A Prayer
If it weren’t for Mary, who knows all too well my oblivious nature,
I’d never have noticed those tiny, crepuscular creatures
floating around in the dogs’ water bowls. The big yellow
jackets are easy enough to spot & easy to save — you just
cup your hand under their bellies, tossing them free with a splash,
& they’ll stumble back to their feet like indignant drunks, shake
out their wings, & fly off. But I’d never noticed those minuscule
midges & gnats till Mary pointed them out. At a casual glance
they are nothing but dust motes & flecks of debris.
By the time I bend over to look, a few have already been
pulled under & are hopelessly gone. But the ones still floating,
the ones still barely alive but alive nonetheless, you can lift out
on the tip of your finger, then gingerly coax onto dry cardboard
or fencing or whatever is lying around — though for godsakes
be careful! A single slip can prove fatal. But if you’re patient
& steady enough, you’ll see wings delicate as the lash of a small
child’s eye at last start to flutter. What has been saved,
though easy enough to disparage, is somebody’s precious,
irreplaceable life. Given this planet’s unending grief, let us
save whom we can. Eons after the last hominid skull has
crumbled back into the loam, may swarms of these all
but invisible creatures’ descendants coast still, at dusk,
over these hills. May they find water & food in abundance.
May every breeze upon which they sail prove benign.
Passing The Potrero Graveyard
It isn’t often I see someone in that little country graveyard
on Potrero Valley Road, but this morning as I drove past,
two women, each clutching a bouquet of flowers, were walking
toward a polished granite headstone in that solemn
& deliberate way that people walk when visiting their dead.
An hour earlier you’d left for Minneapolis. Your folks,
in their mid-eighties now, are clearly failing. When you get in,
they’ll fuss & laugh: perhaps the last time in this world you’ll
ever see them. I think of that baronial Jewish cemetery back
in New Jersey where my parents are laid to rest. For a moment,
driving through the Barrett Hills, I long to be there, kneeling
where they lie, to kiss their graves &, weeping, tell them that I —
well, you know the stuff that people always say, as if the dead
were lying there awake & listening. Dearest, I already miss you.
For a week I’ll try to stop complaining — though it’s my nature —
& make do: I’ll pour birdseed in the feeders for the finches
& grosbeaks & jays, remembering how vulnerable all of us are
& how briefly everything exists. I’ll feed our furry little
sweethearts & make certain Wally has his final dose of Baytril
& take Jesse for his walks — that slow, difficult circle he makes
these days around our modest property — & hide his Tramadol
& Condroflex in glops of cream cheese, per your instructions,
&, as I promised, every second day I’ll water the tomatoes & the
jasmine & the bougainvillea & roses & ice plant & the crape myrtle.