Missions outside this house acquaint us with death:
You return to your historic pines
that bend and cross
and tangle a web
of Reynoldsian green.
Along the dirt roads, among the cones,
small animals lie dead,
and snakes that shed skins from year to year
remind you that, in another life,
you are the one who came from there.
And I, one thousand miles north,
search the sands for memories.
Footprints beached over; mine that year -
his, hers, theirs - everywhere.
The rot that comes to shore
might be dead, half-dead or alive:
jellyfish that sting when you touch;
mussels inside shells; a drop of seawater
under the glass, swimming
with creaturely life.
The skulls of old women amaze us both.
The wrinkled forehead skin
shrunken so thin
as to allow faint bands of light
to penetrate the bone enclosed within.
We resist the basic urge to bend and kiss
in search of softer body flesh.
Instead, we carry our need back to this house
where the dying and dead
inside our heads.