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.

Pastoral (#31)

When Beethoven composed
His sixth symphony,
Nicknamed The Pastoral,
He might never have dreamed that,

Two hundred and eleven
Years later, floating from the electric
Speakers of a horseless carriage,
Half a planet distant, his music

Would play to an audience of
Grunting hogs, squealing with feeling,
As the farmer, knowing the arpeggios
Best from Looney Tunes reruns,

Thought of wise-cracking rabbits,
Foulmouthed ducks, and pantsless pigs,
Notes soaring skyward through a summer
Pasture, levitating with blue butterflies.

Skipping Stones (#30)

1.

The first time someone said
“I can make a stone float,”
You didn’t believe them.
But part of you wanted to—

Age four, five, knowing already that,
Heavy in the hand, rocks sink;
You were nobody’s fool, acutely
Aware that a trick was afoot;

We grow jaded so early!
But oh, succor, that
Small part of our brains
Willing to be persuaded—

So we watch, snapped from
The wrist, rifled, centrifugal,
The stone skips, spinning,
Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

Across the water,
Marvelous reward for the
Willing disbeliever!
From that instant on,

As teenagers, adults,
We fall in love again, every time;
Counting each skip, each ripple,
Eyes wide as children.

2.

Counting each skip, each ripple,
As though something were at stake.
Silly, to think how in sixth grade,
My class was challenged by our

Principal, to beat him in
Rock skipping—On the line?
A two thousand word essay, versus
Dinner of the student’s choosing.

Only three kids took him on,
And when my friend Matt won,
He requested surf and turf
With aristocratic nonchalance,

Taking great satisfaction in his
Lobster tail and tenderloin
As our principal, with teacher’s wages,
Blanched at the eighty dollar check.

So simple, to wing a stone
Sideways, askew, slipping,
Under-arcing, overreaching—
Everyone wants one more throw.

3.

I spent my stone-skipping youth
On the banks of the Greenbrier,
Pocahontas County, West Virginia,
Where fractured slate was as

Abundant as stars,
Shining wet along the bank—
Practice, endless practice,
Smooth-edged squares,

Triangles, parallelograms,
The dark water swallowing
Each emotionlessly,
Only the smallest glub

As each stone disappeared,
Never to be reclaimed—
Never to be skipped again—
By me, I mean.

4.

I was mostly married, once,
To a woman who took her
Stone skipping quite seriously,
Though she tried very hard

Not appear so. Thinly veiled,
Delighting in victory with a
Sinuous happy dance,
Two stepping on the muddy

Shore as she tallied each skip,
Counting thirty when I called “twenty nine”,
Innocuous, close as ripples,
Fading in the silky current.

5.

Now my son tells me,
“Dad, did you know you can
Skip rocks along the road?”
And he shows me, this teenager,

Against a black river of macadam,
Sparking the asphalt
With tiny fires, igniting the
Atmosphere in its wake

6.

What joy, forgetting what we know—
Kiss! Kiss! Twenty two kisses.
No, twenty three! Watch.
I can make a stone float.