Barges pass against the cold sky
above the roads on which I cycle,
from Rotterdam to Delft,
to Amsterdam and Beek, almost
silent but for my ticking odometer.
Each revolution marking space,
Each morning I pluck a new town
from the hostel guide and plan my route.
Mail goes only out.
The land bulges with sea-level canals.
Distant barges creep by above my head.
Then bridges fling me up and over
to land, ticking softly,
in the next great green bowl.
Last year, my father’s heart coughed
to get his attention.
Next year, it will stop.
This month I coast the Low Countries.
“October 1979” is in six parts. To read the complete poem, click here.
Deep into sleeptime, I kept my promise,
wrapped her in blankets, and woke her
into the cool night. I stood, waiting for our irises
to bloom. And the sky revealed itself.
I turned my almost-too-heavy bundle
to the east, and pointed. But in the time it takes
to turn, meteors vanish. Look, point,
turn, never fast enough to see
the brilliant flash on the sky. When she had missed
enough for one night, she had me
carry her inside, too sleepy
for disappointment, to the warmth
of her room and guardian bears. Another year,
another swarm, with me—or with some boy—
a candent slash across the belly of the dark.
In the woods,
boy at his side, stick in one hand,
cigar in the other, he posed
for the picture I am taking.
He watched his good child marry a man
of whom he approved, whom she would
divorce three years later, after
the boy was born.
He wanted to be
a good father and loving husband.
He glared into a mirror.
He saw himself, his father, and me.
He swung an axe,
pulled a saw, hefted the logs
onto the wagon I helped him pull home.