the five senses



I am pinned to the places I have been, mapped
and logged and archived;
even some dreamplaces I revisit, where I am known and
even somewhat famous.

But there is a bench, a beach,
and a line of peaks
engraved in my book,
though my lungs have not drawn
that rarified salt air.

These islands
and their thousand shades of grey and blue
are a chain that pulls me in,
partly DNA
mostly fernweh;
a place so strange and so familiar
that I can feel the lichen soft on my feet
hear the corncrake’s green rattle
smell the whisky-smoke.

I believe I shall find my initials
engraved on a bench
on the Isle of Harris,
and I’ll sit homebound there
til the wind blows me yon.


Photo: Willem Eelsing

Swing Shift

1 AM
is not the time for singing.

The disreputable cat
who sleeps in the interstice between yards,
pins his attention upwards,
pining for claws someone took years ago.

Neighbors, none of whom I know,
buoy lightly out of sleep
wonder if dawn is near.

is anybird listening
moved by your syllables?

I lie scanning the meter of your song:
anarchy anarchy anarchy
sweat sweat sweat
you-lose you-lose you-lose

But since you are a mockingbird
the rhythm doesn’t come back around,
not once.

I nestle beyond sense once more,
twixt boy and cat, close-eyed,
happy of not working as hard as you,


mbird at night




In the visible,
discerned by our face-camera,
blue can be grey
or green
if the frame changes color.
We are easily deceived by a pretty face
a blind dog can know its friend.

In the ultraviolet
we can discern
only by sunburn or science.
can kill us with tiny mutant cells
and also
show us distant stars in their massive youth.

The infrared
we discern with our skin
and go out for a picnic
on a warm summer’s day.

The x-ray
is totally like this.




It’s pretty well-worn imagery,
but the storms really do roll here.

Seemingly from two directions at once,
the scooping wind is a solid presence.

The trees do a stadium wave up and down the street.

The sky darkens, slowly, from the northwest.
Local dogs
have fled indoors,
birdflight is comically controlled

The cloud lightning is a tease,
pulsing but seldom forking,
thunder sounding but never cracking.
Always, somehow, behind the trees
and never overhead.

Too soon, only remnants,
complaining and ragged
in the distance

and it’s a little lonesome
in this dripping, scented quiet,
just one lone dog somewhere,


I know it is a tree
but to my ears
it is a small nocturnal marsupial,
pied, with violet saucer eyes,
and nests in the thigh of the violet sugar tree.

She keeps her young in a button-down flap,
and sneaks him lollyflowers
of pollen and grape.

When he has grown, they play
tumbledown and leapfaerie
throughout the night.
At dawn, they settle into the thigh
of the violet sugar tree,
and dream of dodging bees
and flutterbys of green.

He will go to find his mate,
and she, empty-pocketed,
lives out her days in a circle of mothers,
teaching the young ones to dance
the jacaranda rondo.

One Single Sense

I would miss taste, it’s true,
but by then I will have had my fill
of delicacies, and will eat plain stew.

The touch of a lover, the thrill,
that would be hard to kiss goodbye.
But at least I will not feel winter’s chill.

Scents, however, are the means whereby
memory’s pathways collide and collude.
NB: write poems of remembrance, should that sense die.

Now sight: think of all the beauty you’ve viewed
and assemble a mental scrapbook of sorts.
Not ideal, but a comfort in your solitude.

Ah! but hearing. Mostly, music exhorts
me to insist: I cannot live without that gift,
which all other senses merely support.