One On The Richter Scale
Once long ago I lay in bed recuperating –
Some sudden twinges in my hoisting hips -
That sunny afternoon when you were visiting
A family for lunch whose friendship tips
The Richter scale; I gazed out at the blue,
Against it, like a painting, branches weighted
With purple orchid blossoms, and I knew
So little that our lazy day was fated,
Though flowers tumbled silently on cue.
Two loving doves had built their springtime nest
Inside the window box below my sill;
One sat and soaked the sun not yet turned west,
The other stood by preening, then to fill
His hunger pangs flew off, soon to return
And take his turn upon the unhatched young.
A sudden tremor, a seismic burn
Shot through our fragile California – stung
I shot upright and simultaneously
The breasted dove flew up in stunned escape…
The blossoms trembled on the orchid tree,
A bushy squirrel leaped to loot and rape -
It snatched an egg and scrambled to its branch,
Tail quivering to mimic and to mock,
And then ran back four times to fill a ranch
Of squabbling pests enriched by godless shock.
The doves returned. I watched them helplessly,
A glassed-in witness of the mournful jolt
Shattering lives of fledglings famously
Secure from hunger, loss, war or revolt.
You came back home and told me all was well,
The tremor hardly touching on your lunch ….
Just that our friend stood up but nearly fell -
His heart raced far too long. You had a hunch,
Physician friend, he needed to go by
Tomorrow morning for an EKG.
And yes, how sad, the eggs were gone, the sky
Darkening behind the traitor tree…
The morning came; you listened for our friend,
Sat in your office, waited for the news.
His pretty wife burst in – come quick please lend
A hand, he’s gone out like a fuse –
And there in the elevator, coming up
With reassured results, he’d fallen down,
A shattered shell, a drained and empty cup,
Snatched up by Death, that cruel seismic clown.
Years later, hip replaced, I replay years
Of friendship, lunches, families, and see
That fate spoke to us sparrow-like, our fears
In minor hip twangs, tremblings in a tree.