it means we made promises

I embraced her as we left the church forty years ago today, and she has not released my heart ever since…

edit wedding.5309

 

it means we made promises

 

it means we made promises

on the last day of may

both still clean still possible.

 

it means we made plans and babies

and sent them both

to bang against the world.

 

it means we learned to cut

and leave no trace

no blood trail for evidence.

 

it means we gave up on wonderful

and wove a nest

out of ordinary.

 

it means we rattle now toward evening

in our dark compartment

as the engine enters the tunnel’s mouth.

 

it means I can still catch your breath

between my fingers.

 

it means you

can still close my eyes with your lips.

 

it means the fire burns

until the last dry wood is gone.

 

 

 

© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

such a fool

 

after all these years, you’d think I might have learned a thing or two…

 

ball

 

such a fool

 

what becomes of our memories

when we die? do they simply vanish

with the last flickering spark?

 

so many years of careful assembly

and rearrangement – why would the gods

invest so much in something so frail?

 

maybe instead we pass a kind of key

to those we leave behind

so that as long as they remember us,

 

our life’s collection

of learning and stories, heartbreak and joy,

remains connected, alive, flowing

 

in waves of what we call wisdom,

what we call beauty, accessible to any and all

with a beating human heart.

 

as I wander, hands in my pockets,

I absently jingle my enormous ring of keys,

and across the heavens the ancestors

 

and all of those who went before me,

rejoice at this music, beginning to dance and sing

at the warm pleasure of still being known.

 

then one by one, they look down at me

and start to laugh, shaking their celestial heads

in wonder, that despite a lifetime afloat

 

in this ancestral sea of wisdom

I insist on remaining

a complete and utter fool.

 

 

 

© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

rising

Jafamfjaf

 

rising

 

either there are no angels

or we are all of us angels, rising

by degree. when I left you,

 

you were supported by pillows

billowing like clouds. now,

sitting on the plane

 

watching rain glaze the runway,

I wonder if you’re awake, your eyes

searching for familiar faces

you can no longer see; I wonder

 

if I will ever see you again.

 

gathering speed, we begin to climb,

both of us passengers, rising

alone, separately, together,

 

rising

on differently feathered wings,

rising

into radically different heavens.

 

© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

 

 

that i would do better

mrfhschool

hand colored high school photo, circa 1933-34.

Margaret Ruth  (Draper) Fink, 1917-2004

 

 

that I would do better

 

how much of my life

would I look to retrace?

not the thousand small decisions

that built to a course

I may have mistaken for true,

nor the loves and the lost loves

and shouldn’t have loved’s,

 

but you whose ears

have now passed beyond hearing,

who made the milk that fed me –

 

that I would do better.

 

if you could only come here and die again,

 

here, where this time I would hold you

as you once held me,

here, where we’d cry over parting

and joy at the end of pain.

here, where I would hold your gaze

as the light sifts from your lovely eyes,

 

and then close your brown eyes

with kisses.

 

© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

 

 

 

 

enough

 

my only brother, Joe, died the day after I wrote this, at age 78. perhaps this is why so many of my poems recently have concerned death. voyage well my brother…

siblings 7.22.19 2904

 

enough

 

a poem arrived last night

so heavy with death I couldn’t lift it

and I couldn’t in good conscience

drop it on anybody else.

so for now, there’s just this –

an unseasonably warm spring day

robins building a nest on the porch

the constant quiet joy

of the good woman I married

nearly forty years ago. And for now

 

this is enough.

 

enough to hold me warm at night,

enough to allow me to ignore,

for a time, the pulsing sadness

that flows beneath the surface

of this happiness,

like blood beneath the skin

carrying its own form of richness

throughout this aging body,

even though I know that one day

this blood will stop, and with it must end

all of the sadness, all of the joy,

leaving only a space,

a sharp inhalation,

then a long vanishing sigh.

 

© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isolation

IMG_9561

 

Isolation

(a partial inventory of things for which I grieve

in this time of pandemic)

 

Hugs and hands and friendly kisses.

