Interea, Tempus Fugit

“You remember the 70s?”

Sure, but I fixate on the 90s,
when Gulf Coast humidity
curled your ebony ringlets
into love knots.

When a look could set you off,
when a look could bring you back,
when our fights ended in laughter,
when we ran through the sheets daily,

or not at all.

Every moment was an occasion
for reverential hedonism

too quickly forgotten
when the bills came due.

               Charlie Becknell
               January 6, 2014 


Four Words

What is that tangled mess?
I’ve seen sonograms before,
but that doesn’t make sense,
any sense at all.
Does she know what she’s doing
with that wand, or is this
her first day on the job?

Said the sonographer:
“He’s a boy.”


Said the sonographer:
“Are you ready for this?”


Said the couple:
“Ready for what?”


Said the sonographer:
“He has a brother.”


               Charlie Becknell
               January 5, 2014 


Sent Packing

Tonight, we’re not in Kansas
anymore, but Candyland,
our resident tour guides
ushering their grandparents
from truffles to ice cream cones:
"In this case, you’ve been sent back home."

Almost six years ago, the game
was packing bags. Following MRIs
and chromosomal screens,
a heart’s hole’s slow closure,
signaled readiness for an early exit,
or limping entrance, rather.

Attempting to enjoy one last night
of normal, we read and slept,
wept for what the day might bring,
and then awoke early.

If only we had seen now,
then: “Oh, for goodness sakes.
I’ll be trotting along
for the test of my life here.
All I’ve done is go backwards.”

Sometimes, bad dreams
end with the dawn.

               Charlie Becknell
               January 4, 2014 


Every Little Bump

Vested, in greens and blues
eyeing with a poker player’s ennui
nuanced grays and blacks—
testing their diameters, she
reflects nothing.

Insular smiles and sphinxlike
comments revisit her first surprise:
Under the scope, four arms waving—
“Look! Best friends already!”

Only later will her supervisor
mention, cautiously, “a difference,”
edging us slowly toward weeks of
grimacing fear, a stalking anxiety
from which we’ll not soon recover.

Later, that irony. Later, that fear.
Yet today only the wonder of TWINS.

               Charlie Becknell
               January 3, 2014 


A Blessing, from Thing 2

“Dear God,
thank you
for sandwiches
and grapes,
and snow,
and for our GiGi who always brings us presents,
and for Mommy and Daddy,
and for baby Jesus,
and for my brother,
and especially for my brother’s brother.”

               Charlie Becknell
               January 2, 2014


Even on Sundays

Thirty minutes too late,
the alarm dings, long
after the boys have debated
whose turn it is to choose
the day’s t-shirts and pants.

Green Yodas, Red Chiefs,
the occasional ambulance.

Dark coffee builds bridges
between billed and actual
hours of sleep.

Poor clock — in other
bedrooms a watchful eye
over night-owl newlyweds,
a metronome backbeat
behind the syncopated
rhythms of scholars.

Sorry, little guy.
It’s 5:27,
and the boys are
off to the races
as usual.

               Charlie Becknell
               January 1, 2014 


De Animarum Transmigratione

Each breath shallows.
Each season ends.
Each sun collapses.

Entire galaxies fall
into the abyss.

My love for you,
an eternal sunrise,
whose sweetness
can never sour.


A to Z

acting a fool
being an ass
chasing your tail
dropping names
eating trans-fatty acids
following the crowd
giving a damn
harming yourself
in the name of love
judging others
killing time
mentioning your ex
neglecting your parents
opening that can of worms
peeing in the pool
quaking in your boots
sitting on the sidelines
taking their candy
uttering nonsense
visiting the graveyard
wallowing in self-pity
xeroxing your bum
yelling at your children
zeroing your balance

and go


When I arrived late,

everyone sputtered
incomplete sentences
about life before coffee
and February thunderstorms.
Seven marionettes swaying
on strings, heads and hands,
nutcracker jaws agape:
“Sorry?” “Take up your lines”
“50 billable hours.” “Other.”
“No Wifi in hell?” “Razor blades.”

Damned if I know, either.


I Sure Do Miss That Dog

Even though he thought we merely rented
the space of our bed from him,
even though he routinely planted himself
as a wall between me and you,
even though — five years later —
we’re still finding fur in the Hoover,

I miss his 60 pounds wriggling deep
under the blanket, and his five-minute
meditation before he would overheat,
lose his breath, tunnel across your feet,
and hit the floor for ten minutes of panting
before finally settling in for the night.

I miss him, sure,
but those were




Not a Moment Wasted

When she was ready for the date to end,
it ended. On a dime, she pursed her lips,
pressed flat and tucked her skirt tails,
cyphered a note in her journal, replaced
a few strands of chestnut hair,
sent her eyes traveling one last time
around his apartment.

Dismissed, he made change for her
cab fare, considered whether the night
still sported stilettos or had switched to
house shoes. Three hallway cats offering
a favorable omen, he descended
as well, catching a streetcar to the
storefront cafe that brewed with cinnamon.

Testing the strength of his espresso
measured against a supple slice of flan,
he watched the windows fogging over,
remembering again how much he loved

November in this town.


The Great Recession

At the bottoms of the stairs,
all over town,
the sumps are pumping,
keeping our basements dry.

Ductworks carrying the bilge aloft,
hoses piping the flow away,
floats exhaling, inhaling.

Will the currents hold?


Growth Rings

The smell of tree bark
lingers almost
forty years. After
the evenings I claimed
the highest branches
of the street’s highest
blackjack oak,

wood, moss
and lichens, flecks
of brown and green
and gray
speckled my hands,

long since grown soft—
accustomed to keyboards,
and coffee cups.

Missing the ascent,
I may sneak back
For one more climb.


So Far the Fall

Fleet-footed at fifteen,
he shuffles unsteadily at seventy-three,
the handrail rasping underneath
age-cozened fingers, still twitching
in disbelief over dexterity lost.

Doors open wide gulfs
he must bridge,
carefully, as
a workman above the waves,
who can spare a spanner
but dare not look down
where concrete waves
await his only misstep.


Five and Six Stand Alone

Cart 149 at the local grocer
has a bad bearing,
careens past cracking eggs,
caroms off a pyramid of pickles.

Cashiers in lanes two, three, and seven
have a wager,
anticipating a wet clean-up on aisle eight,
somewhere between the discounted mouthwash
and the dusty end cap of gentlemen’s gifts.