There’s no bottom to its murky depth
No end its ribbony aroma
I swear it gives me living breath
And revives me from my coma
Alas! There’s not enough of it
In my one and lonely cup
I search in vain for the final bit
But nothing’s left to conjure up
And now I read there’s fear of drought
To wither up the smallest sprout
No plants, no beans, just wretched doubt
My stash of coffee’s running out
Who are you? I say.
I am no one, she replies,
I ask, What does death mean?
It means a life
and nothing more.
I ask what she misses most
about being alive.
Nothing, she says,
I ask if all the dead
No, she says, many dissolve
like tears in the ocean.
I ask if the dead
count the time.
Time, she says, is the
Landlord, you are
I ask if dead
souls live forever.
I will ask the fire,
she says, if the ashes
sunny, chilly, the wind brisk but toothless.
March, as March should do, marches on,
winter grudging every degree of discomfort displaced.
On mornings like this I used to walk the railroad tracks
past factories in the low piercing light
kicking up dust, examining the artifacts left by passing trains —
bottles, bean cans, scattered pages of illegible text,
and the occasional leg bone of a vanished
furry animal, hobbled off or eaten whole.
I was looking for anything new, it didn’t matter what.
There would be sudden neighborhoods,
unfamiliar soil, sometimes a pool hall,
a secondhand store,
or a diner. I would sit and imagine
what it would be to live there, to always order
the same lunch, to indulge in idle
ruminations with the help.
In the long, slow afternoons I would watch
them fill the rows of ketchup bottles
on the counter and the tables.
Always filling, never washing.
It occurred to me that at the bottoms
of those bottles lay the remnants of the
Original Primal Ketchup in its few remaining molecules.
I couldn’t guess its age, much older than me.
We can never escape the past,
it is our stuff, our formless substance.
I was a captain of the sky
clouds around my head
like a laurel wreath
eyes fixed on the cresting moon
elbows dancing, and then
in the spark of an instant
lost, all lost,
just a vague memory
until time scrubs the words
from this stone
Trees, drunk with snow melt,
push buds through winter skins,
impatient crocuses bustle from the soil.
Everywhere something stirs,
its long sleep nearly done.
The wind blows without a bite,
birds are on the wing.
Long ago, it was gulls that called.
Now it’s wild geese.
Suddenly, I’m old,
every day a gift;
it was always so
had I but known it.