Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer and long distance walker. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Diverse Voices Quarterly, Gargoyle Magazine, Gravel Literary Journal, Lost Coast Review, Rattle, Ray’s Road Review, San Pedro Review, Scapegoat Journal, Spillway, Tar River Poetry, Sugar House Review, and other nice places. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Most reminding me of her
as opposed to a fork –
though there are those days.
Or a knife.
And it’s not only the curves,
but obviously there’s that.
To deny its curves would be
to renounce touch, music,
possibility, her kindness.
The sublime capacity
to carry soup to a toothless
or sore mouth,
then, with a half pirouette,
hammer nails like a construction
How we know
It’s physics he says
like the chess player
like the boxer connects
with a pure hook,
like my father said
Because I said so
like the lover cries
like the judge bangs his gavel
like the children, on their knees,
and the beggar blesses you.
Sundays after church, he puts
on the same pants and wide brim
hat and cures his cancer.
He unlocks the shed in his backyard,
each number of the combination
a birthday of a family member.
He mows in scalpel clean incisions
up from the edge of his house, around
the belly of his pool,
straight back to where his and his
neighbors’ properties touch and back
again and back again.
This procedure takes three hours, never
less, to cover a humble yard, the smallest plot
in the master planned community.
He stops the engine to check for unevenness,
for any blades he missed. To overlook a single
piece of grass would be a catastrophe.
His body is the yard, his eyes are the x-ray,
the sonogram, MRI machine, scanning meticu-
lously. He is able to feel each cell in his blood,
his breaths feeding all organs salted, wet oxygen
from the bountiful Pacific, a mile and a third away.
This is his regimen every Sunday, after church, as
regular as a patient arriving for an oncology appointment,
pulling between the lines of the reserved parking space,
then sitting in the chair in the therapy room
to receive the medication beside the other patients,
each with their own lawn to mow after their doctors
could do no more than wish them luck.
People I hate in my house in beautiful frames
I take their coats and
usher my guests inside
without mentioning the
photograph of Osama Bin Laden
in the foyer.
Over the TV in the family room
is a hunter, foot up on
a bloody elephant,
the tusks chopped off.
This is where they normally point
Who is the hunter? Was that
Bin Laden in the other room?
I hand them their drinks, sure
they’re considering reasons
why they must leave early.
Dick Cheney in a Victorian frame
confuses my Republican guests
and infuriates my Liberal ones –
but they all get why my wildly successful,
more handsome younger brother
is up there.
After everyone is gone and
the dishes are clean
I walk around, turning off
the lights, leaving only those
above each photograph.
I meditate on them individually,
working my compassion
like a muscle in a gym.
We bought the house for the pool.
It was a bribe, Lois says.
No one from Manhattan can comprehend
moving, never mind to San Diego.
Is it between LA and San Francisco –
or is it a suburb of Mexico?
Twenty one years later, kids out
and doing well, I’m retired,
dripping in July’s gentle sun
much like November’s — and exhale,
“I’ve never floated in the pool.”
I’ve backstroked, Australian Crawled, put a snorkel on
in preparation for Hawaiian vacations.
“You’re not a floater,” Lois says, reading.
She’s been in the pool once,
though she loves it back there more than anyone;
the big umbrellas, cushioned lounges.
Maybe I’ve done hundreds of miles back
and forth. “Going nowhere,” Lois says.
She doesn’t understand I was swimming different waters,
against the current of my failing business,
the heartless waves of my inadequacies.
I could never see land.