Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cap Ferret

Cap Ferret
by Kevin Cahill

the silver sea unfurls on the golden sands, from far off lands come migrant swans,
sea birds clamor in the heart of the bay, breezes lightly brush the queues of waves.

It is August, the entire world, it would seem, has funneled down to this point, the
end of a pencil thin peninsula, day by day, hour by hour, bumper by bumper,
they pass through the bottleneck. the parisiens and the bordelais spill
down upon the clotted fishing villages where houses bear names like
Yvonne, Penichette, Caprice… they spill down into condos and
campgrounds, gated estates with cloistered gardens, they spill
down all the way to the dunes and the beaches in places
called Petit Piquey, Arcachon, Lacanau. remorseless,
relentless spilling down, piling up, and spreading
out until everyone is assumed into one
monumental angle of repose, the
entire world, it would seem,
has been recomposed -
evacuated –
all here...
the hour

It is
the tide turns
the traffic back,
the rubber tires of
Porches and Peugeots crush
empty oyster shells, pleasure boats
rest dry and derelict, tipped on their sides
in the draining basin ... the entire world, it
would seem, has been dispersed, the glass reversed.

the silver sea unfurls on the golden sands, from far off lands come migrant swans,
sea birds clamor in the heart of the bay, breezes lightly brush the queues of waves.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


by Kevin Cahill

My wife and I were there
when it happened,
right under our noses,
swift, silent, secret-
but not surreptitious -
our son left us for a time,
we saw him, we cared for him,
made sure he did not
step in front of the tram
or drop his fork from the table,
but he seemed not to notice
that we loved him so very much

he had gone,
his world a shiny new place
even as it shrank,
her face all he cared to know,
what he knew rendered
in the upturned gaze,
in how his steps marked hers,
in how he contrived at every turn
to be where she was,
her every move a first cause,
the distance between them
elastic and impermanent,
if I were to ask him
what is it?
he would not hear me,
besides, I already know -
not so easy to say as it is to see,
not so easy to explain as it is feel,
nothing quite so sweet as knowing
something you cannot tell

she opens her hand down by her side
bravely he reaches up,
he will not let go, not willingly, not soon,
her smile makes my own heart glad,
my son will be well with her
and by the time he is four or five years old
he won't remember her name
though his fingers may retain
an impression of something
neither he nor I will be able to explain,
especially not to ourselves.

October, 2006

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


by Kevin Cahill

you look through a window
your breath collects on the pane,
or pausing at an entryway just ajar
your temple presses lightly against a doorjamb,
or peering into his eyes
your hair falls forward,
shrouds your face,
your world gets shuttered down,

not everything is for looking through
and not every aperture opens
on to a field of view,
and sometimes, as you wipe the smudges
from your lenses,
you may wonder about even wider angles,
so you pull back, get a little distance -
but that way there is only one perspective,
the unblinking blue eye, Earth,
staring back at you …coherent, cold, absolute.

back you come, in tight and close,
you dwell furtively in doorways
you linger by window shades,
faces fly by on the bus,
it all comes to you piecemeal
blindingly so,
you’re so blinkered,
so bound and bordered,
so constrained,
but nothing can prevent your looking
or your being intrigued:
a frame holds nothing in
and everything out -
you never feel where you are,
until, focused by necessity,
you are looking through something else.

October 19, 2006

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Numerus Abundans

Numerus Abundans
 by Kevin Cahill

He learned to play the lute
when he was forty years old.
That is what they still say,
as if all the years prior had
been little more than a gestation,
a long uneven labor delivered
at length of a childlike surprise.
When he was forty he picked
it up, his fingers gently round
the neck, he felt the heft, the
balance point on his lap, he
searched the fretted reaches
and he plucked sweet notes
like ripe cherries, so they say.

(There is another saying,
“Stupid after forty, always stupid”
but one who learns to play the lute
at forty, such a one is remembered.)

They say Moses lived one hundred
and twenty years – forty years in
Midian, then again in Egypt before
prophesying forty years in the
wilderness. They say the Prophet
whose heavenly name is Ahmed, first
heard God’s voice when he was forty.

