(after Sylvia Plath)
we inherited the house
so we don’t know the history of the tree
planted in a row with its brothers –
a windbreak, I think they call it –
a natural fence along our back property line
that has grown stories high over decades
but this one looks different –
the branches are dying and little twigs
rain on the lawn after each storm
the trunk bows out from the ground
curving straighter as it reaches up
yet still looking precarious
the feathery leaves are sparser this year
than last, and if this giant decided to fall
it would slam right through our kitchen
when my wife was a child
one took out her swing set
moments after she left the seat
we talk about getting an arborist
sending little men to shimmy up the trunk
and trim it with knives and saws
perhaps right down to the stump
but meanwhile it looms over the yard
I move slower than an hour hand
slower than moss
but faster than procrastination
look out, look out, look out
[previously published in the blog, The Plath Poetry Project]
The Art of Losing
The art of losing isn’t hard to master…
My endless catalog: an errant sock,
a birth certificate, a wedding ring –
some trivial and some significant.
I must be careless or disorganized
to lose track of the precious and banal.
But some things simply fade from memory,
and the opposite is true – I hang on
to those that seem of little worth to me
for fear the fog of age will wipe them out
completely. That’s why I wear this T-shirt –
Spring Training at the Phillies, Florida,
just seven years ago – my closest friend
and I, a road trip for St. Patrick’s Day.
He left by fall; the cancer took him home.
The letters on the shirt are fading out,
and some flaked off, and one arm has a hole,
but wearing it connects me to that spring,
despite the fact that words come harder now,
just like this shirt – with every wash it gets
more difficult to wear, and yes, to read.
Things in Need of Love
(after Sei Shōnagon)
A broken wind chime. A robin with a broken wing. Drooping tulips. A stray dog who smells the air outside a steak house. A family of eight in a one-bedroom apartment.
A man with an unwanted engagement ring. A house with peeling paint. A city with a burning river. A child sleeping under a Mylar blanket in a cage. A man trying to sleep over a heating grate in the street, his teeth still chattering.
A man who orders his seventh beer. A man who has long ago forgotten why he is so angry now. A woman in too much fear to leave her husband. A veteran who wants to stop having nightmares.
An old woman who loses her way home. A school whose children were murdered by guns.
A large country with a wedge driven into it.
After seeing Star Wars
after seeing Star Wars he says why is Dark Vader so bad and
I say you mean Darth Vader no he insists it’s DARK Vader and
his young pink brain can be so set sometimes as he explains
he wears that black suit and he’s so mean and he went to
the dark side so he’s DARK Vader okay okay I concede you can
call him DARK Vader and anyway he says I just heard about
black holes and I’ll bet Dark Vader lives in a black hole because
they say it’s so black nothing can get out not even light but
I say if he went in he could never come out like a Roach Motel
what’s a Roach Motel he asks never mind I say but maybe he says
he lives in a cave like Batman they call Batman the Dark Knight
so why can’t there be a Dark Vader I can’t dispute this flawless
five-year-old logic so I say you’ve got a point he goes on I’ll bet
it’s dark in the Batcave like a black hole except Batman can
come back out in his Batmobile why doesn’t Dark Vader have
a Darkmobile let’s go get ice cream I say
or whatever higher power
to which I may subscribe,
bless this cold-brew coffee,
this microbrew IPA, this kombucha,
this green juice in a Mason jar.
Bless these kimchi tacos and tapas,
these sautéed ramps with kale and pancetta,
this cauliflower-crust pizza
with heirloom tomatoes and foraged basil.
Bless this artisanal ancient-grain bread,
these matcha green tea donuts,
this blood orange gluten-free birthday cake.
In the name of Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram,
Bruce W. Niedt is a retired civil servant and New Jersey native who is now enjoying the joys of grand-parenthood. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including Rattle, Writer’s Digest, Mason Street, Tiferet, Spitball, The Lyric, and US 1 Worksheets. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. His latest chapbook is Hits and Sacrifices (Finishing Line Press).