And I thought how lovely
It was to feel
Through an open window
A cool wind on a hot night
Such as this
And to see let in
Between the window shade
And the window sill
Leaves’ shadows dancing on
A midnight floor.
The Silence That Settles So Softly
Silence has settled as softly
As pollen on her hospital room
As visitors take their magazines
And as quietly as moths
Go out the door, leaving
Us to face this night alone.
“How fast life goes, Dave,” she says.
“It’s no longer than a mosquito’s life.
Why does it go so fast?”
A little room, a bed,
A pair of eyes; someone watching,
A young woman very ill.
Night has come, the day is gone.
Over the city shines a blue light.
Chrysanthemums stand in a vase.
She asks, “How do you explain life?
What does a person live for?”
It is probably happiness.
Yes, that was it all the time,
The happiness one feels. No one
Could say she hadn’t known exquisite happiness.
I feel such love toward her that could I,
I would die for her
And am so regretful that I cannot suffer
Her pain for her, and am powerless to help her,
And that she soon will be gone entirely from my life
And from this world.
But now, dear sister,
Close your brown eyes.
Phoebe Leads Quite a Life
My friend Phoebe the writer leads quite a life.
She tried to explain why in affairs she chooses men that are out of character.
She said: “I read in George Eliot’s biography a perfect description
Of myself not as I seem, or would want to be, but as I really am:”
She quoted Eliot:
A retiring woman of gentle disposition and orderly habits.
A very cautious woman who chooses courses of action she cannot rationally defend.’
Sounds Beyond Number
I’ve run down the front stairs and
Out into the neighborhood
On my seventh birthday.
No adults who love me restrain me.
I am as free as the wind.
About me: the air and sunlight; the clouds,
The church tower, Lake Michigan, the cityscape
That good fortune has allocated for my pleasure
During these years of my happy youth.
These languorous streets of mine,
Mapped indelibly in my mind, are shaded by
Cool poplars, sycamores, and elms this sunny October day.
Familiar cars pass, and in the hedges
Crickets whose voices I recall are out in noisy numbers.
Bob the panhandler is dozing in his favorite doorway.
His mouth is closed but his lips flutter.
Machinists, teachers, clerks, and mechanics
On their way to somewhere else pass me by without a word.
Odors of bubbling tar are in the street where men
Soaked wet with sweat and without shirts
Work diligently in the torrid noon sun.
The silver-painted wagon I am pulling rattles
Among other street sounds beyond my counting.
They ring in my receptive ears
Like the jingle- jangle of festive bells.
When I was a boy in Chicago
Every Sunday the tallest man in the world
Sat in the seat next to mine in church–8’2”
The disparity in our height was
An object of humor, but not to me.
He had difficulty walking because he was so tall
And his spine was weak.
He shuffled between two wood canes,
Bent over, frail, his arms quivering, his eyes cast down
So that he would not fall.
He drove a car. He was a salesman.
His car had no front seat,
Only a back seat where he sat,
His long arms reaching the steering wheel,
His long legs the pedals.
There is a replica of him
In a wax Museum in London.
He is cited in
The Guinness Book of World Records
As earth’s tallest person.
He was too tall to have a long life.
Woman Sitting at a Table
In a Restaurant on Broadway
In New York City
I saw you
Looking at me
Knowing I had
Looked at you,
No chance ever
To see you again
Or you to
Look at me again
With your mystic eyes.
You who had I
Known long ago
I would have run
My finger over
In my hand
Like an orchid.
Young Woman in the Pontchartrain
Hotel, Detroit, Michigan
If I tell you that in the elevator
At three a.m. she stopped me and said,
“I’ve been looking for you all night”
You would have an idea of her lonely
Profession, but no idea what kind of
Woman she was, nor how pretty.
In the summer before the often cruel cold Chicago winter each year of my childhood there came in a truck the coal-shoveler who would appear in the alley to do his job. On the way to school I would walk past him carrying my books and would look at his tall pile of coal and wonder “How in the world will one man be able to shovel all that coal?” When I returned home the coal would be gone and the coal- shoveler–his work done– would be sleeping, waiting to be picked up, or he would be gone until reappearing when I would be a year older.
