Cloud Shapes (#35)

September, spaciously
Spidered, appled and
Gleaming, as though
We could see the air—

Eyes lifted, recalling
Third grade clouds drawn
Fluffy and puffy and never
Quite white, crayons melting

Through blue construction paper.
After school, laying on the
Lawn with my aunt, eighty four,
The one who knew a one-legged

Civil War drummer boy, September
Clouds taking any shape they
Pleased, she pointed:
“That one’s a tea kettle,” and

“There’s a bowler hat.”
Bless my aunt. She never said
“Look, a clock, spinning
Backwards. Wait, forwards!”

Or, “There! Pages
Torn from a calendar, tossed
Against the autumn sky!”
Those dull, daily aches

Everywhere, always. Anyway,
Enough of these shapes.
She saw, instead, bicycles,
Elephants, and birthday cakes.

Avocado (#34)

The first time I ever
Really noticed anything
—That is to say, that I
Noticed I was noticing—

Was on a commuter train
In California, age 25, traveling
To visit an aunt, when,
Katy-corner to me, at a

Table-seat that faced backwards,
A man opened a crumpled paper
Sack and produced, from within,
A plastic knife, a plastic spoon,

And one large avocado.
Don’t laugh—I had never seen
An avocado before,
Didn’t know what it was,

Having grown up on frozen
Pot pies, hot dogs, begging
My mother for nine piece
Amalgamated poultry from McDonalds;

And if California was exotic,
That avocado seemed otherworldly,
Ovoid, olivine, bumpy as
Dinosaur hide. I watched clandestinely

As the man sliced it lengthwise,
Orbiting his palm,
Cleaving the fruit like a geode
To reveal the most unexpected

Green I had ever seen,
Not mint, not lime, but
Bright like spring clover,
Creamy as fresh milk,

And within, as though
A world awaited, an enormous,
Perfectly round pit,
A globe, profound,

Which he neatly removed,
Scooping it loose and dropping it,
Nonchalantly, into the sack.
My eyes were wide!

See, how he sprinkled the salt!
See, how he ladled the green meat
To his mouth, sweetly eating!
When he was done, scraping the

Shells for the final, curling petals,
I could have gone on watching,
From California to West Virginia—
The width of the world, in a paper bag.

Old Barn (#33)

There’s an old barn from my
Childhood that no longer exists,
Cavernous, capacious,
Holding great heaps

Of nothing that makes sense—
Canvas buckets, barley,
Barely able to keep hay dry,
Feeding spiders—

Gone now, except for foundation
Stones, thousand pound
Beams once spanning widths of
Sky, capped with tin,

Beneath which,
In 1988, in the straw mow,
My best friend Harry Jenkins
Play-wrestled Jessica Dillon

Into the softness,
While the girl next door and I
Wordlessly excused ourselves
Into the light,

Fecund, irresistible,
To the mud of the stream bank,
Far older than the straw,
Barley, even the barn itself,

And making more sense
To me then, now, than
Wood, thrust splintering into air,
Already swept away.

Sun Unseen (#32)

“Look!” she says,
Amazed by the flowers
I’ve walked past for weeks,
Blooming beside the weeds

I had been pulling.
“Oh, aren’t they
The craziest thing?”
Indeed, I agree, they are,

Noticing them for the first time,
the craziest thing
Felt, at that moment, acutely as
Raindrops on skin, or the day

I finally marveled at the sun,
Twenty years into adulthood.
So I stare, close as I’m able
To seeing, the purples, the yellows,

The rose-colored petals.
I lean in close, as though
By leaning I’ll learn anything,
Observe anything,

Recalling that the sky,
Its blue light radiant,
Woke me that very morning,
Before promptly becoming unseen.