August 15, 1942


“Off to tend the cows,” he said,
glad for the company of his wife this time,
who, pregnant more often than not,
was finally free to join him.

How many mornings
had she watched him from the window,
striding across the green meadow,
till he reached the curve of the glacier
and disappeared into the vastness of the world.

That’s where the cows lived in summer,
across the glacier, high in the Alps,
browsing as they pleased on fulsome grass
and tiny nodding flowers
that turned their milk sweet and golden.

Oh, it was lovely up there, he told her,
eagles, wild sheep, marmots tame as dogs.
They could have a picnic!

He had made her boots, beautiful boots,
with thick soles and ample tread.

For safety’s sake,
he must have taken the same route each time,
especially this time.

They could have stepped together on a skim of ice
that did not look at all suspicious.

More likely she slipped, not used to the ways of ice,
and when he tried to save her fall,
he too went reeling, spinning alongside her,
the two of them plunging into a chasm
so dark and deep
they were gone without a sound.

It was a resort worker who found them,
two patches of black he had not noticed before.
The first thing he saw were the boots,
perfect against the snow, as if they’d been worn yesterday,
and then the shrunken limbs inside them,
and then the head of a woman.

There was a book, too, and a bottle of wine,
a pocket watch that went on without them,
at least for a day or two.

She knew they’d be found,
the daughter said,
and so she would wear white to the funeral,
for white is the color of hope,
which she never lost.

She did not curse the mountains,
as many would assume.
That glacier held her parents for 75 years,
long enough for faith to find them.

Cliff Houses on the Pacific Coast Highway


You see them from the road,
sprawled on cliff tops,
those weathered gray homes of untold value–
who can put a price on views like that?


At least I think they are homes.


You never glimpse any people,
or cars winding up the drive.
Where are they?


Funny how all you can imagine are rooms
with no one in them. Empty sofas, empty beds,
plates and glasses waiting on polished tables.
Maybe, by now, a mouse in the pantry,
steadily gnawing through a box of linguine.
Long-legged spiders crocheting in the corners.
Decks turning spongy, hinges rusty.


But that first day,
when the moving van left,
and the owners stood at their immense window
and looked at the endless blue ocean,
what triumph they must have felt, what joy.
Mine, they must have thought. All mine.


You wonder if they stopped looking,
if the windows kept clouding with salt,
if the drive to the store grew tiresome,
if they missed good restaurants,
if their guests stopped coming,
if the fog hung on too long.


Or was it the ocean itself
they tired of:
all that splendor and might.
Maybe, at night, they could hear the waves whisper:




Photo credit: GD Taber via / CC BY-NC-ND