Far of fir

My wife carefully adjusts the draft on the “Schwedenofen”
in our living room,
which is what they call a cast-iron woodstove
with a glass door here, becaus a cat has made
itself comfortable on my chest, and
watching her (my wife) I think, People who
didn’t play with fire as childrn
have a greater fear of being burned.
Some days I wonder about the extent
to which Covid damaged my brain. Some
days it’s not so bad, some days I feel
like my laptop with the wonky “E” on
the keyboard (you hav to go back a lot
and mak sur it typed all th “e”s) and
some days I should just stay in bd.
In fact, sufficient sleep seems to make
a big difference. I got 9 hours last night,
according to my watch, but was still
physically tird because we went on a rather
long hike yesterday, and had a real
hankering for sweets, specifically a
“Punschkrapfn” which is a small rum-
filled one-portion-sized cake with pink
frosting. And as I took my morning
shower I thought of the word “Konditorei”
which is the plac where one might buy
a Punschkrapfen and wondered what the
English word would be (I often wonder this,
this in itself is not weird) but my brain’s
first suggestion this morning was
not “confectionary” or “cake shop” but
“cake pharmacy”
which, let’s admit it, is even
better than “cake shop”, which I
had prferred until then,
but on the other hand worris me a
little.
Anyway afterwards I complained
to my wife that the cake pharmacy
was close on Sundays, th very day
I have time to go there and my
wife, a skeptic like all of us, googled
it and determind that it was in fact
open on Sundays now, which it didn’t use
to be bcause they had been short
staffed and the owner was tired of
working 7-day weeks.
So, happy ending, we got our
Punschkrapfen.

Momentarily

I let the cat in
or out, or both
the air was cold outside
and warm inside
and the moon was bright
the door locked with a loud click
because it’s just a little
out of alignment due to
decades of settling
and i thought
god i haven’t written mom in ages
i should tell her how nice
life is and how great
the kids are and
everything that’s going on
this new place with great breakfasts
how well my scones turned out
but she’s dead
i had forgotten momentarily
i opened the door back up
and took another look at the moon

Ruby Beach

I will always remember
going down into the kitchen
one morning and my daughter
is grumbling at the table
angry over string theory
i mean she wanted to slap somebody
I will always remember
sunset at the beach, we were in Florence,
and in Cannon Beach, and up north in Washington
my daughters sitting in camping
chairs at a bonfire
when i am honest, this year has been
hard
for many of us
my mom froze to death in January
under sad circumstances
she didn’t have coming
my photo app sent me a memory
this morning
a collage of pictures of the beach,
my daughters from 2019
my wife and me from earlier this year
over for the funeral
I had momentarily forgotten we went
to the beach
but I had wanted to show her places
i went to with our kids because I had wanted
to show our kids where I had been
with their mother when we were young
when i am honest, it’s kind of a mush
in my memory banks
i see ruby beach, I see a tent
cobbled together from laundry
line and plastic tarps
and driftwood
I see a skunk lured back out of
our tent with cookies
they ask me what do you
want to do now
i want to live, i want
to experiment, i want
to make more memories
i want to love and be
kind but sometimes I also
want to slap a physicist
So it was a hard year
in some ways for
some of us
be kind to yourselves
be kind to each other
make good memories
this is what we got
this right here
this swirling galaxy
swirling in a snail shell

What is it you plan to do

Man, to mangy, fat crow staring at him from the balcony: What.
Crow: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Man: That’s a trick question.
Crow: What.
Man: It’s a trap. Which reminds me, I was shopping for “miniature bear traps” online today, for reasons I forget.
Man: They exist.
Man: I mean, both miniature bear traps and my reasons.
Crow (patiently): Trap?
Man: Yes. There is doing whatever, and there is planning to do it. They rule each other out.
Crow (nods): Yeah I grok.
Crow (turns to face the autumn foliage, same as the man): This is what we’re doing, baby.
Man (stretches, winces): I explained to my wife yesterday why leaves change color in the fall and she listened to me patiently.
Crow: Wow.
Man: Apparently I hadn’t exhausted her goodwill. Or she likes biology.
Crow: You’ve known her for how many decades and you don’t know if she likes biology?
Man: Of course she likes biology. Who doesn’t like biology? I mean, she seemed to take a scientific interest in photosynthesis.
Crow: Ok.
Man: I just think it’s beautiful that the yellows and oranges are there all the time and we just don’t see them until the chlorophyll runs out.
Man: Also, the idea that trees take half the year off.
Crow: And yet they never travel.
Man: Traveling is overrated. Especially flying. No offense, I mean like airports, security lines, cramped seats.
Crow: I would travel if I had six months off.
Man: You don’t?
Crow: Oh hell no. Constantly flying around, you know? Between the dead and the slain and Odin and stuff.
Man: How’s Odin?
Crow: You’re Odin, you tell me.
Man (regards a tall tree, the root of which is being gnawed by a big snake): Hmm. Then what say the slain?
Crow: Living beats reflection; you’ll have time to reflect when you’re a lake.
Crow: Let me rephrase my question: what will you do now?
Man: Something wild.

