This sandy beach on Lake Superior
reminds me of those old home movies
Rusty and I watched in my father’s basement,
showing me and Linda with our friends,
mindlessly splashing in a plastic pool.
Rusty endlessly digs and builds in the sand,
wants to go “splashy-splash” in lake after lake.
Here I am again, on a dune in the shade,
watching him to make sure he doesn’t drown.
In this beautiful place I can be patient.
The water is cool, bottomed with pale sand.
To the east, sandstone bluffs with level beds
look like a photo from a geology book,
with pines and darker conifers on top
and pale broadleaf trees that look like aspens.
We walked the Au Train Songbird Trail,
a loop about two miles long
through different forest habitats,
beside a dystrophic stream,
around a bog, across a meadow.
We heard but didn’t see the birds.
Flies buzzing above our heads
kept getting tangled in my hair.
Rusty caught two toads.
I saw two different kinds of club moss,
a straight kind about six inches tall,
a kind with bifurcating branches
topped with a disklike crown.
Then I went to watch the sunset
from the bird observation tower.
I talked Rusty into joining me.
Then we played with the red ball
and rode bikes around the campground.
Western Wyoming College in Rock Springs
has the strangest dinosaur exhibit.
The whole college fills one sprawling building.
Triceratops and Stegosaurus skeletons
stand guard right inside the entrances.
A long-necked pleisiosaur chases a fish
down a corridor past the classrooms.
Finding the small ones is a treasure hunt.
But the wildest mount is in the middle
of the student cafeteria,
a cast of the American Museum’s
Tyrannosaurus rex, mounted as if
taking a doggie style piss on a cycad
of steel tubing, rebar, and sheet metal.
Compared to this, every other cafeteria
I’ve ever seen seems completely bland.
I’m picturing some English students saying,
“Let’s meet by the pissing tyrannosaur
and plan a poetry magazine.”
Wouldn’t that enhance
the undergraduate experience?
Outside the tent, Twin Harbors State Park,
a grassy alcove edged by shrubbery,
a foggy morning on the Washington coast.
Suddenly a small head with tousled hair
popped out of the puffy sleeping bag
next to me and said, “Plurp!” then withdrew.
Rusty repeated this, explaining, “I’m a plurp,
a little animal that lives in a tube.”
He went on for ten or fifteen minutes,
detailing the biology of plurps.
Then he had second thoughts and told me
never to tell anybody about plurps.
His reactions of annoyance when I did
were as funny as the original performance.
Nancy’s not here; she’ll come later I guess.
More trouble at work, reports must be made.
Her home-health client’s mind is as threadbare
as a beautiful old carpet. It’s sad.
I don’t know where self and soul fit in.
More and more it seems like if some part of
the brain is damaged, the self is damaged.
Parts of me seem to be going missing.
I have trouble learning anything new.
In nursing classes, Nancy’s learning words
for medical conditions much longer
than the name of any dinosaur genus
and using these words as offhandedly
as if anyone would know what they mean.
My back is sore enough
that I’m not looking forward to
a ladder and a skybound fir tree.
Maybe I could cut branches
or take a valerian.
The problem with that is I
get grumpy when it wears off.
Is there life after firewood?
I’ve stacked it under here and
over there but I need more.
I cut rounds off the bottom,
set up the ladder, cut off the top,
which flips upside down, still stuck.
I cut the middle at the wrong angle.
When the log slips,
the chainsaw bar gets pinched.
I take the saw off the bar.
Now it’s comealong time.
Attach one cable here,
the other to a big tree,
clickety, clickety, click, snap, boom,
it strikes the ground.
Now I reassemble the saw,
cut, split, and wheelbarrow
the firewood back to the house.
That wasn’t so hard, was it?
My back will tell me tomorrow.
Each year, before the football game between
their school and the University of Texas,
Texas A and M has a pep rally
at which a forty foot high stack
of telephone pole sized logs is set ablaze.
Students and crane operators build
the stack with all the logs standing on end
and bound together with wire.
Students climb all over this thing to build it.
I’m not surprised that a pile collapsed,
killing nine and hurting twenty eight.
The video of an earlier bonfire
burning and collapsing looks really scary.
Why did the administration let them
do such a clearly dangerous thing?
Here’s the brother of one of the dead students,
also an alumnus of A and M,
talking on the news, saying,
“He died for what he believed in.”
I’ve never heard anything so stupid.
It’s a tradition going back before
World War One, therefore certainly sacred.
Each year they made the pile a little bigger.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller