Farewell, Thou Child of My Right Hand, Loved Boy; Driving to Dr. Foster’s; A Clearing

Farewell, Thou Child of My Right Hand, Loved Boy

You died, and I, instead of tearing my hair,
wailing, rending my garments, went to school
and taught my class in verse, as if I were
still as I’d been for your six years, calm, cool,

though passionate about each line, each word,
foot, enjambed line end, changing tone of diction,
syntactical construction, seen and heard––
and every minute of that hour a fiction.

I should have stayed at home, gone AWOL, skipped
my classes, held your mother in my arms,
dampened her matchless hair: I should have flipped
the breakers setting off the fire alarms,

since we were singed by fire, a conflagration
burning as hot as if an incendiary
bomb had directly hit our warden station––
the house in rubble, the future left to bury.

What sort of father takes grief as I did?
One who’s been taught in childhood, Bear your cross,
and further trained in youth to screw the lid
down tight on any wild, unspeakable loss.

Forgive me, child of my right hand, and joy,
as Jonson wrote from the same point of view––
not that you’re there in any sense, loved boy,
but it helps me to talk unheard to you.


Driving to Dr. Foster’s

Doctor Foster went to Glo’ster
+++In a shower of rain;
He stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle,
+++And never went there again.
––Mother Goose

What’s going on? It’s raining lightly, coldly,
the FM tuner’s vivifying Vivaldi,
that movement in The Seasons drenched and dripping,
and up our hill a student driver stripping
her gears negotiates the S-curve wildly.

What’s going on? I’m back beside my daughter
in the old Beetle, teaching what I taught her:
the California Arts of braking, steering,
accelerating, waiting, shifting, gearing.
Across the street, strapped into his sou’wester,

a teenaged courier climbs up on his saddle,
presses his right foot to the rubber pedal,
and scoots off on a cloud of mist. His sister
pedaled right off this planet: “Who would miss her?”
She guessed all wrong. Her mind was in a muddle.

She used to be Best Friends with my own daughter,
who’s now, down Venice’s roadways of water,
lifting her eyes to catch the sun’s uprising.
Back here, my tires slash puddles. Catechizing––
“What’s going on?”––I brave a burst, a bluster

of gusts, to Doctor Foster’s office. Nodding,
his head inclines to crack my heart’s encoding:
the puzzle is, one cylinder keeps missing.
Driving on home I hear the S-curve hissing:
What’s going on?
+++++++++++++I park next door to Nothing.


A Clearing

As it ages, a forest clears the ground
around its trees

like thoughts freestanding
in an old person’s mind––

rooting the scratchy scrub out,
laying down soft duff.

Ideas that have been
overshadowed are soon

submerged. The over-
shadowers, nobler

each year, more girth,
more height, more heft,

and space between them
for kids to run around in

playing hide-and-seek.
Falling or felled,

they will not fell each other.
And once one’s down,

more room for them, the fewer
surviving trees.

In forests, this is called a clearing.
In lucky people, Wisdom.