LATE NIGHT IN MIDLAND
Driving down the dirt road by the Tittabawassee with congregations of crows bottoming away in my dust and country music drifting from the radio I was not concerned with moment. Movement was enough for now after heavy moisture of Michigan June. The cool air fluttering the trees as I passed old men waxing their cars in shirt sleeves like my father forty years ago relaxing after the war we won to wax cars under willow trees on impossible June evenings. The river was silt-brown and still.
At the north bend I pulled over cut the engine and listened to the cool metal ticking and the crickets echo. Fireflies did their intricate arabesques and pliés, a horsefly buzzed once and was gone.
Down by the river I was startled by a flourish in the thicket of birch and willow. Two yellow eyes stared back from a low-slung branch. Its two-note hoot authentic and palpable. Who? Who? I spoke back, reassuring, and went on. It followed, and spoke again from a primal space I could not know. A warning. At least I took it so and left the trees, the river, the night rustlings in the brush.
In my safe car, the radio said: “It’s eleven forty-five, you night owls, and that was Patsy Cline.”That’s a more recent poem, from the late ’90s. But I have great affection for the early poems, too. They often exude a fragrance of the sweet anxiety both Mike and I suffered from, in our different ways, back in the ’70s when my preferred drink was Bushmills neat. (I don’t rightly remember what Mike’s drink was.) Here’s one of those:
A DEAL IS A DEAL
There is a kind of life no one speaks of. You wake in the morning and the day rises like a curtain you didn’t mean to choose. It is a bad deal. Behind the curtain are things you never wanted: choked traffic, an empty job, the drag of time as it reels out the hours, the subtle atrophy of courage. You wonder, at twenty, if you will spend your whole life like this. At thirty, you cease to wonder. At forty, you can’t remember what it was you were concerned about. In a dream, Monty Hall gives you one last chance to trade what you have. Your wife shakes her head. She tells you: Don’t be a fool. Do you want to lose everything?I imagine I should footnote Monty Hall, which saddens me. Time and tide, you know. Thank goodness for writers who embed our now worthless cultural tokens in their work, where they can still have at least a half-life! And thanks to Mike for his long and worthy practice that keeps on calling us to healing attention.