D.R. James

Briefing Bill Stafford, 7 A.M.

Sorry to say we’ve had—have—
two new wars since you died, our
longest ever, with at least three
losers. Labor has also lost, to greed
in Wisconsin, Davis to the needle
in Georgia. Pols are saying slaughter
in the Middle East is an Arab Spring;
slaughter of Darfuris isn’t genocide.
And it appears this President may be
bought, too. Meanwhile, the wind
you say bends over never has settled
its secrets, and I’m tired before I start,
my pile of should’s stacking up like
dead leaves catching against walls,
foundations. Once I sat in a room
where a beginner’s timid lines drew
your no-praise attention, the shy
crinkles smiling from your eyes
a gift, immense capacity to care.
I saw how anything can matter. But
by now you’d have finished your
morning run, written a little something
that might, might not, measure up
to your lowered standards. And Oregon?
Just like my wife said it would be,
biggest rhododendrons I’ve ever seen.
I felt like her mother, “Suzy, it’s so
green!” And all that rain.

Cosmetology

I’ve led my final bible study and
just want to go before I need
another haircut, my mother said
two weeks into the three months
she’d been given, the last supper
of cancer swelling in her belly. Small
anyway, she’d been steadily shrinking
in inverse proportion to the growth
of her dogged will. Doctors don’t know
everything, she said. This is going
fast. And a week later she was dead,
praise God, since the girls downstairs
were butchers. Ever see their work?