This space station at night
With its glowing windows
Into distant worlds
Houses only one mammal now.
He sweeps mashed popcorn
Down blue painted hallways,
The laughter and awe
Now silent as the schools
Darting back and forth
Watching his work.
Morays smile out from their holes.
The giant clam does nothing.
A girl had tugged on his coveralls
And asked if the sharks ever sleep.
He said he didn’t think so
Before her teacher called her away.
He stands now, broom raised,
Peering at the cavern mouth
Where the group of sharp tails
Rest like flags of surrender
Gathered by a victor.
In winter it is easy to spot the cardinal.
My brother once shot a woodpecker
After a friend’s dare.
He cried for it that night and learned the truth about death.
I wonder if my father had the same experience
As a boy.
The pile of frozen blue jays
Rests behind the tree that holds the rope swing.
He told us to keep it secret, even from our friends.
With the jays gone, my mother keeps an eye on the squirrels.
They are friendlier than the jay
Eating with two hands alongside the titmouse.
Miles above, buzzards circle like ashes.
They wait for my father
Who, for now, has put his rifle aside to eat his lunch.
Christmas in Hollywood
It is a cold night, yet most of the actors
Are hoping for snow.
Stars move through the muddy sky,
Blinking like flash bulbs.
In a large dark house, lit by the moon
Suspended between two slender palms,
The kitchen glistens
With stainless steel appliances.
The dining room holds the darkness of a closet
And table set with plates of half-eaten food.
Even the lights on the tree are off.
Everything is coated in black and blue gloom,
But for the teal pool
And bathroom where a maid
Scrubs the claws of a priceless tub.
Christmas in Purgatory
Midnight; the freeway is cluttered with traffic.
Drivers move methodically
Under a light snow.
The houses in the subdivision are dark,
But for one with a flicker at the window
Where the fireplace warms small hands
Or the tree has caught on fire.
The diver finds a pearl
Just as a king
On a piece of meat,
A farmer loses an arm
To his saw,
And a criminal
In his cell
Dreams of fire.
A girl the papers will be talking about
Drifts down the river like a plastic bag,
Her nightgown fleeing up the bank.
The crack of a nun’s ruler
Still sends shivers down my spine.
Might be the old boys still hunting.
I have seen their cans half buried in the earth,
Their weathered signs
With gray, dimpled faces.
Not a man or footprint though,
Making me wonder if I’m that much gone,
Or have misplaced the cemetery.
This house has been long forgotten.
The dirt smell of a cellar
Crawls up my nose like a spider
As I play Russian roulette
With my grandfather,
Hoping he doesn’t lose again.