We Have Three Foxes, Too

I like Jane Hirshfield’s spare but potent Zen-ish poetry:
https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/three-foxes-edge-field-twilight.

And so I add this about our wonderful place among the dunes
with three foxes, a coyote, a black bear and some grumpy
neighbors:

I’m told we have three foxes
in our dune-hood (or is it theirs?)
by the big lake.
I’ve only seen one — limping
on three legs
headed up the street.
She has a story to tell
but does not speak.

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So Much for Mother Love

Our newly adopted six-year-old
Chocolate Lab girl, rescued

from a breeder farm, fresh from
delivering her last litter follow-

ed by the requisite spaying (Oh,
what she has been through), was

given a soft toy with a squeaker.
Bree, the name we gave her and

a very quiet girl with a sagging
tummy and droopy teats, moaned

and whined as she played with
the toy, ever so careful not

to hurt it. My wife looked at
me with a sad face and asked,

“Is it one of her puppies? Is
she missing her puppies?” “Is

that one of your babies, Bree?”
Bree moaned in response, break-

ing our hearts. “You’re a good
mama, Bree.” Then Sweet L’ Baby

Girl mercilessly chewed up the
toy. So much for mother love.

Judgment

Your physiognomy
is screaming at me
while your face is
simply staring at me.
Are you angry with me
as, undoubtedly, you
have every right to be?
I think we have lost,
hopefully, just temporarily,
the I and Thee/
the Thou and me.

Second Guessing

In retrospect, he wonders
if he should have said anything in front of the kid —
the calling out of the kid’s dad for being a jerk.
The kid would learn soon enough,
or maybe not.
Maybe the kid would emulate dad,
learning from a pro about jerkitude.
Is there an innate quality of moral rectitude,
something in the marrow of the bones
that alerts us to jerkitude?
Born?
Bred?
Bad to the bone?
Leave that alone.
The man does wonder about that ride home.
Did dad say anything — self justifying?
Did the kid?
Did the kid just wonder about what happened?
Soon enough.
Still, the man wonders whether or not he
had been a jerk —
second guessing, confessing, protesting,
questioning, semi-self castigating,
somewhat distressing,
mind messing, exhausting…
second guessing.

Another Day for Jerkitude*

The young father urged his
son forward in line up to an
open register. Unfortunately,

they passed the next person
in line. All dad had to do was
ask, “Are you next in line?”

But no, he just plowed through
when he heard, “Excuse me, I’m
next in line.” With a huff and

a puff the dad pulled his son
back. No apology. Just a huff
and a puff. The transactions

at the two registers ended at
about the same time and dad
was addressed, “The simple,

courteous thing to do is ask
the polite question, “Are you
in line?” “Are you admonishing

me?” dad asked with another
huff and a puff, escalating
to — and I’ll blow your house

down. “Aha.” “Who the hell do
you think you are?” “Well,
for starters, I am the guy

who was next in line in front
of you. By the way, nice example
for the kid. He’ll remember

this long after you have
forgotten it. He might even
remember it as ‘The Day My Dad

Was A Jerk,’ but then again,
he probably already has had
days like that. Be careful on

the way home that you don’t
cut anybody off, pass in a no
passing zone, flip somebody

the bird or curse them out.
The kid is watching.” “Go to
hell.” “Point made.” As the

man walked to his car, he
thought, in all honesty,
about all the times, over

the, years his own, now grown,
son probably said to himself,
“Ah, another day dad is a jerk.”

*idea from the article A Theory of Jerks
by Eric Schwitzgebel.

