I’ve Had a Good Life. I’ve Been Water-Skiing

Was all of this enough? / I won a game, I won a game again

Greyscale photograph of Bruce Taylor against a blue background.

For Richard, for all of us

I

I watched the grey whales breaching
and spent a morning on a crater’s rim.
Once, I heard an eastern screech owl screeching
in the autumn forest, cool and dim.
I kept a vigil and I kept a snake,
I kept a lapstrake cedar skiff in trim.
What difference do the details even make?
Was all of this enough?
I won a game, I won a game again.
I lost all contact with a friend.
I wonder, sometimes, what became of him.
I bought a hat, I lost the hat,
I bought a different hat.
Three times I’ve watched as mini people
came through a tunnel in the one I love.
How great was that?

II

Over and over, I’ve seen this plot play out.
A self-supporting vine explodes
in perfect yellow flowers.
Then a crew of tiny
wonderstruck admirers
pollinate them with their feet,
and presently those flowers change
to something red and pendulous
and glossily improper.
The vine is soon too weak to hold them up,
their days too laden with the things they’ve done.
Now stalks and fruits are sprawling in the furrows,
spoiling in the summer rain and sun.
A slug glides up on gleaming rails of slime
and steals that swollen harvest. Every time.

III

So, what can last?
Our house stays put, at least, cemented to the slope,
a hundred feet above the shore
but shaded by a taller pine.
Something has gotten into that tree, today.
A cold wind rushes through it like a rake
and branches thick enough to hold my weight
writhe like seaweed in a tidal surge.
The whole thing seems about to break.
I’m here at an upstairs window
where I watch a tattered outlaw-looking crow
contesting the weather with a kind of
reckless competence.
He tilts his glossy head to let me know
he sees how safe my roost is, yet
how miserably I cling to it.
Whereas he keeps his balance like a surfer,
lifting his wings a bit, from time to time,
to ride the branches as they flail and lurch.
I watch him battling to keep his perch
and suddenly it comes to me, how strange it is
that he should try at all.
As if a creature that could fly could fall.

Bruce Taylor
Bruce Taylor's most recent collection is No End in Strangeness: New and Selected Poems. A new collection is forthcoming from Véhicule Press.

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