Poetry

Guy Lombardo and Champagne

Our grandparents knew
Guy Lombardo and champagne
are the keys to New Year’s Eve.
Hours before midnight, in the shoe store,
I could not keep my big mouth shut about the boots you found
which you were terribly excited about.
I just had to say I had bought that same brand last year,
and the heel came off
within weeks. Don’t you remember?
Your excitement faded. Your smile dimmed.
You no longer wanted the boots.
From that moment on, nothing I could say would convince you to buy them.

So what if they might fall apart in 3 months?
What right had I to take away the pleasure you might have found
from your first new pair of boots in 3 years!
At midnight
my foolishness almost forgotten
I asked you to dance to “Auld Lang Syne”
when it came on the music player. And then
“Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think).”
It was intimate, exciting,
just the two of us,
dancing in the candlelight
to Guy Lombardo.
Who knows what the new year holds in store,
for us, or our shoes.

Reflections on the Day After Thanksgiving Abroad

There was no turkey, no dressing,
no jellied cranberry sauce, can-shaped and sliced.
There was no pumpkin pie.

There were mashed potatoes, lingonberries,
and meatloaf, but no day off work. It was just a Thursday,
and we might have been thankful

the stores were at least open,
so there was no rush to complete the shopping
for wine and last-minute ingredients for dinner.

We might have wished (had we thought of it)
that our youngest wouldn’t wake in fever
at 1 a.m. and need to be kept home

on Friday, causing a missed day of work
that in America would have been a day off anyway.
Still, these frustrations bring up in me

a thankfulness such a day as Thanksgiving exists,
one day each year we are reminded to be thankful
(as we so easily forget), thankful

we have any days at all, whatever they might be full of.
But next year, for heaven’s sake, let’s make a pie.

Because that Summer

for Lotta

Because that summer we met the sea air
was warm and the wine flowed
freely in the ship’s cafeteria;
because, like you, I was on holiday and not
worried about mundane responsibilities and
such details as country of residence;
because as we talked deep into the night, I could not
find a reason to stop; because I wanted
to live in Europe and because you had never been
to America; because I did not know
how to say goodbye; because when
I asked you to meet me in Barcelona,
you said you’d meet me in Florence; because
when I asked you to meet me in Iceland
you said you’d meet me in New York;
because after months of phone calls, me
on my back porch in Minnesota, you
on your bed in Finland, and because of
things I can’t even remember now
I proposed aloud why don’t we just . . .
and you said quietly well, okay.

Waking under stars in wartime

Basim opens his eyes from sleep,
looks up to open sky. In another poem

this might be a dream. But in this one,
splinters of wood and concrete

where his wife had slept, a gooey
wetness on his back, his bed

collapsed in a crumpled V.
For reasons he will not know

until tomorrow, he cannot get up. Tonight,
he calls out to the daughter he covered

and tucked into bed just hours ago,
she who brought his evening clothes

when he came from work, would sit close
as he watched tv, as he hoed the garden.

He calls to his wife under stars that
twinkle, silent and cold as fire.

 

(Read the news story that inspired this poem here.)