A Work of Love  (1997)  Tanka
from Tiny Poems Press ( out of print)

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midnight again
the furnace cycles off
and no wind-
for a while the quiet
becomes a longing

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*

between chores
I study my hands
as if they might hold
something
I should know
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tiny bluets
all around me
and over there
a couple,
very much in love
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I can’t help my desire
glancing over
to her terminal
after little bits of decent
time have passed
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by spontaneous consent
our subtle flirting
has played itself out–
our friendship will be
all the better for this
*
*
she’s not here
to see it
but after breaking the stick
I perfectly fit the broken ends
back together again
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as if one
were not enough
I daydream pleasantly
of several women
I know
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her look guarded
as she tells me
she may be late–
what great news this is,
she still will come
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*
so intent with feeling
that her warm greeting
to someone just beyond me
gave me a moment so sure
she was greeting me
*
*
seeing her by chance
I once had a dream about her
years ago–
over time it has taken on
a substance of its own
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*
what a surprise
she wants to take a photo
of us together–
I keep thinking
about it
*
*
Queen Anne’s Lace and
Black Eyed Susans
by the thousands along the road
and to think
you married me
*
*
as we gaze across the fence
my wife asks what I think
about a cow’s life,
honestly it looks quite okay
except for the flies
*
*
far from home
in the car
my wife mentions in passing
the name of someone
we don’t see anymore
*
*
in the company of friends
our marriage takes on
an air of comfort
as we all attend to things
other than ourselves
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*
after supporting
their divorce plans
I write them a Valentine;
suggest they reconsider
it all again
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*
beyond this life
that one old friend
I bump into over and over
promising that we’ll get together
again, someday
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*
deep in the night
letting the phone ring
and ring…
then for a long time
wondering who?
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when I think back
six years ago
when my mother had the stroke
I can’t remember who
I was back then
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*
under a tree
we talk of mother’s passage
from this life–
inchworms suspended
all around us
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*
I had it all
figured out,
this little wisdom of mine,
then in the night
the rain so hard
*
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who knows what she thinks
or desires
yet the rain this Saturday
steady, as my wife reads
I watch her carefully
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these days housebound
if only we could agree
to keep our words
silently
to ourselves
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wanting my old life
when I wanted
my present life
stirring the soup she made
as a cold rain falls outside
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*
some days seem
altogether too much
but then
so welcome it becomes
the night
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after a rough day
she props her head in hand
a few inches from my face
and asks intently:
“do you really like me?”
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*
the house quiet
and cold
this early morning alone
saddened to know how much
I desired just this
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the envelope to me
sealed carefully with tape
on every seam
when opened, reveals
absolutely nothing
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*
tolerably melancholy
to sit here while the kids play
and be lost in myself–
on a path nearby
she walks in the sun
*
*
for over a decade
we’ve talked–
still you want our talk
as much as I want
the silences between
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nothing special
about deja-vu,
feeling down–
once long ago I felt
young and free
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even though
we’re always together
my wife asks if
I’ve tried
the new pizza place
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I look over
the three sleeping bodies
beside me–
to think a whole decade
I felt all alone
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instinctively
for old times’ sake
I reach out, half awake,
to give your breast
a quick little squeeze
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this rainy fall Sunday
I write poems and watch
steam rise from my tea–
as she passes she rips off
a little piece of sandpaper for me
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my youth spent
gathering strength and solace
of friends near and far–
these short years later
losing them one by one
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the cold walk,
silence
between us,
the creek running
under ice
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every few bounces
the robin pauses on the lawn
to look and listen
as if that were all
there was to do
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*
I have much to do
it is obvious–
what I will do is exactly
what she wants,
her little two year old heart
*
*
the tentative start-up
of talk…
                to a new friend?
begins the old doubt
of just who I am, again
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*