Kirk, Grand Canyon, 1965 © Kathryn Jordan

 

There Was a Wind

There was a wind blowing outside, a dog barking,
flashing headlights.
When your stomach turned black in your RV,
you finally got scared.
You decided the time had come
to softly drift.
All you needed was alcohol, fentanyl, meth,
and the horns of gangrene.
Did friends claim your watch and your bike?
Did they leave you?
I know that one, yes, I know that one.
And I’m sorry.
Accident, the Coroner wrote. But I wonder —
hadn’t you quit?
Accident or not, what will give you the most peace?
asked my daughter.
What do you want, Brother? How can I give honor,
now you’ve departed?
God knows you were born so jolly and sweet,
you couldn’t bear
life’s unfair load: wan ignorance of a child’s need
in time of war and stupidity.
If only I had brought you home,
if only life had let me.
Dear old Kirk. Let the stars cry you a song.
Blood of my own, good night.

 

 

Monterey, 2021 © Kathryn Jordan

 

Gather

Yahweh is near to the broken-hearted.
He helps those whose spirit is crushed.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
Yahweh will gather me up.
(Psalms 27 & 34)

After reading what my father had etched on my brother’s grave,
it was hard not to remember again, and in great detail
the many times my nest-mate was cast out of the nest.
To wonder why it was he, and not me, who endured the brunt
of our parents’ grief again and again.
And, if I am honest, not to feel sorrow once more
for the follow-through of every blow,
which unfailing found its way to me.
What is destiny? Time, the avenger, swooping
from his perch, three wingbeats behind the hapless gull flapping
toward the still-ignorant flock walking in circles on the mudflats
until, sensing danger, they rise, crying as one,
thousands of them, into sky,
as the loner enters the throng and disappears.
Later, I watched the bald eagle, perched in tall cedar.
White head, yellow beak and talons, wings spread wide
like the velvet cape of a lord being groomed by sunlight.
But when the gaze of the eagle found me,
and I felt it pierce me through, I wanted to run,
whether toward it or away, I was not certain.
I want to be gathered but I also want more time
to learn not to consider all that might have been.

 

 

Lava Beds National Monument, 2021 © Kathryn Jordan

 

Lava Tube

To mourn your death I enter a cave, a lava tube
blasted ten thousand years ago by fire and pressure
in the world below our feet, below all we can’t see.
Descending, I watch light fade, a beam of memory
on pocked and mottled walls, narrowing in scope.
When you were ten, you leapt at a man who had our mother
by the hair. Remember the one I fought off with words alone?
My hands feel for rock and I duck my head. Above me,
high desert blanketed in volcanic rock. Birds, wind, bugs.
Down here, a fungus spreads filaments to spite the black,
giving shelter to crustaceans, worms and bats.
If only my mind were so quiet.
Is the world womb or tomb? wrote Henry Miller.
I always said womb. Now I don’t know.
Your damage locked you out, mine locked me in.
The cave breathes its implacable chill—the arrest
of the grave. I’m leaving now; I won’t be back.
Can you forgive me wanting to live?