Sans Fin front cover


In a Hotel in Perajil


Slide your money

under a plastic shield

for the key to

Suite 1,

Aqua Velva blue light,

or full-on white,

or two strobes flashing

near the bathroom door—no dark.

Red neon BAR in the window.

Shouts, engines, horns blasting,

disco thumping.

Alone. Tired.

Lie down.

And be quietly overcome

by grace—

understood, approved,

a part of all.

You only need

a handful of these moments

to get through life.


Panama City





For Andrew


At an intersection

in Panama City,

a young man

plucks a red apple ball

that slides slowly

down his arm. He

bends and turns,

saving it from falling,

offers it

to waiting traffic.


In Boquete,

by the plaza,

rows of earrings:

eloquent feathers,

shells, tiny curving

bits of basket.

The maker,

late thirties,

sits on her heels,

chestnut hair tied back,

dark blue eyes

waiting for the work

to speak.


Panama







Giacometti


I am in a small

French restaurant

in Boquete, Panama

on my 68th birthday,

describing the golden

mustard color of the walls,

the deep blue trim,

when Giacometti appears,

lined and rugged face

intense as always, concerned,

amused. Alberto!

C’est vrai.

I carry on

the work sans fin.





Mangoes


Ninety (at least)

heaped in two boxes

on the tailgate of a black Toyota—

red / yellow / pale green,

mango mountains.

An unshaven forty year old,

jeans, white T-shirt,

reaches up, balances

another cantalope

on the truck’s cap.

In the lavamatico,

“Jaun: dos? Tres? Quattro?”

“Quattro, por favor,” for my

laundry to be clean by four,

back in the plastic shopping bag.

The music in her voice

anticipates music in return.

“Gracias.” Why talk

when you can sing?


Boquete







For Catherine


in Punaluu, standing

on black sand

with your mother,

where the turtles crawl

to lay their eggs,

ballerinas of surf,

vulnerable for this act

of birth—your cry,

caught in the throat,

fingers extended


(buying a turtle pendant,

Boquete)







Domingo


In the plaza, an Indian girl

in a red & white cotton dress

strums chords slowly,

searching for the harmony

she feels or wants, singing

a few words quietly;

her music, so simple,

heals like sunlight,

universal air.


Boquete







The Last Supper


In Bistro Boquete:

twenty-two turistas seated

at a line of tables,

wild eyes searching

left and right,

a glow of unhappiness,

wine for lost chances,

servers like priests,

good humored, forgiving,

words falling

like Rio Caldera

from the lonely mountains.

Untouched, a clean glass

shatters on the bar.

The bartender looks at me;

I hold my Adam’s apple

and imitate a soprano.

He laughs, shrugs;

it is beyond us,

like so much else.

Habla Inglis, habla Espanol,

all trails

lead to compassion.


Panama







Spanish Voices


Roasting coffee

from Boquete,

burnt earth, sugar,

rain on Volcan Baru,

steep rows of trees

pruned head high,

dark green, shining,

pit vipers, rainbows,

men and women in

hard-soled rubber boots,

picking red cherries—

sun, sweat &

Spanish voices.







For Jeanne


Lobster buoys

heaped on a dock

in melting snow,

bright bands of

red, green, yellow,

tangled lines,

high tide,

an American flag

hanging motionless,

March sunshine.

"A good painting,"

Jeanne said, "but

you could get lost

in the detail …"

the beautiful ends of rope,

the chipped paint.


Peaks Island







Vidya Niwas


The pursuit

of love, sex,

fame, money,

forgetting,

enlightenment—yes, as

Arvind said one night,

“It’s all bullshit.”

He was seeing clearly,

standing by Vidya Niwas,

wheat on curving

hand dug terraces,

leopards hunting,

snow / moonlight

high above.


Dharamsala







Untitled


white blossoms / an apple

blown over

at the edge of wetlands

two hundred yards

from the sea,

bearing,

still bearing


Peaks Island







In a Yard on Island Avenue


weathered table

piled with pears

gray / brown / yellow,

four wooden chairs

evenly placed, one

holding a red scooter,

an orange flatbed

and blue plastic dump truck

parked by the pears,

a sense of composition,

the slow music

of tumbling fruit,

a hand

on a child’s shoulder







Ronda, Kevin, and Scott


Ronda Dale

tells the truth,

tambourine to hip,

swaying, steady, smiling,

a one heart beat,

fresh as those

who marched to war

on a sunny day,

free as fate

accepted.

