Is that you, God?

Every morning, headed to work, I drive south on Route 97, a winding, two-lane road through hilly central Maryland, passing pastures of horses, cows, goats, alpaca. I spot wildlife of deer and fox, now and then a hawk, maybe a cat staring down a field mouse. I call out to them to be careful, stay clear of the road, be safe. They don’t always listen.

After ten miles of a gradual descent, I slow down to rumble over the railroad ties and drive across the narrow bridge over the Patapsco River before accelerating to make the first steep grade out of the ravine, following the sharp “S” curves. Ahead I see brake lights and slow down, hoping the rock hauler behind me is doing the same. Peering around the cars in front of me, I spot a flock of wild turkeys. Three or four of them have ducked under the guardrail and scrambled onto the road.

They have taken the pedestrian route to this spot – an arduous climb, almost straight up, even a struggle to fly, if a bird were so inclined. Their heads bobble as they inspect their surroundings, surely wondering if they’ve arrived at their intended destination as vehicles creep by.

I lightly tap my horn, trying to shoo them out of the road without scaring them. They don’t even flinch. Another light tap and one turkey cocks its head, crooking its neck till one eye peers skyward.


By now, two of the turkeys have turned away from the cars and are aiming back toward the railing, just when another turkey head, gray and smooth, pops up over the edge of the hill.

“Phew. That was a climb.” She spots her birds of a feather headed toward her. “Wait! We just came from there!”

As I drive slowly by I call out to the one listening heavenward. “What are you doing in the road, you silly goose?”

“We’re turkeys.”

Shades of Dark and Blue

Fingers thick, tendons corded,
knuckles popped and knobbly,
palms raised with translucent callus,
hands strong from heavy work.

Vast knowledge becomes art,
a deftness with lines and knots and sails.
An engine’s ping or hum or thrum,
each message understood in mechanic’s Morse code.

A growing breeze conveys a storm, a sea change,
whipping the gray-blue waves,
sensing to react, forewarned,
or to weather it without concern.

Regarding the look and feel of a mushroom grown
on a dense forest floor to the size of a summer cantaloupe.
Delight in painting the scene of a country woods –
Whistler’s Mother’s Son.

Hightailing it up a night-lit mountain trail at the helm
of a snowmobile, happiest manning a machine,
trailing as many tow ropes, skiers, sledders, tobogganists
as the heavy engine will haul. Pushing its limits.

Bright blue eyes twinkle like Santa’s
as his kids and the neighbors’ kids
scream down the hill in the bouncing,
jouncing beam of the headlight.

Chastising an old dog
– easily shamed, she runs away –
he’s left to search for her in the cold
and the still and the deep night.

Trapped behind the apron of a low-hanging fir,
belly deep in drifts of snow, her feathers
clumped with ice, she wriggles when
he finds her, and he carries her home.

To do the hard thing
because he is a man –
to bury the horse,
to watch his son cry,

A man is born and made,
by choice and circumstance,
by willed conscience and willful unconscious.
My father dances on the waves of the ocean.

In Her Dreams

I love bugs, their crunchy outsides and gooey middle. Ants are good for a snack. Tiny grease ants burn more calories than they’re worth, but two burly carpenters and I’m full for an hour. Ladybugs are good for lunch, or a beetle, but no stink bugs thank you very much. And any time’s good for a spider — the bigger and hairier the happier I am.

Were I to venture outdoors, I would be eaten by bugs or birds or other wild beasts bigger than me. I know this, because I just escaped from out there through a tiny chink in the basement wall. Not enough caulk in the ’verse can keep me out there. There — where they stalk you, quiet as breath.

I lost a hind leg — a left one, if you’re curious — to a stealthy barn cat. Never heard a thing until “Crunch.” Now the gang around the garbage can calls me “Stub.”

Inside, I still dodge cats, but they’ve lost the knack to hunt. I hear them, thumping across the floor or snoring in their noisy sleep, dreaming of the big kill. None of them dare to take me on; I’m as long as the shoe I like to hide in. In shades of brown I blend in, and my 100 — strike that — 99 legs move me fast under a counter where I can’t be seen, or behind the cat box just out of reach.

My biggest threat is that two-legged creature. She’s huge. And loud.

I was hiding in the folds of her face towel last night when she reached to dry her hands, and didn’t she scream! She threw the towel — and me — on the floor. I skittered into a crack behind the old door frame.

Now (goofy giggle) any time she reaches for that towel she gets nervous, like I’m still in it, but I’m long gone — or maybe I’m in the curtain just behind her head.

As size goes, I’m her biggest nightmare.