Forty is an age of reckoning, we
ask what we have added up to,
what is the sum of all our seasons,
time multiplied by knowledge,
divided by experiences, all of it
subtracted from a veiled number
not yet etched on a lonely stone.
Bountiful numbers – four added
to eight added to twelve added to
sixteen is golden. Ahed means “One”
signifying God – add to it the letter
mîm whose value is forty and you get
Ahmed. Forty steps, the journey from
man to God, near, palpable, infinitely far.

They say there are forty saints, mix
with them and you will disappear.
The marathon wedding feasts of Persia,
the forty pillars gathered at Stonehenge,
the perilous ride above the Great Flood,
Jesus’ satanic trials in the desert, the vigil
at his tomb, the lenten journey to Easter.

Forty, numerus abundans,
once imbued with the miraculous
the coincident, and the prophetic,
now quarantined in convertibles, elided
in sterile surgeries, curated on Facebook.
So it is good to remember what they say,
they say that when he was forty,
he learned to play the lute…
it means a lot.

2/`9 2009

Friday, April 20, 2012

Getting Around

Getting Around
by Kevin Cahill

Getting around (What an atlas needs)
by Kevin Cahill

Afterwards you'll understand
that to open a book like this
is but to dwell in paper-thin spaces;
Before cracking it though,
look around, see how the fences
hang derelict - the terrain here
could make a hermit homesick.

Later, if the ruts in your memory
are grown over, it'll be okay -
you've sown more than anyone can
account for right here and here
and here too - so go ahead,
open it up, be amazed at what volunteers,
even as you keep
turning it over and over.

Don't stop - perservere, and
at length and with some luck
you can dog-ear the spot where it all began,
as sure as you know where the horses graze
on the slopes running down to the river...
close your eyes and read
the map inside your fingertips,
let the watery breeze in the cottowoods
dry your lips and listen...

Only a long time along lonely roads
in empty places
can tempt one's mind into such
trackless spaces.
It's simple atlas needs
a lamp, a footstool, a glass
after long walks,
geography needs picking foxtails
from sweaty socks,

let your dog-tired soles

tell you what is real -
how the ground lies hard
and dearly
how the only lie that matters
(the one you play out of)
is harder to get around
than the earth herself. 

June, 2006

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Here's a poem I wrote in memory of Bob Brandon who sold us the VW Westfalia and who stayed on as our lifeline mehanic until he died suddenly and prematurely six years ago.

by Kevin Cahill

in remembrance of Bob Brandon

He kept the history in a tiny spiral memo pad,
the kind that could fit easily in a shirt pocket or
disappear into a glove box.
When he gave me the keys to the bus,
he also gave me the history.
He knew, I think, that I wasn’t the type
to continue his work which might be why
he almost forgot to mention it at all.

He had taken me all around the bus,
inside and out, shown me the locking gas cap
with the special key,
shown me the balky door handle,
shown me how to pop the top,
how to fold out the beds,
to swivel the captain’s seat
all the way round and then set up the tables.
Then he showed me how to take it all down.

I held the keys in my hand,
Maybe he saw the doubt in my eyes,
the doubt that I would remember much.
There’s one more thing, he said.
He fished this notebook out of the glove box,
he gave it to me.
I flipped a few pages, noticed how a few entries
were dated but all of them carried the odometer reading,
the miles more than the years,
the hundreds of thousands of miles,
he told me how he’d kept a record of things
like oil changes, and new filters, and tune ups.
“This might be handy,” he said haltingly
as if mindful of not sounding pushy.
“If you want to keep track of changes and upkeep…
and certain miscellaneous events.”
I looked up and caught the boyish grin.
He meant for me to understand what I was getting.
Miscellaneous events were part of the bargain,
to him they were selling points,
but he knew I was not like him and he said,

”Bring it to me whenever you need help.”

I chose to believe that we would be luckier than that,
that everything would work fine until the day we sold it,
as if luck were nothing more than the absence of difficulty.
It’s embarrassing now to remember
that I ever confused such cramped and fearful feelings
as having anything to do with the blessings of good fortune.
I needed teaching…though I thought at the time
that all I needed was a camper van.

