What You Said About Me The first two sips of beer are the best, you tease good-naturedly as we huddle on a second date -the dark eddy of a railway station bar. First, foam annoys the upper lip. Then bubbles bristle in the throat. On brew, the stomach bloats. But, oh, those first two draughts. A river of passengers flows past, head-on toward destinations, delays, side-tracks, cancellations. How we like to overlay our futures onto those of passersby, guessing at their plunges into rapids, cascades, often jutting rocks, hoping for a pool of calm. How are they a match? you laugh. A season on, and now you banter with me smilingly. Maybe this is more like wine, slow to unfold complexity in the us we’re tasting every day. ** Pursuit of Food The sea breathes restlessness onto the rocks as we toss lobster shells into a scooping surf. I pursue you through the food I introduce to you. You seem to like the indirect approach. Steamed clams in melted butter? Try it with your fingers, I suggest. The taste of sunlight poured through summer leaves. No, you insist, More like the time we drew into that first delicious kiss. Sometimes, as a meditative task, I forage oysters in the brackish flats. There’s odd comfort in the way my rubber boots suck out a path through eel’s mud. Not grounded, and free from being almost stuck. I offer what I’m able to. You tease me with Whose food isn’t both the message and the messenger? I won’t deny. You famish me. Let’s start with finger food. ** An Afternoon in the Smokies I say it started up at Alum Cave Bluff. The woman, later my wife, and I, on a blanket an hour’s hike beyond the last trail fork. She drew me to the edge to realize this: as the sun proceeds, the mountains and their laps of ridges and valleys fold, unfold, refold shadow and light light and shadow dense leafy textures progressing always to a new illumination. We two alone, she eased me forward enough to see everything laid right in front of us. ** The Irish Elk The Irish Elk, its drive to mate succeeding with the largest antler rack like a pair of grasping hands, carried such a weight it went extinct. And what of you and me? It was a summer, our hands so greedy we could have gone extinct if not for a constant roof of stars to frame the fall of meteors. But at least, in that now, that flagrant now which will not pause to take a breath, we drank each other’s company, taunting our demise. ** Violin Asymmetry’s an attribute, you and I were soon to learn. The bow hand meant for tempo, the other hand fingering the tune. In light and heavy frictions of compression and release, we play out brio, we play out lentamente, with equal fluency. But sometimes, as I near the top of the stairs, or begin to fold a shirt, or transit a glacial thought, you emerge, entirely congruent with me, and again I revel in something like the mouth feel of a bursting tangerine. You take your coffee black. I don’t. ** A Study of My Wife Cutting My Hair She plants her palm on top of my head as though she would a cantaloupe. Sharp work wants close control. My hair is not my glory. Carry on. Her focus is a form of solitude, unreachable to me, yet still, still, so close to her skin I can smell the lotion she applied last night. How often I forget, until five weeks from now, again, she sets her palm atop my head, a blessing of this union, a promise of this pact.
He has been a volunteer vaccinator against COVID-19 for his county’s public health department, and has travelled on medical mission trips to Appalachia, as well as twice to Guatemala during their civil war.