First Things RSS Feed - Timothy Steele
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Tue, 01 Jan 2013 00:00:00 -0500 I looked for it, low in the east,
Where it was scheduled to appear.
Good sightings of it were, I knew,
Rare in the northern hemisphere.
Cream-golden Saturn shone above me.
By imperceptible degrees
Orion climbed, tilted acutely,
Through nearby eucalyptus trees.
Despite the chill and damp, I worked
The focus wheel of my binocs
With the light touch a safecracker
Applies to combination locks.
Yet as dawn spread, I couldn’t find
The thing I sought. I felt bereft.
How many chances to observe it,
Given my age, did I have left?
Up blazed the sun, as if to roast
The lesser globe on which I stood.
It all but bellowed, “I’m a star!
I rock, and rule this neighborhood!”
Lost in its glare was Mercury,
Too swift and subtle for my eye.
Going inside, I left my slippers,
Drenched with dew, on the porch to dry.
The Stocking Feederhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/12/the-stocking-feeder
Sat, 01 Dec 2012 00:00:00 -0500 The stocking feeder was an instant hit:
Birds came as soon as I suspended it
Above the deck that spring, and all agreed
Few venues offered such fine nyjer seed.
The feeder served, among its clientele,
The lesser goldfinches especially well.
It suited their small feet and sturdy bills
And acrobatic gastronomic skills.
Theyd bound in from the canyon and alight
And feed side-angled, upside down, upright;
Some hung supine, defying vertigo,
Under (while pecking at) the stockings toe.
At moments, in their dense, aggressive flocking,
The finches utterly engulfed the stocking
And flapped wings to retain or gain afresh
Their purchase on its bulging nylon mesh.
I always, vigilant on their behalf,
Kept the seed level well above mid-calf
And came to hope that they regarded me
More as their friend than as a maître d.
And when in fall they left for new pursuits,
I missed them and their chatter and disputes.
I felt pangs keener than I thought I would
The night I took the stocking down for good.
The hook where it had hung looked sad and stark,
Resembling an inverted question mark
That all but asked if it could be unscrewed
And spared the silence and the solitude.
Mon, 01 Jun 2009 00:00:00 -0400 Sooner or later in the night,
Hed spring onto the bed,
Advance along my flank, and curl
And settle by my head.
Id stroke his coat to welcome him,
Amused that he should treat
The hive of human intellect
As just a source of heat.
Yet on his last trip to the vet,
He knew I was distressed.
He buried, as I cradled him,
His head against my chest,
And, on my shoulder, placed a paw
And seemed, though drained, to be
Making an ultimate, resigned
Attempt to comfort me.
After his death, I told myself
His was a lucky life.
A starving and flea-ridden stray,
He found me and my wife
And lived with us some sixteen years:
Millions of felines fare
Far worse and never have a chance
Of knowing love or care.
Still, sometimes, waking in the night,
I miss him, and I nurse
The hope that, in the Consciousness
Which dreams the universe
And comprehends all that occurs,
We sleep and wake together
As we did in this lifetime, brow
To brow, nose to nose leather.
]]>Caesar for a Dayhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/05/caesar-for-a-day
Fri, 01 May 2009 00:00:00 -0400 Wearing a toga and a laurel wreath,
The neighbor’s boy is Caesar for the day.
Beside the family car, he bows beneath
The burden of enacting Shakespeare’s play
And strolls, hands clasped behind him, to and fro,
Pondering at fifteen his overthrow.
He’s sought out my advice in this endeavor
And beckons me. I warn him, as a friend,
“Beware the Ides of March.” He shrugs, “Whatever,”
A noble Roman stoic to the end,
Though vexed by the conspirators’ designs
And by an Antony who flubs his lines.
This year, the wildfires have come early; smoke
Hangs greyly eastward over Hollywood.
The acrid, carbonaceous clouds provoke
Thoughts that our nation’s health is not so good.
The boy himself is learning how states veer
Off course when they succumb to greed and fear.
But now his mother hurries from their house
And down the walk. He snaps at her, “We’re late!”
She rolls her eyes at me as one who knows
Too well the cruel impatience of the great:
They come, they see, they conquer, they misrule,
And then demand you chauffeur them to school.
I could ask Caesar where his manners are,
But he seems too preoccupied to beg
For pardon as he slides into the car.
He looks bleak when I tell him, “Break a leg”:
They’ll just be acting, yet as we’ve discussed,
It’s creepy to be killed by those you trust.
His toga catches in his shutting door.
He scolds and extricates the trailing pleat,
Then nods in readiness; the car in gear,
He and his mother sweep off up the street.
However much has altered since the days
When I took part in high-school skits and plays,
The world still offers its bewildering mix
Of good and evil, and we still engage
Issues of friendship and of politics,
Exploring them in books or on a stage
In hopes the trials of others, being known,
Will help us meet and understand our own.
I hope my young friend triumphs on the boards
And hope his generation won’t rehearse
A past that has prized ploughshares less than swords.
Meanwhile, though, no propitious winds disperse
The ashy, heavily smoke-curtained sky
Through which the sun glares like a bloodshot eye.