Three Poems

She Who Thinks Like a Fish Thinks

(for Dora at three weeks)

At two in the morning, in the lake
of my wife's breathing, with headlights
floating across the ceiling,
your dark, underwater eyes sweep
toward my face.  Your fingers reach,
then pull away.

You cannot place me yet
in your old ocean
cracked to noise and light
three weeks ago tonight.

I offer you my little finger,
familiar, perhaps, as a passing eel,
and moist breath for your cheeks
so red and angry at the roughness of our air.

But a father's breath
cannot yet calm
you who think
like a fish thinks.
Your dark eyes and minnow fingers
swim away.


If We Were Bears

Belches like bear grunts
rumble from me
as I lumber along the floor
swabbing up midnight puke.

Our whimpering son,
pale as moonlight,
with eyes of melting ice,
breath of fiery volcanoes,

Sweet sick boy, try to sleep.
Let our mammalian memories
erase the scent
of all this wasted food.

If we were bears,
we could sleep inside the earth
until we’re well again.  As
humans, we only hibernate

in each other's arms ‘til nausea,
that red-hatted hunter,
gives up and quietly
goes home.


Angel at Eighth Grade Graduation

How much is it worth, Max,
two plus parrot plus
egg plus wing plus cloud?
You know.  I know you know.

You were born with eyes
that see through walls,
with the feathers of archangels.

When your bicycle crashed
into the street light,
your broken wheel sang
like a harp.

When your skateboard soared
into a stop sign,
your forearm snapped
in a puff of quills.

Nothing in school will ground
that flight.
But teachers will help
improve your landings.
So when you do touch down,
nothing truly valuable
will be broken.

And your life, a flock
of untamed birds, will somehow
turn away from danger
en masse, as if at signal.

—James Lenfestey, Minneapolis, MN