It’s About Time – Part II

fall poem





night walking


the western field


the second person

out of your hands

It's About Time, Part I It's About Time, Part III
It's About Time, Part IV


fire bursts flare over the hills,

wet like jelly… hot like napalm

indian summer, and maybe

this is more than just

the color of ruin.

clothes caked in mud

kids in the park

fight over a pigskin balloon

the leaves of stripped trees

are swept away like eraser grit.

night began falling at noon

the boys will have to be home soon

their voices — pared thin

for the crossing into winter

gray smoke rises from chimneys

cleaning women with dirty secrets

leave houses on the upper west side

and walk evenly to their trains

late October

it always looks like rain

the birds will not be fooled this year

the sound of rakes in the wind

the feel of nails across the skin

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My mark on the tree

warped like print on stretched putty.

Late August, blue dusk, I climbed out my window —

my brow white with moonglow.

And I sat there — sat there listening

as wind filled the tree, leaves heaving

the sound of fire, but cool, the ground

wet with dew already and there, crowned

in blonde, an undarkened youth,

I’d thought I’d found some core truth

to all of this. The night before

my dad tied my tooth to the bathroom door.

So little yet uprooted; there would be more.

Scores in the molding of the bedroom door

revealed how far I’d come,

till every inch gained began to feel a loss of one.

This is where I grew up, this is home.

And now, bald as a Krishna, and fifty-four

I count thirty odd rings inward

paring my life to my father’s cancer.

His breathless trunk too well I remember…

and remember too his knotty eyes and withered limbs —

nothing left but a shell of him.

I kissed his crown and touched his wrist,

hoping fingers might bloom from his fist.

But like a tree with black rot spread within,

his shape, held only by a frail bark of skin,

was lifeless as a month old carnival balloon’s.

Out the window a pillow of cloud smothered the old moon.

The tree sighed — a groan which rose from the roots.

A week later I brought home a flag and a bag full of soot.

So today, under a September sky that seems the same

ghetto gray and threatening rain

I strap on my work boots

and tromp through the young shoots

of flowers weeds and trees —

so many yet unnamed to me.

The gaps between memories widen like tree rings;

so incomplete, the mind’s hold on history.

It’ll be thirty years next week — thirty…

thirty years grown over me, like a coat of ivy —

and so heavy an obligation.

But physical labor is a necessary distraction,

for it too is a great healer — as wisdom and clarity

often come from the periphery.

Knowing that the days when all was gain are gone,

I work until the ache of being alone

has a friend in my likewise aching body.

And with now a constant reckoning,

I look to my hands — laced

with time lines — and my face —

scarred as a moon with traces

of myriad collisions of times and places.

From a branch felled at the crack of late August thunder

I’ve fashioned the handle — content to let it sever

its own ties. The man with the Ford Ranger

said the roots threatened my foundation, so I am chipping

through years of growth and rings of being.

I was left the house when my mom died.

It was easier the second time. I was dignified.

No threats to God, cigarettes, or cynical jokes.

Trying to find the acorn in the oak,

I cry as if peeling an onion.

They planted this tree at my inception;

I’m chopping through to a reunion.

The rings shrink and seem to blur,

as I close on the singularity.

There is an increased density of

time, a unity of ryhme, a blending

of lines, as sap drips from the wedge,

as the years are magnified by tears, and the yard —

now littered with pale chips; my coat too, covered

in white curls, sweat-drenched, eyes aching, there

is a deep groan, a creaking. The tree’s shadow

shrinks into itself and — a tremendous

earth shattering crash. I eye the ax, amazed…

such a little part of the whole, when

severed from it, can bring the whole

down — like a cell that

forgets its purpose.

So I kneel beside

the old tree, and

begin counting

the bands

of being

who I


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there is a time

in the spring

when the trees

burst forth new

in old robes while

the silent trunk

buries her secret deep

in black soil

there is a time

late in summer

when the sound of

September’s endless rain

reminds the leaves of something

they could never know

there is a time

late in fall

when willow birch and pine lean

over evening’s pellicle waters

look deep through present reflections

to the petrified wood rocks

in the pond shallows, and there

is a time in the

white heart of winter

          to say goodbye to the
tattered robes

to watch the feather leaves fall

       while listening silent to the rasping


   the scraping of the forsaken ones

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the arms of stone

extend from the rocky coast

holding up a ship light

in outstretched hands.

Drawn like so many to

the beacon, I hop rock

to rock. I need that terminus

in a life where dreams go lost

like ships and perish without proof.