We rise to dance

while old mistakes

slip away

on guitar wings,

and the waves break,

and the wild geese

form and reform their ragged V’s,

calling

to each other.


The Eighth Maine,

Peaks Island / fall







Solstice Party


candles lit

in paper bags

placed on the snow


path dancing

through dark woods


a Bach

violin partita

crossing time


creating

its destination


Murray & Marion’s







For Kathie


Below freezing

for a month,

snow, ice.

Dark branches reach

for a dull sky.

Moving slowly toward

open water,

an empty oil tanker,

red red red,

orange below.


January

Peaks Island







Heading Out


Low islands / muted colors,

dragger

heading out past Bug Light,

open water, gray horizon,

the chance,

taken again,

to earn

return


late winter

Peaks Island







Quaker Ladies


The Peaks Island ball field

is green again.


In the outfield grass

behind shortstop,

tiny white flowers

with yellow centers

surround

the faded leather fingers

of a baseball glove

folded, palm down.

A chainsaw snarls

on the hill.

Beyond that,

waves curl against rock.







Kathy Walking Gwen


forward reach,

each step rising,

clear-eyed,

widening smile,

faint gray dazzle

around her upper body,

the dog pulling,

rapt with scent


back shore







Shelter


frozen to death

on Marginal Way, hands

still holding his cart


I see a bronze figure

in the park, oversized,

slumped forward, supported

by what he clings to.

The cart is solid with shapes

we fill as we will: a few

photos and a postcard

in a plastic envelope,

a box of dog biscuits,

bags of clothes,

bottles, cans,

an improbable Buddha.

Flowers and bushes surround him,

some seeded naturally,

some planted by the caring,

a home with no roof

or windows,

room for all of us.


Portland







Be


like an oak leaf

blown across frozen ground


or the first green

of a sunflower in mist


or the exhale

of a dying cat


be upside down be

a baby diving duck


be anything but

certain







On The Back Shore


crusted magma

whirling through

a starry sky


wave sound,

beach roses,

night air shared,

the middle world,

where life depends

on dying for

beauty,

call it love







Nude


beneath clothes,

the warm brave body


upright, muscle,

bone, nerve,

blood coursing

with star matter


imagination,

unbound by time,

the flower

in the vase







Waiting


They lie offshore,

low in the water

with children, husbands,

grandchildren, lovers

long gone, language

from another day,

family furniture,

their own horses, bikes,

baseball bats, songs

from high school,

anguish secured

in a deep hold







Nancy 3


Boat’s in, crowd

streaming up the sidewalk,

the sound of an accordion

quickens feet—Nancy 3,

playing on the steps

of The Umbrella Cover Museum.

Fifty years ago in Cleveland,

she & w.cat were in love

with the same piano teacher,

a Lithuanian with fiery

noble eyes.

A girl stops, about four,

flowery cotton dress hanging

to her ankles, pink flip-flops,

serious, then surprised,

her face begins to shine;

she stands immersed

in the pouring gift:

the music that she is,

that she will grow

to pass on.


Peaks Island







Bonnie Bradley Bailey


in purple satin,

standing silently

by the piano,

eyes upcast,

pleading

with onrushing time,

gathering the voice

to climb

from grief to grief

to wonder


at The Fifth Maine







For Finn


Born forty years ago

this morning on a sunny day.

Driving through Zena,

bringing you home

on your mom’s lap—

Dave Mellert by

the side of the road,

holding his mangled arm;

I told your mom to wait

at the store, got Dave

into Kit’s old Cadillac,

did a u-turn and burned

it for Kingston.

“Caught in the chipper.”

Blood seeping, Dave weakening.

“Hang on.”

We ran some lights;

he made it;

they saved his arm.

Three months later in Buckman’s bar, 

he came over, “Thanks John.”

You don’t talk much

in the mountains,

but you remember.







Brothers


Back when Dewey’s

was on Fore Street—

a fall weekend,

Andy & Manny

at the front corner table,

pints of ale,

high school stories, sports,

easy laughter.

Above them,

precious light slants

through high streaked windows,

turning dust to gold.


Portland







Still Life


Lingering

from edge to edge,

shape to shape,

rolling in color

as the blind

pass their hands

over a marble Venus,

absorbing,

until finally,

we see

that a coffee can

is a coffee can,

that sunlight

on a stack of books

is precious,

for night surely comes—

though the sun

will still be there,

and if not this sun,

another.


