Fire to the Rain

In the jungle a millipede caterpillars
onto a giant leaf on soggy ground.

Far above, the rain drums the canopy,
which collects the water only to redistribute it:

Rivulets run down trees, along vines, join on the ground,
picking up orange volume by the second.

And so the leaf sets sail.
The millipede forfeits the captaincy

and rolls over the edge into the water,
only to hold on seconds later to a stem

that grows here in the semi-dark.
A bad choice: While the leaf

would have borne its captain to safer shores,
a red jungle fowl now picks up a snack

in one fell hack and scurries back to the village.
A village built into a clearing, hacked into the forest.

And so no canopy protects the huts.
Sheets of water slash down

onto everything and all who sit quite patiently.
This is not the first downpour, but the last one

for the old man who tilts his head towards a stranger sound;
louder than the thunderous beating of the rain on roof and hat.

For suddenly a shiny something overhead
sets fire to the rain
and to the chicken
and the leaf
and the hut
and the man.

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At the School Big Band Concert

The Big Band isn’t very big
anymore: Four trumpets,
four saxophones – and what’s
the plural of euphonium?
Well, there are two of those.

A tuba, a trombone,
one guitar, the string bass,
and leader Henry on the Grand Piano,
almost bald now; thin shoulders hunched
over strong hands and still-confident fingers.

The drummer lets his hired hands fly:
A professional, and very kind.
He does the job he’s been called in to do
and a little more: After solo parts
he nods encouragement to amateurs.

The swing swings smoothly enough
and the crowd, huddled in the
ten front rows, is kindly responsive:
A small sea washing applause
over a smaller beach.

Of the sixteen performing members
four are students, all of them final-years.
Of the teachers, a couple have been absent, unwell.
Nobody ever smiles and everybody
is dressed in black.

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What I Took from the First Aid Refresh Course

The idea is to brush up on essentials.
We learn how little we know.

We worry how wobbly we’d be.
We laugh a lot for obvious reasons:

We are not making merry, merely trying to cope.
We stall in the second, practical, part

where ribs crack, consumption re-emerges undigested,
and unspeakable things happen to children.

Walking out into the early dark
towards cars, trains, bikes (all ominous now)

we all of us envisage our own personal worst horrors:
Kids, or that neighbour you really can’t stand.

Back home, trying to unwind
I listen to the words again:

Recovery position. Heimlich manoeuvre.
Hemiplegia. I like that I know the words.

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Moments – Across the Yard

The Subaru next door sports two Obama-Biden stickers, one for ’08, one for the second term. Across the gravel yard of the lodge, there’s a Chevrolet with another message: “Somebody please put the constitution on his teleprompter.” Beyond the yard, Utah table mountains stand red in a clear blue sky, much like they have done for millenia. Below, the Colorado river flows on.

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Moments – Interstate 17

On the left hand side we see a big billboard that says “Jesus is Lord”. Then there is a small rocky outcrop before the dwelling around it reaches all the way to the highway again. There is another billboard, equally big. Here, a local shop wishes to attract passing tourists. The massive legend reads “Exit now!”


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Moments – At the Diner

The waitress at Mel’s Drive-in on Sunset Boulevard talks to customers who are clearly also friends – about customers who were in before and who were just customers. She relates to her more intimately acquainted current patrons how the former visitors attempted to purchase a well-known Spanish drink usually made of red wine and fruit pieces, but insisted on receiving a concoction adapted according to their own devising. Upon hearing the requested ingredients, the waitress apparently expressed surprise. In her words: “So these guys ordered all this stuff in their Sangria AND I WAS LIKE WHAT?!”

I want to say “AND I WAS LIKE WHAT?!” more! Come on life, give me the moments to do so!

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This, she does not know:
He has had this conversation before,
during three consecutive
morning showers at least.
Once soap got into his mouth
since he was ranting so wildly.
Bitter taste for bitter words.

This, he does not know:
She has had this conversation before,
with two colleagues, one neighbour, as well as,
if truth be told, her daughter’s teddy bear.
The neighbour she met at the shops
between the chocolates and the cookies.
Sweet tastes for sweet revenge.

When they have the ‘clarifying talk’,
they come armed to the teeth
but quickly find the misunderstanding,
and a little fault each in their own actions
and thus, truce, far too quickly.
They part shaking hands, if not kissing cheeks.
Their massive and ready guns are still cocked.

This, she does not know: That afternoon,
she will hit her young daughter for the first time in her life
for dropping her syrup like so many times before.
Red liquid will spread across the wooden floor.

This, he does not know: That evening,
he will cycle home late and get so angry at a careless driver
that he will hurl a stone at the car, and miss
and stare at the two red eyes which will glare back at him.

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