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January 07, 2006

Waiting for Seth

One of the most difficult things my wife and I have had to face was several years of infertility. In the middle of that difficult time, after several In Vitro interventions, we thought that Karen might finally be pregnant and we were so excited. We were going on a canoe trip with my parents and planned on telling them. Then several days into the canoe trip Karen began her period and our nascent hopes were dashed. I wrote this poem in our tent the day after. Karen didn't get a chance to read it until we were back in the city - I gave it to her one morning just before she headed off on the metro. She read it in the metro and, surrounded by strangers, began sobbing. (When she got home later that day, she told me she could have killed me!)

To Seth, who was not yet meant to be
August 12, 1997
Wilderness escape
for the four of us that summer:
Me, wide-eyed by the wilds,
my sweet wife of two years
and my parents-for-life.
Sun-spangled days and
rain-speckled nights,
The benediction of campfire smoke
and the green-healing of pine forests.
One afternoon a little family passes by in their canoe,
Two children ensconced like small jewels in their seats.
They camp next to us. In early evening the father teaches his little girl to paddle,
with calm patience and clear visions of distant canoe trips in his eyes.
Lying watching on the flat rock, my eyes cannot escape.
Thirty-seven and counting,
my back sorer from portaging this year than it was last year,
gray hairs, more than before.
The news came this morning - no child for us
nine months hence.
Another cycle of prayers shattered and splintered,
Another cycle of hopes deferred,
with heart-sickening finality.
O Seth, Seth, my son,
You were not yet meant to be.
Naming you has brought the sweetness
and the hurt
Too quickly home to my far-traveling heart.
A loon calls distantly, mourning your unborn possibilities
As we sleep again under sizzling rain.
Tomorrow the trip continues
by paddle and portage,
A trip of sweet sadness, of healing waters.
A long trip that you will never know.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick . . . " (Proverbs 13:12)

Would you like to hear the good news? In 2001, just under four years later, we adopted a wonderful little baby of Inuit origin, who is (along with his brother!) our pride and joy.
And yes. . . we named him Seth.

January 06, 2006

On Drinking the Water of Opalescent Lake

August 15, 1997

drunk in great gulpfuls
this water inhabits me
indwells me
passes through me.
passion fruit drink powder
cannot hide its northernlake

i become what i consume.
i am iridescent, incandescent.
lakelight shines forth from me,
radiates from eyes, fingertips,
pours out from every pore.
i am a man transformed, a son of the wilderness.
the forest melts and folds itself around me:

now i can see the moon even when it is behind the clouds.
now i can walk lightly on the rippling water
now i can hear the loons even when they are silent.



March 10, 1982

well I know copernicus really changed things he did with finding out that ol earth wasnt number one you know what I mean that it isnt the center of the universe but some folks just havent found that out yet cuz the Me generation is still here with its be My own best friend philosophies and its fulfill My needs mentalities and its do My own thing moralities and you know this guy thinks hes the center of the universe the ticker of the old big bang itself and youve got to do this do that do this to keep him healthy and happy and at the top of the heap and if you dont measure up boom! out of the friendship books and all and that forget it buddy you dont make Me feel good about Myself stuff and so long and you know Ive been done to like that many times my friend maybe five six times and aint nobody out for nobody elses good so far as I can see its still just look out for good ol Number One no room at the top for two you must know what I mean so Im into Self-Actualization you know thats being the best I can be or trying to at least and it sure helps Me get out of those petty little egocentric ways of looking at life and the world and everything and you can take a free lesson from Me I know Im not the center of the universe the sun and moon and stars all wrapped up in one big zinger and I can be realistic about that cuz I know Myself real good you know Ive taken all them courses and I know what I got and what I aint and I know where I came from and where Im going and I just got one question for you how come nobody knows how to listen anymore?

A salesman’s morning

February 16, 1981

Why won’t she let me in?
The old woman shivers inside her door,
Her gnarled hands firmly on the lock,
Shaking her head resolutely.

Around me a cold rain—thunder murmurs impersonally
Along this desolate, leafy road.

Why now,
When I so much need for her to let me in
Talk to me
Like me
Is she keeping those old hands on the lock?

Does she fear me,
I tense up.

I turn, walk stiffly down her overgrown path,
Refusing to let her see the bitter anger
Squeezing from my eyelids.

I proudly swing open my car door,
Feeling her eyes piercing my back.

I smoothly get inside,
By myself,
Turn on the engine
And cry.


January 05, 2006

Bear Awareness (or, Bearanoia)

August 16, 1997

"The explanation of the Algonquin incidents may be
that the particular extremely unusual bears were
deliberately preying on humans. This idea is a chilling one and deeply affects us all. . . Although your chance of meeting a
predaceous bear is next to zero . . .”1

Dark dark hulking in the
Shadows just beyond the
feeble candlelit safety of my tent.
Moving forward quietly jaws dripping eyes clearly focused
—(“deliberately preying on humans”!)—
And maybe just maybe already having caught my scent.

Unexplained and wholly unexplainable,
You may not be there
in the everlasting darkness
just beyond my circle of light —
But you are there
in the depths of me:
Every *crackling* twig
is a sure portent of your coming,
Every nighttime sound
heralds your nearness. . .
ev ry beat of my heart
when I cannot sleep
the terror
of you.

(written some time after dark)

1. Algonquin Canoe Routes,
Friends of Algonquin Park