“Coffee Can” ~ Victor Romanyshyn







Seventh Grade


Next to their buses,

playing catch

in the early morning,

Pete’s fast ball hissing

into Bart’s mitt;

one drove through Wittenberg,

the other through Willow.

New school, a thousand

square miles.

I mostly went through Wittenberg

where Elaine Shultis got on

with her absolutely perfect

long blonde hair,

and Aaron Van deBogart

sat in back with Lester Shultis

laughing at everything,

but, sometimes

I went through Willow

with Gordon Walker

who looked quietly

out the window.

He was known

for waiting

to catch the guy

robbing his traps,

and throwing him

into the stream.


“School Bus” ~ Victor Romanyshyn







League Meet—Quarter Mile


Bang! Spikes digging,

first in a crowd around the turn,

stride lengthening

on the back stretch,

my main competition beside me

running for New Paltz.

On the far turn, his friend passes,

cuts to the inside, slows,

blocking my lane. Stumble,

run sideways to get by,

finish two steps behind.

Wait out the urge to vomit,

the sky spinning slowly.

Every race is a small death,

the price of passion,

although I didn’t know it

at the time, angered

by the cheat.






SOS


O Love,

deliver me

to this moment;

let me be

with this bird

on a telephone wire,

heedless of the chatter

flashing through its grasp,

singing to its mate,

who also sings,

honoring the hawk

circling,

praising the red berries,

the blue waves

crashing white.


Peaks Island







Dive


The Acupulco cliff diver

leaps, feet pushing strongly

against rock.

He falls forward, arms wide,

brown in sunlight,

all eyes on him

as he straightens,

plunging down

to the wave

rolling in to meet him.

Lost from sight,

decelerating, tumbling,

he is held, embraced

in emerald quiet,

a moment before

a slow, peaceful,

kick to the surface.







Yearning


On a sunny September afternoon

in 1958 in the Hamilton College

library, high above the tables

in the empty reading room,

a pure clear whistle:

How can there be a cherry

without a stone?

notes drifting

through gothic arches,

a single student

high in the stacks.


Gilbert was working

on a shrimper in the Gulf,

“Going along at night

where those brown mountains

come down to the water,

you look at the lights way up there,

and you wonder…”


Year after year,

we yearn.

It stops when

we see ourselves

in another’s face,

in the bright shoulder

of a cloud at sunset.


I am blooming, and

I’ve got no stone.

In those haciendas,

there is love

or there is not.







Laird


on the 8:15,

big pickup loaded,

tarp and net tied down,

Colorado plates,

autumn chill in the air,

warm later,

be back next summer,

nothing goes wrong,

his horses raise their heads,

they know he’s coming.


Peaks Island







In Fall, Spring


September shadows sharp

on green grass,

the migration begins,

the flow south.

Light returns to Patagonia.

We stack wood, gather

seaweed for the garden.

We will live by fire

through starry nights,

crystal pageants of the heart,

while gauchos ride

open-shirted, singing,

to their senoras.


for Shunryu Suzuki







Now & Until


Darkening layer of altocumulus,

gray-green waves sliding in

under feeding ducks,

chilly wind.

Beach roses, peas, asters,

clover—still blooming. They

know nothing of winter!

We don’t either, really.

We love until we can’t.


Peaks Island







Bricks


Bricks handmade,

laid one at a time,

rising four stories

above a cobbled street,

fired red, blackened,

cracked, repointed

over and over,

courses settled, bowed,

exhaling the centuries.

I wrote two novels

in this cafe,

whispers in the wind.


For Barry Shaw

Portland







Maria's Garden


House, fence, studio,

white, white, white.

Closely cut green grass.

Thirteen gray stones:

three groups,

gathered

to comfort and beget,

shapes hunched

with tenderness,

a memorial

to Maria’s love,

a blunt guide—

if we survive,

it will be this way.


Peaks Island







No Edge


Sea and cloud,

a thin line faintly darker

east to south

through light rain.

A heron passes over

the wooded hill behind,

steady wing beats,

legs trailing,

seeing the other side:

the bay,

the small city,

the continent rising west—

hunting in a beautiful view,

part of it,

as am I,

and you.


Peaks Island







Presents


In the days when

I thought another would save me,

I worked to be worthy.

But you can’t earn love.

Love is free as the stranger

who put a lei around me on

Kalakaua Avenue, her scent

and arms brushing my shoulders.

