The Codger Conga

Not yet ready (Surely ‘able’ — Ed.) to write anything worth keeping for the OWNERS series, but settling on Ottava Rima as the form. And that encourages stray thoughts (Surely ‘ravings’ — Ed.) like this:


He is developing new dance steps without music:
the creep, the slouch, the shuffle, and the waddle.
‘Old age!’ he crows. ‘When I get there I’ll choose it
in preference to rejuvenation twaddle.’
With running gone, and short-range hikes elusive
he chooses totem poles as his role model.
He sits and dozes through the hours that bridge
the gaps between his sidles to the fridge.

Inn Fashions

The old man doffs his nightingale and whinnies.
Aware from stares that his garb is wrong, he waits
near the entrance, while his hostess sets him straight.
‘You’re adorned in bird, as we all are on Wednesdays

but it’s Tuesday! Tuesdays tout le monde wears cow
in pieces on our heads and hands and feet.
And we don’t speak horse on Tuesdays, we all tweet,’
she trills, thrilled seeing he remembers now.

Nodding and Noodling at ‘De Koperen Vis’

Last of the summer wine. September sun.
I take my ease, and yours. I meditate
on how life’s less fair than weather in the run
that we call long. The choppy waves reflect
the pointilisstic view mayflies must see
in their one-day lives. In contrast, oaken trees,
like those whose steamed and twisted beams comprise
this harbour’s boats, live longer than do flies
and longer than we will. My long-stemmed glass
goes empty. Autumn chill consumes the shade.
I move my chair to where some sun still reigns.
I think of a rainy city where my son
is working in a tower like I did
when he was younger, and I was not old.

With my back turned to the water, face to sun,
I let the climate take me where it will.
The play is ending as it had begun
back when I had not noticed, and the thrill
of the closure fast approaching was not mine.
I am north of New York State, east of Quebec.
The Gulf Stream keeps me warm enough for now.
Rare birds of plumage — humans, others — trek
about the wharves and water-fronting spas.
Not many people join me in my pause
out on this sunny terrace, where imagined
encounters and adventures quietly pass
into tall tales that novelists will write
all winter waiting for Spring’s holy light.

The wind resembles friends who this year died.
in taking away, like they did, my best thoughts.
Yet, unlike them, the wind has never tried
to recompense me as they did by giving
me ideas of their own: a special gold.
The gold they gave me was the magic kind
that will, although the universe goes cold,
retain its value. They brought gifts of mind.

(on the sunlit terrace of Café ‘De Koperen Vis’ (The Copper Fish) in Monnickendam’s harbour)

Nothing in Particular

Watching my my twenty-something thousandth sunrise,
Not that I have personally seen them all,
Having ceded some to clouds external and internal
Or simply from being asleep at the switch
From night to day
I rejoice with a mildness appropriate to
Septuagenarians settled by semi-centuries
Of taking lives as they come
Not that I ever have
Two seagulls fly over
Golden sun-rays beneath their wings
Lifting my spirits. I pour tea.

Greasepaint Pangs

‘The tears roll down [Which way did you expect?]
the ageing actor’s cheeks.’ [Who isn’t ageing?]
My unwanted shadow editor directs
attacks on how I speak and think. He’s staging
a sit-down strike against my muse who’s paging
the gods and me to create something fine.
The chance is nil that I’ll achieve divine
or even adequate prose with my darts
of inspiration, but I’ll keep on trying
before the ageing actor’s out of sorts.

Smart Phone

He could turn it on, but then he’d be connected
to headlines he’d find saddening and beyond
his power to affect. He smiles at ‘power’.
If he turns it on, he can expect new email.
That is how he and his friends remain ‘in touch’
across absences encompassing more years
…’Than what?’ he thinks…than his dog has had hot meals.
He does not have a dog; its bowl is empty.
He turns the phone on, photographs its leash.

Doctor No Much More

He feels the weight loss that he still calls hunger.
He wishes to hear English native spoke,
or was that spoken? Harder to remember
alone inside his nearing-empty mind
with him Humpty-Dumpty bumping down the wall
at the bottom of the garden. Night time falls.

He goes inside and lights the guttered candle.
He pours his cup, last of this morning’s tea.
He disinters a banger. It revolts him.
With eyes tight shut it’s nourishing, he assumes,
so he throws bits at the cat he found that’s blind
and they both eat tea in silence. Midnight falls.

It is early somewhere warmer, he is thinking.
Not stinking darkness. Never rising damp.
He takes his diary down and tears out pages
that he holds above the candle, watching smoke
glow into flame then falter and char dark.
The cat meows, which seems to say it all.

He watches ash fall on the antimacassar.
Downtown the church bells ding-toll 4 a.m.
The neighbour, the one working, starts her car
for commuting to the hospice where she reigns
when she isn’t drudging, which is usually always.
The candle gives the ghost up. All is dark.

A silver lining on an ancient bookmark
succumbs to tarnish and his nervous thumb.
He rubs. The cat meows. All is less clear
than they told him back when he was graduating
and when he bought this practice and became
the general practitioner for this town.