I’m writing this poem about flying for M.
My dead brother M was #2 of nine,
his ashes lie grounded in the Adirondacks,
where a star glints, big sky out of reach.
I’m writing this poem for estranged sister #3
who flew the nest and calls it self-protection.
This poem about flying is for me, child #1.
I’m not from around here, he’s not either.
Did I tell you this poem is about flying
and really is about autism?
M almost died at eighteen-months,
crying for the mommy who never held him at the hospital
because he was contagious and she was pregnant.
M flew from home, returned shut tight as a coffin,
withdrawn into a place where no one could hurt him.
M took his first flight at three,
leaping off the shed like Superman,
a towel for a cape, a diaper pin at his throat.
My cousin and I dared M to prove he could fly.
We pulled him up on the roof, M jumped.
I don’t need to tell you how the story ended.
I’m not from around here.
I told you this poem is about autism,
it’s really a poem about runaways.
At four, M bolted from home taking only his toothbrush.
He mounted a red metal trike, pedaled hard
up the main road with cars and trucks.
A good neighbor stopped him at the light
before the turn onto the state highway.
That’s when a psychologist at St. Rose College
helped M to fly back home.
Did I tell this poem was about runaways?
Our parents ran away from the children.
After work, they left us home alone.
We flocked together and raised each other.
I’m not from around here.
At seventeen, I took to the air,
left my family behind when I entered college.
My parents shipped one sister to live with me,
another sister in college got handed two.
Hold my hand, M, you’re one of us,
one of nine shape-changer siblings
free as wild Indians with wings.
We roamed fields, woods and yards.
I’m writing a story about valiant tree climbers.
Hold my hand, M, climb to the treetop,
let’s sky-walk like birds in wind swayed trees.
Remember I told you this poem is about flying?
In this new story, M leaps and flies.
Pumpkin Hollow Elegy
Three weeks after he dies,
the new moon rises in a still blue sky.
The spoon edge of light
dips despair from the hollow,
fills its silver cup, drops it
in front of the stars,
pours it on the night.
His wife looks like a shattered Buddha.
Tears drape her cheeks,
hair hangs lank over collapsed shoulders
covered by a shawl the color of mud.
She slogs through fog and cold.
It rains until early morning
comes on slant rays.
Fragrant lilacs blossom without him,
they weep, bowed and heavy.
Showers return later that day,
splatters slip between raindrops,
sing melodies on the current of the Taconic.
Grief ripples on rocks,
tumbles over the waterfall.
On the third day,
sun slices the clouds open.
A cardinal blazes on a tree limb.
A chipmunks darts from a root hole,
friend of the soil that grows
romaine, parsley and basil
for the kitchen.
The creatures and plants on the ridge
offer a place to rest in their arms.
Date Published: May 17, 2019