She walked away;

my knees began to shake; and

I cried for the first time in years.

Half a lifetime ago.

Now, five thousand miles

from Hawaii, a young woman

approaches wearing

a black bowler hat, white shirt,

dark pants, her face oddly pale.

Face powder, lipstick,

a clown or a mime.

I clasp my hands in the namaste

salute. She takes off her hat—

short auburn hair, delicate

features—and bows deeply.

She plucks an invisible flower,

straightens, regards it slowly

from two sides, smells it

with exaggerated satisfaction,

and presents it to me.

I inhale, hold it up to admire,

and toss it high over my shoulder.

Her eyes follow. She pulls from

the hat something held closely

in her fingers, raises her hands

to her mouth, and blows deeply

three, four times. She ties

an imaginary string around its base

and slides her fingers down as

the string rises above her head.

She hands me the balloon,

and I find myself lifted

to my feet and then higher.

I stand on the park bench,

my arm tugged upward

until I let it go.

She claps silently

as I jump to the ground, then,

with a sad face, she holds

the empty hat upside down

before me. Slowly,

I pull a fist full of coins

from my pocket,

and release them

into the hat.

She smiles, delighted,

and bows once more;

she has entertained,

been paid. But the presents,

the flower (a rose)

and the balloon (yellow)—

they cannot be bought;

they float freely;

they are descending

within reach.


Portland







Ruth


between orders,

waiting at the end

of the dining room,

long red hair, slim, pale,

lit by a quiet light from

within cupped hands,

keeping faith with

her unborn art

and children


Victory Deli

Portland







Rachel's Story


“I dreamed of whales

when I was pregnant,

deep powerful dreams.

This morning when

Cedar woke up,

still half-asleep,

he said, ‘Whales!

Whales, Mommy,

in the sky, with wings!’

It was his first dream.

I’ve been waiting.”


She looked at Cedar

who had turned

at the sound of his name,

sturdy & blonde;

they swam together

a moment, and

he turned back,

diving as a whale dives,

tipping its broad tail up,

sliding easily

down the curve

of resolution

and least resistance.


Peaks Island







Anything Born


Each morning,

coffee, toast,

play Bach’s

Prelude in C,

make a fire,

salute the sun.

Take a shower,

walk.


Give it up.

Anything born

is born naked.

The leaves

are dropping

from the trees.


Peaks Island







Crossing the Colorado


Cold morning in the desert.

One cafe open early,

great homefries,

rattlesnakes & Indians

on the wall,

carved bas-reliefs

painted red and black,

local talk, country music.


Hundreds of miles,

brown rocky ranges,

flat basins, dusty yellows,

scrub mesquite, juniper,

tumbleweed, a lifetime

for a stone to tumble

from its perch.


The Colorado:

fifty yards wide,

jade green, hints of white,

running like a stranger

between dry banks,

down from the mountains,

bearing love.







Remembering Woody Guthrie


Barstow to Tehachapi:

desert, then

lion-colored hills

naked to the sun,

four thousand feet

down to the valley:

oranges, almonds, olives,

hundreds of miles,

Woodie’s …Garden of Eden,

a paradise to live in or see,

but, believe it or not,

you won’t find it so hot,

if you ain’t got the do re mi,

still true.







Woman at a Cafe Table


face shining,

the double glow

of loved and loving,

all dirt, all wrong,

transformed,

gone like mist

from the mirror

of what is,

inside us

and out







Birth Song


Trust begins

in another’s arms,

opening to

warm hands,

soft truths—

the sun rises,

yes, pulling you

with it

out of the sea;

morning is

your birthright,

love, your

lifelong song.


Peaks Island







Parting


Sitting behind me

on the stairs, while

I put on my shoes,

bumping down a step,

surrounding me lightly

with your legs and arms,

your hair,

delicate and shaggy,

resting on my neck,

sad, quiet,

no hero ever had

a better farewell,

or left

so sure of home.







Waltz


When your love

cannot be there,

and The Vienna

Philharmonic plays

The Beautiful Blue Danube,

you can feel bad,

or you can dance—

arms encircled,

formal, tender,

turning together,

turning with the sweep

of strings, the hopes

of centuries,

turning and turning

together forever.







Sunset


Red sun

through birches,

winter whites & browns.

To the east,

a darkening

band of lavender,

Outer Green Island,

low, snow covered,

glowing upwards.







