Sleep didn’t do much for me last night. I woke up torn about what to do with this day of rest when I’m restless, plagued by a to-do list hard to ignore. Times like this I miss most my friend Michael Macklin. Michael introduced me to Tullamore Dew, the only Irish whiskey I’ll drink. We were partners in poetry and determined talkers, often at Brian Boru’s over a Dew, straight up, till I left Maine for Colorado. Michael died in his sleep a few years ago. A small teddy bear that he gave me sits near my desk. It wears two feathers tucked into its shirt, one from a flicker, one from a crow. Michael and I liked crows–smart, working-class birds with firm opinions. As I drove off to live in the west, I often saw the three crows Michael had commissioned to watch over me.
This cold morning, I think of his practice when the world grew weary: go to an island, take a dog, a beer and a book. Sit on a rock and think. Today all available rocks are iced over. Beer’s not my drink. I do have a dog beside me and I have Michael’s book of poems, Driftland, but there’re damned few islands in Colorado.
As I consider the worldview from my writing chair, I immediately recall a comment overheard at a coffee shop a few days ago: “Remember those neutron bombs meant to kill people and leave the infrastructure intact?” Shit! If that bomb killed people it would kill crows, dogs, pet hamsters, owls. What would be left worth having without any life in the scene? It’s a scary thing—thinking. To sit on a stone and let the mind off its tether wouldn’t necessarily soothe me. And right now I want soothing. I’m tired of mean people and bombs, or the threat of bombs, of learning yet again that a celebrity whom I have admired might well be a rapist. I’m tired of being a poet of witness given how much evil I see. I see and I see and I’ve seen too much. I just want to close my eyes. Not a sane approach, though, eh?
Michael, did you always find solace on your island? Did beer, book and dog steady you? Anyway, thanks for trying. I’m reading your poems and they help. If you are there in the ether, on a cloud, how’s the view?
I think Michael would agree to sharing one of his poems with you:
Every morning the dark-robed crows
congregate in the pines at the edge of my yard,
sitting in small groups grumbling
until I step onto the lighted porch.
They grow quiet as monks,
cock their heads and mumble
perhaps in Latin
and we share an early prayer,
a magnificat for another day.
All winter we have met like this at dawn,
wind fluttering their black cassocks
as they peer down their noses
to view me at my lessons.
For the moment we inhale the crackling air
until they rattle with impatience, cackle
at my feeble attempts to see the face of God,
and the old men in the trees fly off.