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


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


between chores
I study my hands
as if they might hold
I should know
tiny bluets
all around me
and over there
a couple,
very much in love
I can’t help my desire
glancing over
to her terminal
after little bits of decent
time have passed
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
as if one
were not enough
I daydream pleasantly
of several women
I know
her look guarded
as she tells me
she may be late–
what great news this is,
she still will come
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
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
after supporting
their divorce plans
I write them a Valentine;
suggest they reconsider
it all again
beyond this life
that one old friend
I bump into over and over
promising that we’ll get together
again, someday
deep in the night
letting the phone ring
and ring…
then for a long time
wondering who?
when I think back
six years ago
when my mother had the stroke
I can’t remember who
I was back then
under a tree
we talk of mother’s passage
from this life–
inchworms suspended
all around us
I had it all
figured out,
this little wisdom of mine,
then in the night
the rain so hard
who knows what she thinks
or desires
yet the rain this Saturday
steady, as my wife reads
I watch her carefully
these days housebound
if only we could agree
to keep our words
to ourselves
wanting my old life
when I wanted
my present life
stirring the soup she made
as a cold rain falls outside
some days seem
altogether too much
but then
so welcome it becomes
the night
after a rough day
she props her head in hand
a few inches from my face
and asks intently:
“do you really like me?”
the house quiet
and cold
this early morning alone
saddened to know how much
I desired just this
the envelope to me
sealed carefully with tape
on every seam
when opened, reveals
absolutely nothing
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
nothing special
about deja-vu,
feeling down–
once long ago I felt
young and free
even though
we’re always together
my wife asks if
I’ve tried
the new pizza place
I look over
the three sleeping bodies
beside me–
to think a whole decade
I felt all alone
for old times’ sake
I reach out, half awake,
to give your breast
a quick little squeeze
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
my youth spent
gathering strength and solace
of friends near and far–
these short years later
losing them one by one
the cold walk,
between us,
the creek running
under ice
every few bounces
the robin pauses on the lawn
to look and listen
as if that were all
there was to do
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