On the Final Day of Winter
The Trailside Anvil Chorus joins in song,
each member barely bigger than my thumb.
Their pleading voices, frozen for so long,
now rise above the humus. Not the thrum
one might expect, this lusty serenade’s
like frenzied jingle bells. Who will succumb
to such a ploy? Where are the gypsy maids?
Il Trovatore on a hidden stage,
performed in sun-warmed mud and new-sprung shade
would doubtless please the operatic sage
who penned it. Verdi, after all, means green.
Sing on! Desire will reap a handsome wage:
The tenor soon shall have his froggy queen.
These fragile links once spanned a wrist
much smaller than my own.
Ten charms distill her days in miniature:
long marriage, family, a faith secure.
All she had loved and known
engraved and captured with a twist.
I slip it on and snap the clasp,
then finger all the charms.
How often had I wished it could be mine?
This symbol of life’s circular design
is all that links our arms:
her loss I’ve just begun to grasp.
Greatness Never Goes Out of Style
—Cadillac advertising slogan, 1965
The sun wakes up on Cadillac,
the highest point on the East Coast.
Its endless granite eyes cast back
the seaspray with a flinty flash.
Like ants, the tourists thread its trail
to find a peace they cannot name.
The mountain bears a Frenchman’s name–
Antoine Laumet de Cadillac.
His life was full of trial and trails
that led to Michigan, the coast
of Loosiana, too. News flash:
he founded Detroit, and was paid back
when GM’s auto execs reached back
in time and stole his fabled name.
The car for those with cash to flash
was henceforth known as Cadillac:
status symbol from coast to coast.
The King’s was pink; it left a trail
of squealing tires behind, a trail
of screaming girls: “Elvis, Come back!”
The King just wished that he could coast
through life in shades and change his name.
He gave his mom the Cadillac.
Soon he left in a drug-hazed flash.
A man named Stanley had a flash
of inspiration: build a trail
on 66. The Cadillac
Ranch, each buried car a throwback
to honor Caddie’s golden name.
The tourists come from coast to coast
to Texas, where they gawk and coast,
then stop amid the frozen flash
in time. They pose and spray their names
on rusted hulks that form the trail
of roadside oddities. Then, back
to work, the ghosts of Cadillac
all coast along their daily trail
and flash in sunlight, forth and back.
The name endures all: Cadillac.
—Walter Reed Army Medical Center
December eighth, two thousand seven:
Malone House glows with artificial cheer,
the way one would expect at an almost hotel
that serves the almost well.
Here, where wounded troops deploy to learn
again Activities of Daily Living,
my Girl Scout troop constructs a lobby fortress
from Samoas and Thin Mints
as other groups unload plush bears and racks
of puffy coats that suffocate in plastic.
Lucky, says my daughter.
The guests begin to gather, some with shiny
body parts – a hook-for-hand, one leg
that’s pieced and propped by steely scaffolding.
And then a family, the wife
(she can’t be more than twenty) pushing the chair.
Impossible to look away as the toddler
climbs upon the lap
no longer there: the khaki legs cut off
below the crotch and crisply folded shut,
just like a sack that holds a young boy’s lunch.
—2nd Place, 2011 Baltimore City Paper Poetry Contest