Summer Dusk
I put in my goddamn hearing aid
in order to listen to a bird that sounds
like the side of a drinking glass
struck lightly by a fork

and try not to hate a life
that dips you in Time like a tea bag
over and over and pulls you up
each year a slightly different color.

Yet I like this hour when the air goes soft
and leaves stir with relief at the end
of their labor of being leaves.
“What a piece of work is man,” I say,

forgetting Hamlet said it first —
“how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties,
in form and moving how express;
and yet, to me, the quintessence of dust!”

This hour of the evening
with a little infinity inside,
like an amnesty from the interminable
condition of being oneself.

This half-hour when you can look,
and see that it is sweet.
Even in my deafness I can hear
the bird whose name I do not know,

speaking to someone in the dusk.
Birthday Card
This 4x5 birthday card I bought but could not
give as a present to my father
depicts a tiny man in bathing trunks and goggles

seated on the lip
of a giant drinking glass,
looking down at the water.

Initially comic, the implications
start to darken
when you are about to hand it to a man

ticking like a clock, with skin cancer,
ventricular arrhythmia,
and no sense of humor —

Right about then is when you
notice
that as soon as the little swimmer

jumps into the glass half full
of water, he’ll have a zero chance
of ever getting out —

so the jokey image suddenly is tinted
with grim currents
of the morbid truth

and the card begins to look
like a passive-aggressive message
being smuggled under the radar

of a sunny occasion.
Death and claustrophobia; anger;
unwept tears;

dread and
the judgment of God —
how can they all be carried by a

little card? If
only we could quit
mincing around,

I would give him a card saying,
Death
is Singing to the King!

and he would reciprocate
with one that says, Sap
is for sapsuckers;

whatever balls you have
have come from battling me —
the message full

of gut-punches and grunts,
groans and insults of the kind
that take a family

decades to refine, to
pass down through the years
from a father to a child

and back again —
in both of them a bleeding dusky chunk
of the desperate, cryptic dark —

in each, the struggle of a plant
for just a little more
light and oxygen.