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November: Journal Entry

The cat purrs us awake, pawing the pillow,
and our response, the day's first gesture,
is a gathering into each other's arms.
I remember this later, making the bed;
but she's not here, so I sit her stuffed bear
in her reading chair, open a book
of poems in its lap, her spare glasses
on its nose. Coming home, she'll know
I thought of her this way I can't express
—a small act that needed doing,
a moment that wanted, if not a monument,
then a makeshift, brown, fake-furred cairn.

When the dog whines in the backyard, I open up
my study window, and hoist him over the sill.
His squirming prompts a need in me to cry
"Incoming!" to warn the cat, before I drop
the blustery little dog-bomb on the rug.
This day of moments, of letting in the small
amusements, reminds me of something
long hidden under books and papers
on my desk; and so I knock off reading,
decide to take a drive. And what comes in,
but that other, familiar recognition—
of sorrow: an old man in a bus window, who,
through tinted glass, wears the face
of my father, so much so that I follow
beside it for blocks, backing up traffic, just
to hold myself a little longer near this man
who is not my father, but who is alive.

Slower now (that face moving on), I enter
a city park. On the pond's gray water
I see a single mallard. Next to the mallard,
easily a thousand or more Canada geese; and shimmering
among these, a dozen snow geese, and several pairs
of the tiny bufflehead, bobbing under like gophers;
also the elegant lines of hooded mergansers,
and shovelers, and green-winged teal, and one grebe,
rolling on its side to preen; and in the shallows
a great blue heron, tall and still, attentive
as a chaperone.
                              What words fly up
to meet these birds, this host? Abundance, yes,
and return—flocks and generations, focused by
the smallness of a city park, and here in spite of it.

All the mind has entertained today—
gestures between lovers, my foolish games,
these water birds—has come to settle in
the flat, gray space of my father's dying,
as if it were a pond: dog and doll
and duck, now the sun falling behind
that nameless goose-gray wash of cloud
that grows in the west this time of year at dusk.
The sun glows white like a nucleus inside.
The cloud's shallow edges fade to merest gauze—
not quite a formation, but something formed.

William Wenthe

Words Before Dawn
Louisiana State University Press

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