Generous and Jaded Souls Unite

Some generous but naive soul said she
thought the (p)-resident lived in a parallel universe.
A less than generous and somewhat jaded
if not outright cynical soul
(or spot-on realist) said, “Not to be perverse,
I think the (p)-resident is an evil soul
who lives in a big, black hole,
and sucks the life blood from the earth
and sends a vulture back
with dead-on-arrival still births,
which pile up as a plethora of death
while politicians spout shibboleths
and we all just wait feeling helpless
for nuclear mega-death.”
The generous soul said, “You may be right.
But I’m joining the peaceful, non-violent
protest affirming justice and life.”
The once-jaded soul said, “You may not be right,
but I’ll join you in that good fight.”

Easter*

How do you worship emptiness?
A birth? A baby? Hay? Animals?
Shepherds, Wise men? Presents?
Christmas trees? Sleighs? A big
star? A manger? Snow? Santa?
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer?
the Grinch, stuff, things, material,
the opposite of emptiness. We
get Christmas. Who wouldn’t?
Compared to what? A stone rolled
back, one or two etherial (not
quite flesh and blood) guys in
white sitting next to folded
grave-clothes, an empty tomb
(say that again with gusto,
in as much as there isn’t
much to go on), AN EMPTY TOMB,
a hint of Jesus here and there and
(don’t touch/touch) then gone, not
much to go on and there’s the hook.
We like stuff but it isn’t enough.
Empty and just a hint, mystery
and then: stuff never will be just
stuff again.

*idea from a meditation by Frederick Buechner

this is syrupy, saccharin, sentimental, sloppy and really Hallmarky (all the stuff I can’t stand) and I apologize in advance

She wasn’t loving or unloving;
she seemed, well, a-loving
but really in need of love;
When she hugged,
a great sucking
sound rang in my ears
and accompanied
a pull on the
marrow of the bone
like she was trying
desperately to get
the love that would
take her from “a” loving
to “b” loving.
Isn’t a hug a gift?
Of course, one gets when one
gives but, on balance, doesn’t
the give outweigh the get?
Isn’t a hug to fill and aren’t
we perpetually in need of
love?
So, I get and then I give,
like a baby gets and gets
and gets and then one
day the little boy or girl
gives…to mom or dad
or brother or sister or
a soft doll or a big dog
and the big dog kisses
the little boy or little
girl’s face and he or
she laughs and laughs
and laughs and every-
one feels the comfort
filling the soul like
the hot homemade
soup your mom
made for you when
you were sick and
in need of the love
that would heal.
And I know this
is syrupy, saccharin,
sentimental, sloppy
and really Hallmarky (all the
stuff I can’t stand)
and those sickening
signs in gift shops
that people
buy and plaster on their
walls because
all that stuff,
apparently,
is missing from
the home and I’m
thinking of Pat
Boone singing “Thee I
Love” for the movie
Friendly Persuasion,
(sheesh!) but
as I think back to
those hugs I got
and how my life
blood was pulled
like Dracula had
just bit into my
neck, I think about
the soup I got
when I was sick
and how I was
allowed to scrape
the pot after the
fudge was removed
and how she took
me downtown (just
the two of us) to
eat at Stouffer’s
Top Floor Restaurant
(with the greenest
green peas in chicken
pot pie) and then see
a movie and I guess,
more than anything
else, she hadn’t
received the needed
hugs when she was
a kid,
so I just accepted
it for what it was
and let the life blood
flow. I was given
enough big dog
kisses that I had
some love to share.

Years and Years

Years and years after he died,
she told me that he had an
affair with his secretary. It
was oh, so banal, predictable —
boss, secretary. Yet. Did she
mean to tarnish his image for
me? Was she just being mean?
Maybe she just wanted to get
the burden of it off her heart
by telling someone, anyone, me.
She carried that for so long.
Maybe it was long enough ago
that she thought I could deal
with it in a way, perhaps, I
couldn’t have earlier…. He
was my father. So many things
about him I would never under-
stand. That one got me, though.
I never would have guessed.
An affair? Seriously. My dad?
Oh, dad. Disappointed? Sure.
A chink in the armor? Sort of.
Not so much. It’s all so com-
plicated. It was all so long
ago.