The Idea of Natural History at Key West
When I happened to notice myself
walking naked past a wall-length mirror
one spring morning
in a house by the water
where a friend was letting me stay,
I looked like one of those silhouettes
that illustrate the evolution of man,
but not exactly the most recent figure.
I seemed to represent a more primitive stage,
maybe not the round-shouldered ape
dragging his knuckles on the ground,
but neither the fully upright hominoid
ready to put on a suit and head for the office.
Was it something in the slope of my brow
or my slack belly?
Was this the beginning of the Great Regression
as the anthropologists of tomorrow would call it?
I was never the smartest monkey on the block,
I thought to myself in the shower,
but I was at least advanced enough to be standing
under a cascade of steaming water,
and I did have enough curiosity to wonder
what the next outline in the sequence might look like:
the man of the future stepping forward
like the others rising to their hind legs behind him,
only with a longer stride, a more ample cranium,
and maybe a set of talons,
or a pair of useless, cherubic wings.
Once, two spoons in bed,
now tined forks
across a granite table
and the knives they hired.
The legendary Cang Jie was said to
have invented writing after observing
the tracks of birds
A light snow last night,
and now the earth falls open to a fresh page.
A highwind is breaking up the clouds,
children wait for the yellow bus in a huddle,
and under the feeder, some birds
are busy writing short stories,
poems and letters to their mothers.
A crow is working on an editorial.
That chickadee is etching a list,
and a robin walks back and forth
composing the opening to her autobiography.
All so prolific this morning,
these expressive little creatures,
and each with an alphabet of only two letters.
The Golden Years
All I do these drawn-out days
is sit in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge
where there are no pheasants to be seen
and, last time I looked, no ridge.
I could drive over to Quail Falls
and spend the day there playing bridge,
but the lack of a falls and the absence of quail
would only remind me of Pheasant Ridge.
I knowawidow at Fox Run
and another with a condo at Smoky Ledge.
One of them smokes, and neither can run,
so I'll stick to the pledge I made to Midge.
Who frightened the fox and bulldozed the ledge?
I ask in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge.