I stir my tea now, and I am 73—slow on bad knees—
years old, and I scoop up the swirling tea and it is the
color of river water, the color of the Ninnescah River
in Kansas when I was young and I could run. It seems
foolish now to remember my childhood so long ago.  

I remember the cabin that I bet is no longer
there. I remember the sand and the trees
like a jungle I ran through in my heavy black boots,
laced up almost to the knee. I felt secure and
strong wearing them. I would race through the
jungle by the river and climb the hill and run
with the rabbits in the farmer’s field.

I remember, after a fire, running through the
stubble and the blackened earth and the black dust
rising. But I don’t run anymore. I am 73 now, older
than my father ever lived to be. He died at 72 in a
small apartment, shacked up with an 18-year-old girl.
I met her once when they took me to lunch.
She was horsey looking but nice. He had
the right idea.

He bought a Cadillac and a boat, a lovely wooden
Chris Craft, things he always wanted. I feel sorry for
him now. Too many years married to my angry
mother, a nightmare for him and for me, too.

Now I drink my tea and am glad to be
living longer than he lived and happy
I am not he, or anything like he used to be. 


I want fire, fire in the
trashcans where I’ll end up
on skid-row like my grandfather the scion
of wealthy Virginians if I’m not
careful, fire in the words I’m writing I
hope fire in my belly, fire in my loins,
when I see you and you flirt with me.
Thank God for fire in your eyes when
you love me, fire in the memories
we have together, fire of life in my
grandchildren, fire in the horses
under me, fire in the imagination
where I live. I want fire
in the cemetery where I will
lie down some day
like a song that never ends,
but pauses, falling off to
lull you to sleep at the end.
I want fire, fire in the
silence of sleep, fire in the
noises of children,
fire burning forever under the
brain, fire in these
last precious years,
fire in the light at the bottom of
the cave, fire in the work,
fire in love and in the longing, the
longing for fire. I see fire,
fire in your eyes, fire in the knowing,
and fire in the pain and fire in
the loving and fire in the
final forgetting,
fire there, too.


A pretty girl drives by in a brand-new
Mustang, loud music blaring never-ending love,
dopey, like that girlie sing-along music Beverly
played on the way back from Palm Springs
after a pretty good week-end,
lots of sex all over the condo,
and by the pool in the
moonlight. She asked me would I do
what she wanted, and yes, of course, I said,
yes, I liked it too. We cooked naked
and ate naked and cleaned
the bathroom naked, it made
everything we did interesting. I
remember her freckles and the
shapes of her body as she moved, but
that music drove me
crazy. We argued about it all the
way home and broke up
in the car. Now I think back to
my first Beverly, in high school,
we were sixteen, kissing
in the back seat while my buddy
drove us through the infinite
Kansas night, endless two-
lane blacktop, headlights flashing
past, her eyes closed, her lips
against mine, her tongue
sweet and trembling,
vibrating like a hummingbird in my
mouth. Yes, yes, yes! She had good
legs, too, and I liked her folks, which
made things easy. All these years
later I still wish I hadn’t
dumped her for her best friend
Sue. But that’s how it was back then, you
were just reckless, reckless, reckless
for some new girl.


The bed is gone, that's the first
thing I see, the bed that I bought
when he was 15, the last in a long
line of beds since he was born. I
always got the best, this one
Orthopedic Sealy Posturepedic or
whatever marketing term they made up
it was expensive, like the first
mattress I bought for his crib
31 years ago. I wanted his back
to grow up straight.

His stereo and TV are
gone, the two black speakers,
big as bathtubs, the stack
of amplifiers, CD players and
multiple VCRs, each with
its own remote control. No more
Butthole Surfers or Jane's Addiction,
music like train wrecks, or
"Reservoir Dogs" late at night.

His hair dryer is gone from
the bathroom -- what was all
that stuff he had around the

His room is empty now.
Just clean carpet where the
bed used to be. I think back
to my divorce, the three of us
in the car, I drove his mother
to the bus station in York,
Pennsylvania, 30 years ago.
She wouldn't let me take them
to the plane; she made a clean
break, wearing a rust-colored
fringed leather jacket and blue jeans, a
hippie earth-mother all the way.

When she was gone I wanted to burn
the bed, in the front yard, but I sold it
instead. I wish
I had burned it, to make
a better story.

Now I pile things on the
carpet in his room:
boxes of books, old hiking
boots, a red kite, tennis shoes --
stuff to give away -- and around
the sink I put soap, a shaving mug,
my toothbrush.
I have to have
the clutter now.


This is embarrassing to admit,
but my tongue has been everywhere.

My first tongue memory: frozen
to a fudgsicle at a baseball game
my father took me to it hurt so
much I quickly tore it off, a piece
of my tongue left stranded
there, all by itself, gray and pink
and lonely. I can't recall if I ate
the rest of it. (The fudgsicle I mean.)
I think we threw it away, my piece
of tongue on it

But my tongue has been more fun
places. My tongue has come
between me and the women I loved.
It has said things it shouldn't have.
It has gotten me divorced, but it has also
gotten me in trouble.

It has given moments of pleasure to those I love,
for I couldn't have talked to you,
my sweet, on the telephone for hours,
in that special way we have,
that leaves us both exhausted and satisfied,
after hours of ululation.

What would we do without our tongues,
thick and fast and alive like serpents, these
muscles that reach out to one another. I love
the way this muscle reaches out to you,
my love, and we both love the things it does,
telling jokes and singing songs at midnight
to cheer you in your vast insomnia.

Yes, my tongue has been everywhere: it has run
up the middle of banana splits, and into your
tender sexy ear, and caressed you in places
that surprise you: the Amtrak station,
the subway, the airport, inside the limo, and
it has licked your heart like ice cream.

Yes, I am proud of my tongue, happy
about my tongue, because it has been