Sad shadows haunt the widow’s walk, or

mabye they are my own, but I want that light,

to touch it, to be found. Yet there is no reaching

the reaching; the light races from me, scatters across

the black water. So I crawl, out of myself, and I wait

quiet, like a gypsy

for the touch; a

leap of faith, I

flirt with the idea,

thinking if the light

could hold me, but

the stone-dumb dog

washed back on the

jagged rocks supports

no illusions; this liquid light

unsettled as a white sheet

falling through darkness

to a bed


not even

dreams can


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time moves within him

until it moves

without him

clip clop, like hooves

as leaves fall through black

knotty arms

the wall clock

died last year

time passed it by

his wife passed

with July

he pushed

through August

left doors unlocked

wading in gathering dust

he eyes the clock

as always, accusing the hour

of its death

stiff in his chair

he draws breath

with thought the old man

lets go a sigh

then runs his hand

along the line

of his thigh

to feel certain

of feeling, of being alive

now through trees

stagger stride

foreign feet amble blind

but meaning to abide

a younger mind

the old man climbs

into sky lifts

a heavy limb

he catches a leaf

by the stem

saved from the mulch pile

he’ll slip it in

his father’s Bible

an autumn album

as he waits for his winter

to fall, watching from his chair

the clock on the wall

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street lamps

cast down the white cat

warily, it shadows me

across the skins of puddles

the trees are rusting

a lone cricket saws

— the last I’m guessing —

for it is now late October

and the air is soiled with death

fall begins the mortal wonder

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With a foot gone heavy as my heart

I need to finish so I can start.

Wipers ticking back and forth

I’m heading south, but wanted north.

Cleveland-bound, but with a sinking feel

that home’s receding faster than my wheels.

Thirty degrees, yet everywhere the sizzle

of ten days in a constant drizzle.

Droplets cascade down the window.

Lovers consume others as they go.

Pea-soup clouds of carbon and sulfer

billow from the stacks of coal-burning boilers.

Stopped astride a pudding green truck,

the driver nods like he shares my luck.

Filthy dusk. It touches like the gray eyes of the lost,

or a handful of pills. It falls on the empty lots

of the town mall — a pallor pink, stained ochre —

the color of gnarled toenails. …Grandmother.

Her house always smelled of pressed flowers and snow.

They say she flew the river years ago.

Yet sometimes, like now, I’ll sit right beside her,

as she tickles my toes, sings of pigs and spiders.

We’ll play cards all day through rain, then snow.

War was the only game she knew — the truest peace I know.

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And the man cleared the fields

he called his children,

planting crops to the east and west

of the home he built with his own two sons.

After the soil had turned fifty harvests,

a summer came with an empty heaven.

Alone now, the old man chose to save the window field,

the field of sunsets.

He wakened winter’s snow,

melted in the well, with buckets

that were filled to be emptied

like hearts.

Stalks grew over the western field —

ominous as cloud shadow.

All this while, the eastern field lay fallow.

Had it a voice, it might have cursed

the old man, playing favorites.

A day though came when, in the August

of his eighty-sixth year,

the old man sat behind his west wall window

and never rose.

The clouds disappeared from the fields,

as the stalks, heavy with grain,

fell under their own weight

in piles of rotting gold.

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The book opens. Morning…

light, crisp as cut paper.

I kick apart the covers, rise from the sheets.

I pick berries at the bookstore —

Berryman, Ashbery. Poetic names…

mine is Croft.

It is curt like an article.

It is also

like this page

a small plot for planting

even if only a fruitless poem

this poem

growing on a widening estate of mind

through the shared the expanse of a day

where we all plant dreams and pray.

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Why do I look for her by the river

where in mid-August we crossed together?

Autumn rains have swallowed the jumping stones.

I hike to the woodland shrine, but no one

waits by the felled tree. Reverie’s absurd;

she’s not in memory’s worn reel of words,

as I expect its answers unlike hers.

She left with summer, and took warmth with her.

The sun’s now cold; squirrels hoard for winter.

I cannot find her in scrapbook orchards.

Some wells of pleasure leave hunger tortured.

I cannot look for you, but do, when stirred

by the pump squeak of the old bucket man —

a dated weight, but hell, I understand.

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the unwashed shirt on the hanger

it yearns to be vanquished in dust

but the sight of it

prompts a returning

the shirt — filled again

he never should have left

but time grew around him

and it was no longer home

new shirts

wait on racks

to be filled with your future

out of your hands

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Move on to Part III