A bar of soap in the dish, unremarkable and dry.

Going out to breakfast, pancakes and eggs, bacon

chatting with the waitress while waiting for you.

Driving to a meeting in town, boring, endless,

ordinary. College basketball. Baseball season.

Missing easy shots in tennis and losing my cool,

as if it mattered. Golden mornings passed

in silent meditation, my feet cold

on retreat, loving and being loved,

the soft sound of all of us breathing together,

as if it mattered. Being cold, being hot, wind,

rain, snow and sunburn. Sacred places,

Yosemite, The Grand Canyon, Dolomiti skies.

Cinque Torri at sunset, then again at dawn.

Parisian museums. Parisian meals. Parisian coffee.

Paris.

Venice in the morning. Eating gelato in Rome.

Eating more gelato in Rome.

Aging simply but still feeling young.

Not being classified as vulnerable.

Not being classified.

Not needing to sanitize the keys in order to loan the car

to my son. Seeing my sons. Holding them.

Seeing my infant granddaughter. Holding her

even if it still makes her cry.

The illusion of safety.

The familiar smell of my personal cocoon.

Never having to consider case counts, respirators

or exponential curves.

Believing myself to be harmless to others (or mainly so.)

Belief in a particular future.

The future.

The freedom to ignore a simple cough.

Taking a single breath for granted.

Believing that time is continuous, endless and free.

Ignorance of the gray man stalking the streets

counting breaths.

A committed belief in Death

as an abstraction.

 

© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

one last chance

IMG_5906

 

walking empty streets

in a late season snow, alone — where

have we all gone? what in heaven’s name

have we done?

 

this unnatural natural

silence, the distant cry of geese

returning, desperate for a place

to land

 

a single light in a room at the back

goes dark, while the herd comes down

from the mountains, begins to reclaim

its place. fitfully

 

we sleep and dream of morning

breathing our wordless prayers

 

for warmth

for the resurrection of spring

for a second new covenant

for one last chance

 

to do better

 

© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

 

laughter and tears

oldbones

 

laughter and tears

 

we were once shiny, undented.

had baby after baby with limitless

perfect futures. we had answers, speed

and never enough time. we

were accelerating. last night

fall came to this mountain,

the face of the grey man

peering through the glass. this morning

we sit beneath a weakening sun

the leaves blowing about our feet

like so many small broken things.

your hand is warm in mine, and just so

am I blessed — so little survives

beyond laughter and tears.

darkness falls.

the trees across the river

draw down their blood in silence,

brace themselves for winter.

 

© 2019 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

 

 

the women tell me

Crab

 

 

the women tell me

there is soon to be a baby.

 

I remember calling my brother

upon the birth of my oldest son.

both of our parents were dead,

and I needed to tell someone — he,

however, seemed unimpressed.

 

I see this son now grown, bearded

and strong, busy planning their lives together,

as if such a thing were possible.

 

I can almost feel the life force drifting

like pollen from our branches to theirs,

calling forth small, green buds, the sap

beginning to rise.

 

the flowering crab in the yard

holds dark, withered fruit fermenting slowly

under a weak winter sun, when a solitary robin,

who should have gone south months ago,

brushes the snow from the branches

and gorges himself on the hard, bitter fruit.

 

eventually, he grows drunk, drops into flight,

and spinning once in midair, flies straight

into the darkened glass of the window,

then drops to the ground like a stone.

 

so many deaths

caused by mistaking reflections

for truth, by confusing images

with the unyielding surfaces of life.

 

the women tell me

there is soon to be a baby.

and we shall welcome her

with indescribable joy. we

will surely be impressed.

 

we will do our best

to hold her safe, to teach her to see.

we will stand with her by the window

and watch the comings and goings of birds.

 

perhaps, she will smile and laugh with the birds.

perhaps, with time, she will come to love

these hollow-boned, fragile,

exquisitely mortal, impossible birds.

 

perhaps, with time,

she might even be the one

who teaches us all how to fly.