Someone overturned
the pigeon’s nest,
dropping out the eggs
onto the fire escape.
They smashed
against the iron landing,
instantly killing
the half-formed creatures
among the yolk and albumen
and broken bits of shell.

I’d seen the mating
atop an air conditioner –
how they twisted
their iridescent necks
around each other
in passionate embrace.
The feathers shone
emerald green, soft
fuchsia – how beautiful,
I thought, and saw
how he mounted her.
I felt privileged
to see it and carry
the memory away.

Last year,
of their three eggs,
one rolled out
of the nest,
one was rotten,
and one hatched.
I remember it
right after birth
so pitiful and scraggly,
it seemed unlikely
to survive,
but it grew fast
and in one day
learned to fly.
From the first,
awkward efforts
I wondered if
it’d make it;
it was gone
the next day.

But this year
there are no
more eggs,
no chicks
or fledgling
to leave the nest.
Those who despise
will despise me
for writing this:
their life
is as worthy
as any other.



To be easily intimidated
is a curse.
When I was younger
I let other people
influence my behavior
against my will.
It is painful to think of now.
When I took their advice
against my better instincts,
I came to grief in my heart.

Sometimes a stranger
reached out to help me.
When I entered the Writing Division,
my father urged me to study Accounting
so I could support myself.
I went to one class – what a bore!
“You might as well
be in Business School,”
said my advisor, a poet.
I knew he was right
yet needed him to tell me
to drop the class.

With my mother, it was harder.
Today, failure is complete,
yet I am not to blame.
Still struggling with blame,
I hold this paradox in my heart.
After all these years
only my heart has changed.



I lost a singular friend,
Whose love of arcana
Made looking at paintings,
Sculpture, ceramics—
All fine or decorative arts—
Like going on a treasure hunt.

I had objected to her son
Pushing my daughter into the street.
She wasn’t shoved with malice,
But with an enthusiasm
That overwhelmed her.

Just as I spoke, I regretted it
But was stubborn and kept on.
I was greeted with the click
Of the phone hanging up
And then silence forever.

I had crossed an unforgivable boundary.
At first I didn’t believe it,
But she refused my calls,
And the reports came back,
“She doesn’t want anything
To do with you.”

I’d be the first to admit
She was a puzzle,
Rigid yet unpredictable,
She’d always tell a lie
Before the truth even when
There was no benefit.

It made no difference what I thought;
She’d given me up.

                           Four years passed—

A college span—when I saw her
In a stationery store at Christmas,
Accompanied by her son
And a friend’s daughter.

I took the plunge and greeted her first,
But she never looked at me.
She talked for twenty minutes,
And everything she said
Was to my daughter.
What a desolate feeling
It gave me!

I sat brooding the next morning
When the phone rang.
A boy sounding vaguely familiar
Asked for my daughter.

“Who may I say is calling?”

There came silence,
Then muffled laughter.
I asked once more;
The indistinct reply
Sounded like “Gaby Ray.”

My voice grew sharper,
“Who are you?”
I could hear a whisper,
Not to me, “What should I say?”

There was someone else
Not speaking into the phone.
I could barely hear it,
But I recognized her.

The boy said, not to me,
“I can’t do this.”
Then I was sure who he was
And who’d put him up to it.
Quietly, I hung up the phone
And this time knew it was final.



Abby runs on a treadmill every morning.
Her fast, steady pace consumes
Five miles in thirty-five minutes.
Some days, she finds it’s more
Of a struggle than others,
But at the end, covered in sweat,
She always feels wonderful.
This is the gift she gives herself;
The rest of the day is Ben’s.

Alan is less driven.
He has a bad leg and likes to swim
Or gently float in the pool
In a meditative state,
Cultivating patience and resolve.

Alan defers to Abby when it comes to Ben,
And Abby wants to keep Ben at home.
No one else will care for Ben as she will.
Ben doesn’t like to be left alone.
He depends upon her for reassurance.

When Ben was eight months old,
They noticed he was different.
Six months later, the doctors
Gave them little hope:
“He’s severely retarded
Physically and mentally;
He’ll never have a normal life.”

