Traveling with Natalie
Propped on three pillows, another
under my knees, I am following
Natalie Goldberg as she travels
to Japan and France, sits zazen
with her students, through walking
meditation, writing longhand
in a café, always in a spiral notebook
with a pen that lets me write fast,
no censoring, no analyzing, my pen
racing across the expanse of lined
paper as I record what my head
listens to—conversations from
my last night’s dream and voices
from fifty years ago, only now
I say No, and No way, and they
say the unexpected, reveal their flaws
and insecurities, how they hate
being corrected and struggle
to apologize in phrases as puzzling
as koans, while I try to solve
the riddle of my life with Natalie,
who sits very close, lies down
on my bed and asks questions
to invite me to go deeper, questions
I answer only on this white page,
answers that startle me,
my hand never stopping,
no one to tell me,
Don’t write about that.
I wake to read the forecast for snow,
sleet, and rain tomorrow when temperatures
will hover at freezing, and the power will go out.
I’m in the mood for hypotheticals and surreality.
I pass through a door in the downstairs closet,
one I have to bend to open, and step down
into a passage that takes me to another door
that opens in Ft. Lauderdale, pink bougainvillea
bloom against the fence of my back yard with pool
and hot tub, where I last lived. No longer mine,
house sold, yet could be the focus of imagination
if I were to allow such fancy flights. If only my skills
for writing counterfactuals were more developed.
Through this short passageway, neither hot nor cold,
I pass from ice storm into warm humidity
and palm trees, wearing a red bikini over
my forty-year-old body, tanned and toned
from daily yoga.
This is the kingdom of wishes, of “If only,”
“If I were younger,” and “If I were to do it over.”
Not regret or future projection, not nostalgia
or hallucination, but a plunge into the fantastic
and strange, a mix of golden sunrises
and youth’s hopeful vision.
I step down into the blue pool, into warm water,
cooler than the sultry air, and dive in.
We Walked Three Miles in Snow
This snow shuts cities down, and those of us
living in the woods stay home, unable
to drive the 900 feet to the mailbox. Today’s
snow reminds me of the New York blizzard
in 1969, when you and I walked to work
at Brooklyn College down the middle
of unplowed streets, no traffic sounds
or buses. Without students we had no work,
no labs to prepare for biology or chemistry.
We walked for a married adventure, together
on a trek through city blocks made white
and clean. What did I think about the future?
The children we expected but never had,
the house in the country with a garden
and a tire swing. Sure we’d stay together
to grow old. We moved to the country
separately, where you remarried
and divorced again, where you followed
the example of the former owner.
In your house on a hundred acres, you
drank until you won admission to the ICU,
when death parted you from your life
of solitude, TV, and cleaning your guns.
I did not remarry, but chose a life
I love, surrounded by books. How foreign
you would find me now, no longer
gregarious or sociable, living in quiet
solitude, no television droning bad news,
snow falling outside my window, bright
white on the pond’s black surface.