Editor’s note: In this week’s Poetry corner, we feature the work of poet and retired physicist Len Anderson, the author of “Invented by the Night” from Hummingbird Press, one previous collection of poems: “Affection for the Unknowable” (Hummingbird Press, 2003), and a chapbook “BEEP: A Version of the History of the Personal Computer Rendered in Free Verse in the Manner of Howl by Allen Ginsberg.” Anderson is a co-founder of Poetry Santa Cruz and serves as secretary-treasurer.
Love and Necessity
We can do no great things—only small things with great love.
If we’re vertical, it’s spiritual,
Coco says, as Kai prances on the leash
and sniffs at my shoes
while the morning fog starts to lift.
It’s a year since her husband Ken’s stroke
and she explains how two weeks ago
at 11 PM she felt a heart attack coming on,
googled to confirm the symptoms,
then called an insomniac friend
to come stay with Ken
while she went to Emergency.
I guess now he’s inside watching TV.
Thanks to Coco,
the doctors, nurses, rehab staff,
and Ken’s own hard work,
he can get around OK,
even move each finger
on his right hand
so maybe he’ll paint again.
Slowly he relearns how to speak.
Now with a word and a gesture
this once great storyteller
can bring a simple thought across.
Kai yanks on her leash and wants to run,
while Coco tells me she misses that cigarette
she would have here each morning. Ken
gave those up a year ago. I watch
our two great teachers,
Love and Necessity, so close
we hardly ever thank them,
yet ever at work
as long as we’re vertical.
How To Dress for the End of the World
When you see the sky go up in flames,
you need not change
your worn and smudged apron
and those sun-bleached garden jeans
with one knee breaking through. By these
the gods who made this world
will know you, still bent over
in their work clothes too.
And when the sun begins to whirl
like a Mevlevi dervish,
its skirt growing wide
in the sky, join in this dance.
One hand up, one down,
offer heaven and earth
to each other.
Continue on, even if you
are blazing. From these signs
the gods, dancing in their own blaze,
will know you are of service.
For there is ever much to be done
in each new world to be made..
In My Fifteenth Lifetime
At first I existed but was not yet born,
then I was born but didn’t yet exist.
Two magical beings had made me, then made me again
out of steel and love and song each day.
One day I heard a song too beautiful to sing
and took for my own its impossible burden.
And once I saw the wind rise from its bed
and race through the trees, then come back and do it again.
I built a bridge of steel over the racing wind. At the other end
I found a land where I prepared my home and moved in.
One day my love and I rose from our bed and raced
through the trees, then each day we would do it again.
It was the song and the love and the steel of others that made
my impossible burden of song and love possible to bear.
I was born and born so many times I can’t remember.
At times I was all song and steel and love and I even existed.
I died but came back to say goodbye to myself.
I flew ahead to prepare a home in the land that is no land.