There are voices in me so old, I cannot
decipher. Like divers they speak to each other
under water. They bubble up grains of sand–
a burnt-out planet. I turn the hour glass
discovered in a Victorian bed-and-breakfast where
my wife coaxes me to watch our lives fall away.
Sand tells me it will be light years before we touch.
In the great hall a grandfather clock lulled us
to move heads left and right, right and left at
some one else’s tennis match. Someone called us
for drinks, a further slowing. It was creek water
and bourbon in thick-bottomed crystal glasses,
a galaxy of freight moving the dark waters.
At bottom, a rocking chair nods the hours away.

After drinks, you laugh and challenge me to
a group-grope festival of deciduous and conifers.
Is this some naughty Victorian circle-spank, I ask.
We are to kiss each tree in Nicolet National Forest.
Well, at least the area north of Sheltered Valley.
I never knew love could be so demanding, as
we work our way to the clearing. Our lips,
near-permanently puckered by lichen-edged bark,
rooted in my wife’s faithful endorsement of the past.
Predicament arrived like a crow’s shadow at daybreak:
what possible message will we give the townspeople
when they behold growth-rings haloed about our head?

Selected byMaria Mazzenga
Image credit:Crispin Semmens

Doug Flaherty has published in the New Yorker, The Nation, North American Review, and scores of others. Doug has published five full-length books and six chapbooks. Work has appeared a dozen anthologies.

Flaherty has read at thirty universities. He received the MFA  from the Iowa Writers Workshop. He has an MA from the University of Mass-Amherst. Doug grew up in Lowell, Mass. He taught poetry and American Literature for thirty-five years at the University of Wisconsin--Oshkosh.