At eighteen Ben fixates on ideas.
“The man at the store,” he says.
“Which man?” asks his parent.
“The man with the tie.”
“You mean the man at the store
who was wearing a tie?”
“Yes. That man. At the store.
With the tie.”
So the conversation goes,
Like running in place.

Alan says, “Sometimes I wonder
What it would be like
To go on vacation
Like a normal family.
Ben can’t handle crowds of people,
Unfamiliar settings, airport security.
Except for short car trips,
We stay home.

“Now Ben goes to school
And day camp in the summer.
We have a wonderful babysitter
In whom we trust.
But soon Ben will be too old
For his school and camp.
There’s a place fifty miles away from us,
A private institution.
It’s expensive, but we could manage.
I asked Abby, ‘Why don’t we try it
A few days at a time, as a respite?’
But there were things about it
She didn’t like, and she said no.
Abby may live forever,
But I know I won’t.”



The island sparkles in the sun
in the last mornings of summer,
as if it has dipped back
into the dark blue sea
and been washed overnight.
The grass tastes of salt,
sunlight glitters on the leaves
of bushes and trees and vines,
and the sand and stones
and earth all are damp.

Long-limbed just lately,
our girl runs through the yard,
with her dreamy smile,
her busy mind,
alive to her unfolding self.

Two days and nights before,
the island was lashed by rain.
In darkness we awoke
to the downpour
and embraced for dear life.
The rain fell around us,
hiding the moon and stars
and battering our little house,
and we remembered
an afternoon
in Venice long ago,
when running for cover
from a sudden cloudburst,
we were surprised by a man
singing of love
as he stood under the awning
of a restaurant
in the streaming summer;
as we crossed the piazza,
he opened his arms
and smiling gazed
into our eyes,
as if dedicating
his song to us.



In my dream I was standing
in the courtyard of a villa
built on a hillside
in a tropical country.
The soil was the color of ochre.
From it grew variety
upon variety of trees and bushes
whose branches and leaves
seemed carved of metal,
gray trunks amid dark,
glittering greens and golds.

And here and there a red flower or white.
I could apprehend only the details,
not the mysterious whole.
I breathed in the scents of earth
and flowers, water and decay,
listening to the parrots in the trees,
the shrill insects.
The equatorial night fell suddenly,
and in the fragrant darkness
a woman seemed to float toward me
from across the courtyard.
I couldn’t see her clearly,
only shadowed features,
round face, upturned nose,
small, sturdy, delicate.

She extended her hands to me
they shone so white
I took them both in mine.
Their touch impossibly soft
filled me with rapture
I wanted never to let go.

I wasn’t sure who she was,
a woman from the present or past.
Her features were vaguely familiar.
Had I dreamed myself a visitor
into her life?

I was confused and afraid.
Had I sought this attachment?
I didn’t know what it meant
but when I tried to deny it,
I felt I was killing something.
Opposed by my doubt, she vanished.
I woke empty-handed,
with a vision and memory
that wasn’t really a memory,
longing for such a touch
to caress my mind and free my thought,
bringing into expression
the frail idea in danger of perishing,
the flight of the mind
that moves without movement
to the stillness that is not death,
from life to the fullness of life.



An enchanted summer evening,
fireflies glimmering
among colored paper lanterns,
music wafting in the beer garden—
the ironic lyrics and wistful melodies
of middle-aged men.
You say, “In some part of my mind
I’m always eighteen.”

Once I fell in love
with the image of a boy
that I found in another boy.
It was nostalgia I was in love with,
the sudden opening
of the past into the present.

A water lily blooms
in the garden’s fountain.
Past the warehouses and docks,
tankers and barges and great ships
pass in the deep channel
of dark and dirty water.



In science, elegance
is brevity;
the simplest
synthesis succeeds

In art, elegance
is style—the pallor
of Madame X’s
long neck and
sloping shoulders,
her melancholy profile.

The dark-eyed woman
was a life-long
happiest when
reading. Her hands
reached out to books
as if to love.

“My library
is an archive
of longings.
Art is what is true
whose reverse
is also true.
I was looking
for my life
to interpret
my dreams.”