PORCH POEMS: ‘Ms. Nature & Mr. Death’

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“Cul-de-sac Dawn.” | TheStoryIsTheThing.com photo

First things first.
What should I call you?
I have a mom,

or had one. And ‘Mother’
seems too intimate.
Though, in fact, we are.

How about ‘Ms. Nature’?
Yes, that will have to do.
So, I have questions …


This Spring of 2020
has been one unremitting,
spectacular display.

High cotton piles of
clouds, against a robin’s
egg blue colossal sky.

The clouds advance like
stately armadas of
sailing ships, tacking

west to east above
the tuxedo cat’s head and mine.
As we meet the dawn, daily,

on our porch. She pays
more attention to the ground,
with housecat dreams

of chasing down a squirrel
or bagging a Spring robin
come to cock an ear beside

the wooden mailbox post.
Listening for an earthworm
breakfast for her babies,

high off the ground on
some distant branch and
hungry. The cat’s too slow,

a lazy, fuzzy thing, who’s
fattened up on Petco cans of
food for aging felines.


“Leaves and Raindrops.” | TheStoryIsTheThing.com

Plus, the wildlife’s wily. At least,
the birds, whose great
nemesis is

the fearsome cat,
Grim Reaper of all
suburban birds.

After her failed charge—
robin gone, squirrel scampered—
Luna’s content to sit along

with me. Alert herself to
predators, the noisy neighbor
dog, who thumps the picture

window in the house next door.
Frustrated he can’t act upon
the provocation of a cat.

And so, he barks and barks and
barks, fills up the soundtrack
of the dawn. In between his

yips, the skrees of bluejay, the
tiks of cardinal, and other tongues
of birds unknown to me.


“Dawn Coffee.” | TheStoryIsTheThing.com

I drink in sips my morning
cappuccino. Musing on the way
the coming dawn will dye the

tendrils of a scattered cloud. Now,
orange. Now, grey. Now deep
red as a row of cherries.

Before the night sky turns flannel,
then pale white, then all
kinds of hue—birdsong begins with

solos. Erupts in chorus at some
moment known only to the birds, or
perhaps an ornithologist.

So, this is my question,
Ms. Nature, or one of them.
Did an artist design the dawn?


“Rorschach Cloud.” | TheStoryIsTheThing.com

Because every day it’s different.
One day, a symphony of oranges,
and yellow. The next, a riot

of candy colors. The next,
a muddy swamp or dirty
Styrofoam, presaging rain.

This dawn, these palettes
differently painting the sky,
day to day, minute to moment …

If there is no God, why
fashion such a spectacle.
‘Tyger, tyger, burning bright!’

What immortal hand or eye
could frame thy lovely symmetry?
So, I am glad to be alive,

cat and coffee, porch and sky.
Another day! Another set of hours
to make things, to set things right.

To make sense of it—whatever the
h-e-double-hockey-sticks ‘it’ is.
And, of course, then there’s Mr. Death.


“Spider Catcher.” | TheStoryIsTheThing.com

How do you like our blue-eyed
boys and girls? And squirrels?
Yet for all the amuse bouche

of watching Luna lock like a
laser-missile on the
squirrel in the yard—

she’s a dilettante when it come to
hunting game—she’d rend its flesh
were she to catch one.

Or, at least, with her
vampire-sharp fangs, puncture
out it life, to drain through

matching holes. It’s no picnic
being a robin on the walk!
There’s a reason squirrels

are so skittish on the ground,
once they leave the safe space
of their acrobatic homeland

in the branches, one hundred feet
above the soil where they leap branch
to limb, confident as trapeze artists

in a traveling circus. Yet,
Ms. Nature, you work hand-in-glove
with Mr. Death. You two

collaborate. You could not have
one of you without the
other. The woods behind my

house sometimes stink of dying
things. All the daily dramas, the
final last respirations,

the thousands of deaths in my
backyard since I just began to write.
Why all this? Where’s the God

in so much death? The hundred ants
who scale the Machu Piccu of
my deck table. Who scale me as I

sit in quarter lotus, wrapped in a
cranberry Indonesian robe,
athwart a green buckwheat cushion

resting on a matching zabuton.
Come to sit for 30 minutes,
because my over-thinking, racing mind

is no good—although it thinks
it is—at triangulating this
life’s muddled meaning.


“Buddha Keys.” | TheStoryIsTheThing.com

Or death’s, for that matter.
So, my day, which when fortunate,
begins with coffee, cat, and dawn,

shifts at some point, to the
deck, for some sitting
beneath the same old sky,

only this time, eyes closed.
Climbed up on the shore, out of the
tumultuous stream of thought.

I’ve yet to grasp the meaning
of your collaboration, Ms. Nature,
with your ally, Mr. Death.

But not thinking about it, or
thinking I can sort it out,
let’s me see the clouds again.


Cabell County, West Virginia | may2020


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