A Day Like This

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Mist rising;
sky a deepening blue;
treetops wreathed in morning sun,
and just enough breeze to ripple
the grass and nod the yellow tulips.

Above me swallows slice the air.
Short dark arrows, they never miss,
their flight too swift for error.

I bet they fly faster, farther,
on a day like this,
the way dogs on a beach,
will break into a run,
or cats on warm sidewalks
will stretch their full length,
surrender their bodies
to the splendor of heat.

How much have I missed
in the hurry of my life?
Bring me back
with fur or feathers,
let me claim
all that is mine.

The Dying See

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The dying see
what the rest of us don’t,
will speak to these phantoms—
often people long gone—
in a manner so earnest
we begin to doubt
our own senses.
Is heaven real, has a corner lifted?
Or do the minds of our loved ones,
unmoored from the task of living,
fall back to the beginning:
a state of infinite odds,
where fact and fiction
have no meaning,
and whatever we imagine
is waiting to meet us?

The Tyranny of Yoga Pants

Last week Honor Jones of the New York Times wrote an excellent article on the yoga pants tsunami. It’s good to know that I am not the only person mystified by the number of women who have decided that tourniquet tight legwear is a wardrobe must. And not just slim women; women of all shapes and sizes pry on their yoga pants and sprayed-on jeans each day and head out into the world, defiant as new parolees.

I don’t care if you have a rockin’ body, I don’t care if you don’t. I’m just tired of seeing so much of you. I never signed up for a free subscription to your ass.

“Yoga pants move with your body,” a woman explained to me, beaming at her thighs, which were shrink-wrapped in a dark gray material splashed with giant yellow daisies. Indeed your body cannot shake these pants; there is no escape.

Every time I see a girl in tight jeans—which is every day, many times a day—I cringe a little, imagining the difficulty involved in sitting, bending and walking. A fashion that limits movement, impinges on circulation and inhibits healthy breathing is not a product that favors liberation and empowerment.

Remember Grunge? Well I do, even though it lasted just half a minute back in the early 90s. Grunge fashion—for both men and women—was characterized by durable and cheap clothing often worn “in a loose, androgynous manner to de-emphasize the silhouette.” Decades later, men are still wearing comfortable clothes. Women, sadly, are not. I guess Doc Martens, loose jeans and flannel shirts did not contribute to the objectification of the female form. If a women’s body is de-emphasized, who will want it? Who will care? What is it worth?

What I recall most from the Grunge period was the way women carried themselves. The sureness of their movements, the nascent confidence. Women were finally realizing that they owned themselves, or could.

There are a handful of Olympic sports that benefit from tight uniforms. When winning is measured by a thousandth of a second, a second skin is the way to go. The rest of us have options, especially those who don’t know they do, who believe that yoga pants and tight jeans are tickets to personal freedom.

Comfortable, gender-neutral clothes are not easy to find, but they could be, and if you want to be your own gal, you might want to give them a try. Things are changing for women now. Here’s to freeing our bodies as well as our voices.

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What Ants Know

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There are ants that tend to their injured
by licking their wounds,
slowly transferring their own health
into fallen soldiers,
sealing fresh lesions against lethal bacteria.
Who can say why a creature as small as an ant
with so many hardy brethren,
would bother to stop—an hour if need be—
and help a troop.
In that tiny helmet of a head
are there neurons of compassion, of pity,
or are these ministrations automatic, instinct,
like the urge to tunnel or serve a queen
(what is instinct anyway
but a word for what we can’t explain?).
Some ants will even evac a battered brother,
not the terminal—those who have lost too many limbs
to the brutal jaws of termites—
but the ones who, with proper attention,
may fight another day.
The medics sense the difference
and do what they can
before moving farther afield,
gifted with the knowing
there is not a moment to spare.

Inner Critics

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It was the 70s.
No one had cell phones,
and cameras were for
travel, holidays,
bigger things.
“Selfie” wasn’t even a word.

So when you came across
that ancient photo
tucked in a book,
your stomach jumped.

There you were,
sitting on your dorm bed
hunched over a small typewriter,
looking up, surprised.
Younger, prettier—
that’s to be expected.
It’s the details that fascinate.
The blue eye shadow—too blue,
and eyeliner—too much.
You’re wearing jeans and one of those silly
peasant blouses—all the rage for half a minute.
Long straight hair parted down the middle,
same as the rest of the herd.
A poster on the wall of naked lovers,
red satin sheets. Good god.
A really ugly desk lamp.

STOP!
You can do that now,
tell your censor
to shut up,
leave this innocent alone.

She dogged you then too,
that old nag;
nothing you did
pleased her.
She was with you
from the start,
braiding you with doubt,
cloaking you with dread.
Not anymore.

Age has carried off
what you no longer need,
left you something
to fight with instead.

Now you have your critic
pinned against the ropes.
Let her rail all she wants,
you don’t need to listen,
you slow walking,
white-haired champion.

Snow

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I used to look up
at snow coming down,
as if for an explanation, an origin,
but there were no answers,
just a gray cotton blanket
and those wheeling white crystals,
each perfect star
a chance in a million.

Fields of snow,
glinting on a cold clear morning,
mounded here and there
over ordinary things,
turning them into secrets.
Snow so clean and deep and pure
that just gazing at it
returned your innocence.

Snow that hardened to a crust,
ready for a boot to break through.
Ponds that splintered under your skates,
puddles you could crack and bend.

Snow on a roof,
sliding off in a sudden whump,
or melting slowly,
one drop finding another, and another,
falling and freezing and falling again,
turning to daggers
that glistened in the sun,
before plunging themselves
in the drifts below.

Snow
as far as you could see,
claiming all,
hugging even
the first daffodils
before shrinking at last
to dirty heaps
along the roads,
against the buildings,
waiting for spring
to carry them off.

Photo by Lutz Koch on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Defending Alabama

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Tell people you’re moving
to Alabama and their mouths
drop open.
You might have said
Afghanistan.

“AlaBAMa! Why?”

You rush to explain:
family, first of all,
then the Gulf, so close—
dolphins, sea turtles!

Hurricanes, they counter.
Humidity.
Trumpers!
And, always,
“How can you leave Napa?”
as if this thirsty valley is an unparalleled paradise,
as if, beyond grapes and wine bars,
there is nothing at all,
just a drop off
to the end of the world.

Surely I will miss the valley slopes,
tawny in the summer,
emerald after the rains,
the tidy cascades of vineyards
wrapped with morning fog.

I want more.
I want to dip into my past,
become, in my seniority, a kid again
steeped in a world of fresh wonders:
anoles with ruby dewlaps
eyeing me from my porch light,
frogs no bigger than a thumbnail
tucked in the curl of a leaf;
fireflies sparking the night,
painted buntings
I thought were long gone.
Sting rays skimming the shoreline,
hermit crabs swapping one shell for another.
Powder white beach sand borne of granite.
Sea monster fossils sixty feet long.

How much time do I have left?
How can I stay where I am?