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Variations On A Theme By Ray Carver




Just when he had given up thinking

he'd ever write another line of poetry,

she began brushing her hair.

And singing that Chopin Polonaise

he liked so much.

The one about George Sand, whose

real name was Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin,

the Baroness Dudevant.  "She repels me"

he'd said at first. But then he

changed his mind on Mallorca.




A year last summer Flea repaired my life--

drilled mortises, installed a new screen on

the porch door and stopped the damn 

leaking of the bathtub faucet. The basics

atwhich I had proved singularly hopeless. 

He worked silently, the strong chin steady

as he turned the Phillips head screws.

Measure twice, cut once, and the joints 

fit snug. The simple miracle of carpentry.

When he finished, he wiped his big hands 

on a towel with a cluster of grapes on

the corner. I watched awhile, admiring 

the handyman’s grace, how he patiently

put my house in order. Now he sits at

home, watching the frozen fields. The

mitre lieson a bench in failing light. He

says he doesn’t want us to see him

this way. ”Look to the hinges. Remember

me this way”. I understand. And so I do.

High Maintenance

Medium Maintenance


While switching hands

on her cell phone

she asks me, “Am

I high maintenance? What

does that really mean?”

I tell her that I think

she’s medium-high, like

the heat for melting butter.

“But what does that mean?”

she asks again. 

I sigh, look out the window.

A Chinese woman walks by

with her Pekinese dog

on a rhinestone leash, 

shoulders hunched before

the wind. She has on the

most elaborate feathered hat.

So I say, “With a woman

who’s high maintenance,

you must remember to 

tell her that everything 

she wears is perfect.

With a low-maintenance woman,

the clothes she wears are immaterial.

“And medium high?”  she asks.

With a medium-high, I say,

you need only tell her

when she looks fabulous. 

The rest she already knows

better than you.

Kafka's Last Wish



Upon his death, Kafka requested 

that all his manuscripts be 

destroyed. The Trial. The Castle. 

Amerika-- ashes. But when poor

Franz died of TB at age 41, 

little known outside gloomy

Prague, his good friend Max Brod

considered his last request. And 

promptly ignored it. So Franz Kafka

became a world-famous author

against his express wishes. 

Think of that next time you take 

thirty seconds to order coffee.

Me Ma'

Me Ma' is slipping from my life

the past rushing behind those eyes

watery blue in the failing light.

And my Irish has gone with her.

The lace curtains, the novena candle

Her brothers singing the Ave in

choir loft, the Lachine spinster aunts.

Who will I tease about the troop 

shows? Or ask aboutthe wartime

telegram saying Burke was gone?

She was raised by French nuns, 

she hated them for beating her.

Now she greets the Filipino nurse

with a look of mad mischief.

On good days she knows my name

when I show her wedding photos.

On others we watch the birds

that fly past her window garden.

She shows me the women she hates.

And the men that she likes. But

the trappings have now failed her.

The sad music of The Chieftains, 

the brandy snifter in her purse

in case of dire emergencies. 

The weathered photo of her father 

reading the Montreal Herald in 1937.

So I close the door quietly behind

while she watches golf on the TV.

The past, I see, is now a distant shore

where I can visit, alas, no more.