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Fulham Road

We prepared to cross Fulham Road--

me and a girl who’d picked me up

on the Russian freighter. It was the

fall of 1977, and we were in London

on our way to-- well, it doesn’t matter

now. It ended badly. She stepped from

the curb, looking the wrong way. I

saw the snot-brown Vauxhall headed

straight for her blind side.

Instinctively, I threw out my arm to

restrain her. Just in time. The buffeting

announced that we were still alive.

She said, “Don’t patronize me.

I know where I’m going. Never do that

again. And another thing. Stop telling

people who pick us up that you’re a

writer. That’s not for you to say.

That’s for others to decide.”

I looked her in the eye. She was

serious. And I wondered if I’d made

a mistake in saving her from the

Vauxhall. But then, this was 1977.

And everything was different then.


Bachman's Warbler

"My luck is always bad”, he said

one morning over his skim latte.

“I don’t know what it is about me.

I waited for months to visit Boston and

then spent the weekend sick in bed”

And I said, “Bad luck? Bad luck?

You don’t know bad luck, let me tell you.

Bad luck is the Bachman’s Warbler,

that’s bad luck. Had a memorable song,

a high, sweet trill among Georgia pines.

Died out completely in the 1930s. Or

so they thought. Then nine years later,

birders foundBachmans, a pair of them,

a few miles fromeach other. Heard that

fine “trrree, trrree” song once more. So 

they shot them both and called it a day.

A Split of the Atomic

The physicist Wolfgang Pauli was

first to discover the neutrino, a

particle so small as to be invisible;

with his eye fixed on the theoretical

he never saw the possibility that

his wife might be drifting away.

When told she was leaving him for a

colleague, the distinguished man

could only think to respond, “A

chemist? You say that you’re leaving

me for a chemist?” But she did.

And history was still made.

Not The Beep

I phoned the winter place in Florida,

got my father’s voice still vivid

on the message machine. Not

expecting to discover Dad there,

I almost hung up the call; but

hearing him once more, I stopped

to listen to the voice of Pater.

I could see him recording the message,

seated alone at his sun-splashed office

desk, the text written in his clear

engineer’s hand. “If you have a

facsimile please press the number

sign now.” A fax? He’d barely learned

to use the computer the last year.

He could have been describing

the wild tribes in Borneo. Then,...

“We’re not here at the moment...”

Not here. It might have been the

first time it had truly registered

since he’d gone. That he had

taken the time to let me know

that he would always be there,

just a call away if I cared to

simply leave him a message

.... after the beep.

Variations On A Theme By Ray Carver

Just when he had given up, thinking

he'd never write another line of poetry,

she began brushing out her hair.

And singing that Chopin Polonaise

he loved 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 when they

disembarked on the shore in Mallorca.


The humidity peels like acetylene.

On the slanted light, blue herons tiptoe

on alligators. My mother squeezes

pulp from a bowl of new oranges.

Telling small lies in the fungibles.  

She recalls now the tangled dance of

flyer and singer, struggling for a path

forward. Followed by the dark acts

of contrition behind closed doors.

Walls rising to collect the survivors.

Sanctified by coming-through,

They sit now in a room swallowed

by Florida heat. The dining table still

beckons for seven hands. My mother

passes the bowl around and says,

“The Honeybelles are the best this year,

no doubt about it. Here, take one.”

Swimming In New Orleans

I watch you swim toward me,

your body moves like zydeco

above and below the water line.

The red bricks of the Church of

the Immaculate Conception,

gatherer of Cajun souls, float

over your shoulder in the haze.

Jazz from the French Quarter

still dances across the afternoon.

Seeing your steady strokes

I dream of the gator, floating

close by in the bayou. For the two

of us there is no tomorrow

or yesterday. Only this moment,

this splendid moment, as glory

swims ever closer to the sun.