Early Morning Walks
In the middle of Commercial Street R complains
that a wispy horse mane cloud 

is marring the perfect blue sky.

That’s what he’s saying when I stop. 
This is him, shaking his head,

Marring, marring—
like an old Chinese poet mourning the loss of a beloved city

We look together, we compare the offending cloud 
to yesterday’s luscious cumulus 

Though R’s memory of yesterday 
isn’t what it used to be

he agrees that was one made you want to reach out 
and hug it.

I hug him he hugs me, yesterday disappearing
easily, its clouds…

*

M stops her old bike to tell me 
about a new form of breathing 
which I hear as a new form of grieving

Why can’t I remember what she’s lost?
What’s happened? 
Who does she mourn?

I can’t imagine what the new form could be—

Oh, what use is what she knows  
that I don’t know?
What more am I willing to learn?

*

On the flats two gymnasts
in mirroring postures, sculptural, 

invulnerable.

The tide out this little moment.
Old wooden houses inherited for generations, 

additions jerry-built over the past century 
from spit and salvage.

The old order: how sturdy they look—
yet fragile—

dilapidated homes with names 

hand-painted, repainted
above the doors by children, grandchildren

Harmony  Sea Barn   Snug Harbor  Wannacum Inn

*

I sat with you this August morning
on an overturned dory

when the tide was out
I didn’t know your name

without language you taught me
how to watch the minnows 

and the foraging birds

we were a hundred miles from the city, 
its rage and fire—

then I walked alone for a while, alone again
as I’ve been so long

I felt as if I’d forgotten how to look at anything—

the black head of a gull
the skittery moves of the sanderlings

a brilliant kite stalled in the sky

and looking was like discovering I could sing, 
not well, even off-key

but sweetly 

and though I never learned your name
today I felt companioned

not so much by you
as by the creatures I was learning to watch….
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