Nor'easter


Night wind roaring,

trees bending,

cracking, power out,

rocks swept

across the road…


Morning sunshine,

salt mist,

fountains of spray,

two gulls hovering

side by side,

heads turning,

scanning the after-break

swirl and churn.


Peaks Island







For Will and Charles Winkelman


Father and son

driving away,

framed in the rear window

of Will's blue pickup,

Charles, half Will's size,

beside him

in the center of the seat—

so similar,

the way they hold themselves,

compact, thoughtful, intent—

however lonely you become,

your teachers are still with you,

in your stride,

in the set of your shoulders.


Peaks Island






6:06 a.m.


orange sun,

pale blue sea,

chickadee

at the feeder,

a large brown duck

paddles grandly

in circles,

a he, I think,

proud with morning,

undefeated.


back shore







Lines


A floating Herreshoff dinghy,

the aria from Bach’s

Goldberg Variations,

Giacometti’s diving woman,

last night

the geese returned,

honking, answering, encouraging,

invisible—dark against dark—

until their line passed beneath

two blurred stars,

surging and straggling,

signing the sky

with beauty

never to be repeated,

only echoed.


Peaks Island







For Ginny


Smiling shyly over

her cooking—Thanksgiving Dinner

made in a tiny galley—

a straight dress for the occasion,

dangling multi-colored earrings,

amused, irrepressibly radiant,

the best looking grandmother

on the Indian Ocean

now breathes easily beside me,

watching the video as

the Atlantic rises in the cove,

and I find that I loved her

years before I knew her.






Sometimes


Sometimes you have to

talk of terrible things:

cry of terror, strangling,

wordless, helpless,

rigid body crashing to the floor,

violent convulsions,

a minute or more,

subsiding,

gray-faced, retching,

bitten tongue bleeding,

dazed, broken, reset somehow.

Lying beside her, touching,

touching,

touching, together,

after a blow from the ax.






Everything Is Taken


5:30 on an April morning,

gray light softens the sea,

I must rise, leave

to avoid embarrassment,

walk along the shore.

A few minutes more.

Ten after six: brighter,

raindrops, a crow calls three times,

a Northern Oriole sings:

Figaro, Figaro, Figaro.






In The Vast Pacific


Slow and sweet

on stained concrete,

hips swivel and lift,

hands retelling history:

this is how we came here;

this is who we are;

tutus with ukeleles

keep the beat,

laughing, sitting in a row,

flowery mumus to their ankles,

Union 76 gas station,

men on the sidewalk, eating,

drinking beers, talking story …

bursts of music and aloha

climb into the vast Pacific night,

flicker for a moment,

flash to the stars.






Dawn


across the gorge,

palm tree silhouettes,

charcoal on gray


cinnamon-rose

brushes one high cloud


a rooster crows;

another follows,

then another


tiny white-breasted swallows,

climbing, diving,

take their breakfast

on the wing


Ubud, Bali






Out Of Recycled Parts


Two black circles,

a turquoise triangle

pointing down,

pedals at the tip,

Cole's bike,

single speed,

practical, fast,

cutting through

confusion.


Peaks Island






Don


Standing, looking across the water

toward Portland—

usually I see him walking

to or from the boat, head down,

reserved, taking his advanced years

one step at a time,

a man of the cloth, retired,

still dutiful;

today his face is open,

sensing, pleased almost,

as though reuniting

with a friend of his youth,

the spring breeze.


Peaks Island

April, 2011






Gunnel's Delight


passing us

upright

on your bike,

head turned back,

eyebrows up, amused,

delight

shining through

the thinner sunlight

on the shore,

celebrating / sharing

love's no age


Peaks Island






Author's Note



Alberto Giacometti has been a life-long inspiration. These poems are written in the spirit of Paris Sans Fin, the collection of lithographs he made of Parisian scenes. I work similarly (from the outside in), finding, in the act of describing, celebration and opening without end.

The cover image is a study for a carving I made in order to stamp a edition of poems entitled, Straight Walker. The following poem, from that edition, can be found in the collection, On The Road To Dharamsala.

J.M.W.



Named



Two women,

comfortably sixty,

“Oh, we see you

all da time walking.

Every day. We say:

look how straight he walk.

Straight walker!”

“Too old to bend over is why,”

I say. We laughing.

Only later I realize

what they have given me.

I am Straight Walker.


Kohala,

The Big Island


Sans Fin
John Moncure Wetterau

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