The Chemical and the Chemist

The Chemical gets a call from his wife, the Chemist.
How old were you when your grandmother spilled (what did she spill? Boiling water?) on your foot? 7 or 8?
Boiling oil. I was 12. 11 or 12. Although, maybe 10 or 11 come to think of it.
So just a year or two before she died?
The Chemist is researching family history. She knows more about the Chemical than the Chemical does. The Carboxyl family, the Hydroxyls, the rest.
So my brother was 8 or 9, he says.
And how old was he when he ate her thyroid pills?
Younger. 5?
And that was after the mental hospital?
I guess? I was a little kid.
So was her thyroid problem diagnosed after the mental hospital?
I don’t know.
Maybe the thing with Amino…
And Sulfhydryl…
Was enough stress to trigger a thyroid storm or some other crisis… and she was hospitalized and got the electroshocks… and eventually a thyroid diagnosis?
I don’t know the chronology. And anyone who knows is dead, except one or two who were directly involved in the whole scandal themselves so you can’t ask them, and their kids are all younger than I was so they probably don’t know either unless their parents told them later, which is entirely possible, everyone’s parents told them more than mine told me. Everything was a secret and now they’re dead.
Maybe ask Phosphate or Methyl, he says.
They finish their conversation and hang up.
The Chemical gazes out the window. It is a crisp fall day but warmish, the colors are bright (chlorophyll breaks down revealing yellows and oranges, any trapped sugars might turn into anthocyanins for the reds) and crows are arguing over the borders of their territories.
Mellow music is playing on his computer. The YouTube algorithm has decided to serve him mellow ambient music today, which irritatingly is just what he needs. He is wired, as if he had drunk a lot of coffee this morning, which he has but not that much, not any more than usual.
When he leaves the office in two hours he will walk to the subway, past various things including the attacking crow. He thought she had mellowed out, she stopped attacking him for a while, swooping only, but yesterday she whacked him in the head with her wing again.
Boiling fat, actually. His parents had a broiler pan in the oven, a flat pan to collect bacon drippings etc and when his grandmother forgot about it and it started to smoke, he drew her attention to it and stood there next to her and told her to use the oven mitts, so she wouldn’t burn herself. Careful, Grandma.
And she put on the mitts and took it by one end and as soon as it was free of the oven it tipped and emptied the boiling grease onto his right foot.
She felt terrible and he felt terrible that she felt terrible.
When he finished screaming every obscenity he knew, he tried to comfort her.
In the hospital where he got a skin graft he had rubber joke vomit and tricked a nurse with it, who then tricked another nurse with it.
Sometimes you’re awake and feel alive. Sometimes you’re tired and feel dead.
Anyone who thinks they understand this world raise your hand.

The attacking crow attacks, crow real estate part 2 or 3

One minds one’s business.
One walks down the street to catch a subway. But the crows, so one tosses them treats and they follow one to the very edges of their territory for more treats, and into (maybe they are new arrivals and don’t know, or just hungry now in the fall) the territory of the attacking crow.
Words are exchanged in crow, on this sunny fall evening. Like, “fuck you get the hell out,” and “fuck off.”
Then it quiets down and one thinks it is over until one receives a blow to the top of the head, and feels the claws of both feet of the attacking crow in one’s scalp.
This is an escalation, this attack. Previously there was a whack on the head from a wing tip, then there was a body slam to the back of the head.
This here, claws, feels like an escalation.
Who knows?
At least it’s not defecating.
It seems desperate, maybe it has a nest close, but it’s the wrong season for babies.
??
It sits there on a telephone wire, watching.
One throws it some treats.
It watches.
One throws it some more treats.
Some people walk past, pretending nothing unusual is happening.
One turns and takes a few steps in the direction of the subway station, then looks back and the crow is checking out the doggie treats.
Ok.
“Don’t reward the crow for attacking you,” one’s daughter texts.
“I’m trying to make friends,” one texts back, “but I see your point.”

Norþfukr Family Tree

So my wife Alpha recently published a 240 page book on her father’s side of the family she had been working on for 9 years. It was warmly received by relatives, and now she has embarked on research into her mother’s side of the family, as well as my father’s family.
She was telling us about what she had already learned about my ancestors, the O’Livings.
“They were actually Vikings,” she said.
“Oh!” we said.
“That explains the urge to sack and slaughter priests,” I said, remembering the time a local priest made me carry sausages into the church in my pyjamas.
How the church had gotten into my pyjamas I’ll never know.
Alpha explained ancient versions of our name, and all the alternate spellings.
“The original name was Northfucker or something like that,” my wife said.
“I vote we change our name back to that,” I said. “We could spell it Norþfukr.”
Our daughters Beta and Gamma seconded the motion.
“Even better than changing it to Novak,” I ascertained. We recently decided life would be easier if we changed our name to Novak because that’s what most restaurants understood when we made reservations by telephone, to the point where we sometimes just capitulated and reserved tables under the name Novak, which has the big advantage that it contains no illegal characters (not everyone in Austria knows what an apostrophe is) and is immediately recognizeable. I had planned to adopt a friend named Novak as my brother. He brews beer at home, and often trades me some for bread I bake. Anyway, we decided Norþfukr was even better.
Although it would not actually solve the problem at all.
“A table for two for Norþfukr, please.”
“N- what?”
“Norþfukr. En-oh-arr-thorn-eff-yu-kay-arr.”
“Enoh-arr-uh…?”
“Thorn.”
“Thorn?”
“You know, looks like a sunset, turned on its side? Or a bald man sticking his head through a hole in a fence? Or… You know what, put it under Novak.”
“Yes, sir!”