The Silent Coal -Shoveler
Behind the apartment building
Where I lived with my family and
Beside a mountain of coal
Toiled the always silent, always alone,
Muscular black coal-shoveler.
From chilly dawn
To the end of afternoon
While I was at school
Or at the playground
From the alley
Behind my gate
Across from the church,
That cadenced scrape
Of his shovel
Between coal and pavement
Could be heard, and chunks of coal
Thumping, tumbling noisily
Like pieces of thunder
Down the wooden chute
Into the dark cellar.
Encounters in the Natural World
When I was a boy my father, brother, and I would leave the city and hike in the forests north of Chicago, where now, in a thriving suburb, I live with my wife. I remember our last hike:
In the underbrush along the path we followed were morning glories, wild flowers, lilies of the valley, azaleas, and asters. In the trees squirrels preened on their hind legs, then leaped from branch to branch. A chipmunk made its departure into the lush chipmunk world.
A small female white-tail deer waited for us to pass, a puzzled expression in her bulging eyes, and then bounded across the path. We were so close we could have touched. Then a full-grown, majestic male with more serious eyes appeared as though it had come up from the ground.
Grasshoppers still damp with morning dew dried themselves in the sunlight, and we took care to step around them. A yellow finch, its head bobbing, whistled sweetly, and insects squabbled in the air. The fragrance of warm, sweet clover was everywhere.
A wind rippled across the river in front of us and the gold leaves on the trees along its banks rattled. The sun bright, the trees cast long, thin shadows that in the wind swayed on the water like a company of dancers.
Jim, Jim, I’ve Remembered You Often
Jim, Jim, I’ve remembered you often,
My roommate in college, a tortured
Red-headed business major so caught
In the grip of a terrible addiction to
Alcohol that, when desperate, he
Drank anything, including:
Motor oil and lubricants
I had been studying all night when I heard Jim
Staggering up the stairs after a night ending at dawn at County Line, the dump
Where he often wound up after hours. There nothing was prohibited.
He was trying so hard to appear sober crossing the bedroom floor,
But his hands were shaking. His legs were as stiff as brooms.
I watched him compassionately without speaking a word
As I would watch an injured cat or dog, hoping that he would
Be able to do what I could see he had in mind to impress me with–
Hoping that he would be able to hang neatly on a hanger
Without any help the blue jacket he was holding in his right hand.
But the hanger slipped tragically from his grip and
Clattered on the wooden floor.
Then I saw what I cannot erase
From memories of my college years or of Jim:
The expression on his face of shame.
A False Assumption
Some people fall into a trap. They assume
That because the woman or man they desire is beautiful
And seems to be their ideal that they also possess fine qualities
Such as intelligence, kindness, and decency,
But often soon find them lacking virtues without a trace.
The Death of Judy Wazorick
I remember Judy Wazorick fondly.
We were in grammar school together.
She had a blue eye and a brown eye,
And sat in the last seat of the last row.
She was shy, but when I looked at her
She always smiled at me.
Now I see she won’t be at the reunion,
And I am so sad because Judy Wazorick
Has passed away.
Two seasons each year–spring and fall–
Flocks of familiar geese flutter down
From the sky to dine on the grassy field outside my home,
Waddling, pecking, bickering like
Children or thieves–then a truce–
Only a misunderstanding:
All is forgiven, friend. Departing
They assemble for the flight
In perfect order, poised, silent; air quivering.
Then torrents of ascending wings–wings.
There were pleasant, guileless women I liked on sight,
And women with the look of dreamers that I knew were
Full of dangers, but couldn’t resist and didn’t try very hard to.
There were women with long, raven-black hair that flowed like oil,
And plain, sincere, friendly women, and women who smiled
So gently, so exquisitely, that I was numb.
There were women who acted as if they were personal friends of God,
And light-hearted women, and women whose mood never changed,
And women with deep voices and treacherous eyes.
There were young, ugly-duckling women who were just about to be beautiful,
And attached women who enjoyed being fallen women, as well as a
Playful, petite woman full of horse-sense and laughter.
They and others brightened my life and are a pleasure to remember.
© 2023 David J. Rogers
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