday,
I wish it were only the sky.