by Robert W. Greene

for Alix and Nina

North-south on the map, a thin, meandering
line cuts Iowa off whole from Illinois.

The Mississippi falls away under, then
instantly behind our westbound rented car.

Not to be late for the memorial gathering.

Our loved one's brother is with us. Their
vocal likeness consoles us for the ride.

Giddy with grief and talk, we keen across
the thickest layer of topsoil on earth
and try again to pierce the hearty shyness
our friend and brother wore like armor.

In Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott's Black Knight.

The fog, which by Chicago had snuffed our
flight, has lifted. Hawks on every tenth
fencepost ignore our hurtling, modern world.

We have re-entered the fertile kingdom
of cornfields, feedlots and forget-me-nots,
of brood mares, tack rooms and books.

Pick a day, invite friends and family to
"George's" for the afternoon, add the tab
to my bills and, please, no damn speeches.

That's all he wanted, his daughter tells us.


for Judith

Not remotely pilgrims or crusaders,
with all those flights to Paris in the bank,
by now we sit beyond the rows of tourists.

A fellow traveler soon reseats us: "Jewish
or Christian? No third term required,"
as we pile into the jitney to Jerusalem.

Thus have we invaded pure dichotomy:
desert and orange grove; mosque and syn-
agogue; diaspora and aliyah.

A voyage of return for my beloved.

Like my first awed landfall in Ireland.
But this one after two millenia in exile
and a miraculous recovery of vernacular.

Instead of stowing gear in the jitney, should
we have simply dropped to kiss the ground?

Or was it right enough that we just sighed
on first hearing Lazarus breathe and speak?

That gathered gaze, that look of conscience
and decision Michelangelo left in Florence,
King David slings toward us in reply.



Their corollas bend toward my knuckles and cling like a hundred tiny suction cups. Calm in their clutches, I fill the can again and water them all, willingly, gladly. Garden-variety squid with tendrils for tentacles, they caress my liver spots as I go.

Hollyhocks would reach skyward in late summer, past our front porch, brushing the railing back, thrust and parry, house and garden. Palm out, digits curling in, I'd squeeze a blossom shut, the bee still inside buzzing low, dull with nectar, in my circus midget's fist.