The little book he gave me was a testament
containing the truth as he had come to know it –
things wear out, they break, they fail, nothing lasts –
for him this meant that he was never far
from one of those moments of truth
where he would be stranded on a roadside,
perhaps alone, perhaps with his entire family,
and where he would have to cudgel his brains
and ask himself the question,
“What do I do now?”
It seemed to be an enormously diverting question to him,
an invitation to get out his tools.…

Since he gave me the little book,
I’ve made a few entries of my own.
It’s disconcerting to see a different hand on the pages.
Whenever I have the oil changed,
I enter a tiny delta symbol, just as he did,
the symbol for change.
It is everywhere on the pages of his history.
So many changes.
He knew things…how to set the timing,
how to gap points, how to seat cylinders.
There’s something else he knew -
how put yourself on the road,
how to put yourself in the way of chance,
how to put things in perspective.

I wasn’t there when he took the family every week
teeth chattering up to Anthony Lakes in the winter,
or when they broke down at 10,500 feet
on Red Mountain Pass and had to be towed,
or when they broke down in the desert.
I wasn’t present, so I don’t know
exactly what he did at those moments.
All I know is what he wrote in the history -
there are delta symbols stretching out like mileposts
as far as the eye can see.
He never stopped changing things,
never stopped believing he could keep it running.
And I know one thing that he didn’t do –
he didn’t sell. He didn’t sell. He held on to it.

By the time I came along, he had retired, he had grandchildren
and a hankering to be with them.
He laughed when he told me that he had offered the bus
to his kids, now grown up, but they had declined
as he had known they would. He enjoyed remembering…
but he knew how things change.
Why would they want to freeze all over again in the winter,
bake once more in the summer,
be buffeted by wind and trucks rushing periliously past?
Why would they want the bus unless he came with it?
The bus made no sense without him.

And now he’s gone.
I try to imagine how it feels for his loved ones
to be stranded by his passing.
I remember my own road trips suddenly gone awry,
the brusque surprise of sudden change,
my own receding sense of calm and
the encroaching anxiety that I would never get
to wherever it was I thought I was going.
In my extremity I remember being visited by the recurrent thought,
half panic, half transcendent,
“We can’t stay here forever.”
It helps me to imagine him seeing us in our predicaments,
I imagine that smile and him waiting expectant and optimistic
for one of us to take his part and to nod as if to say
that this too is part of the adventure.
He’d probably think to himself, “Huh, what do we do now?”
even as he got on his back and slid underneath
for a closer look...and later,
another entry in the book.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I knew this would happen. I found this poem on of my blog posts from six years ago and couldn't leave it alone. So this version is different from the original posted one. I can't remember which poet said this (Donald Hall?) but poems are never finished; they are merely abandoned.

by Kevin Cahill

Bedtime brings decisions,
sometimes it is the red velvet dress,
but it can just as easily be
the taffeta number with puffy sleeves,
or the flowery one with shoulder straps.

And that’s not all -
I tell him that he has to take off
the ballet slippers or the black taps
or the clear plastic pumps
because nobody wears shoes to bed -

nobody,  not even his big sister,
who is already down to her underwear.
He will follow suit, but first
he raises his ever-handy plastic sword,
he is the very picture of liberty herself.

Later on,  in bed alongside my son,
I regard the way his hands clutch my wrist
hard on his naked chest, soft on his cheek.

I hardly know my own hand;
it looks dismembered and disowned;
it looks too large against him;
it looks like some veined talisman,
and his small hands holding it
and me look nothing like my own.

Bedtime brings decisions;
I shift nearer the edge,
the springs groan,
his eyes remain closed, but
he squeezes  hard, pinning my wrist
hard to his heart as if to ask
where do you think you’re going?


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

After Everything That Has Happened

Another poem that I wrote and posted in March of 2006.

After Everything That Has Happened
by Kevin Cahill

I think I am awake
alone when I hear her heels
drum along the floor.
I fold up the newspaper
I look instead into her eyes -
it could be anything -
what, I wonder, is going
to be today?
last night I didn’t dream, she says.
in silence
I wonder, what it is
she hadn’t dreamt of

she clambers up
takes a pen and
starts to draw
sometimes in the narrow
white margins
and sometimes over the words
over the headlines
over the captions
and over the photos
over everything that
has already happened
she seems to watch her
own hand as if it were
a potato bug crawling across
the floor. I think,
what are you dreaming now?

after a while
I ease out from under
her bare knees,
I slip into
the kitchen,
someone should make
she’ll be hungry
when she wakes up.


Monday, April 09, 2012


I've decided to capture some of my poetry on audio. I've begun by going back to my earliest blog posts from about six years ago.

by Kevin Cahill

One day I opened the door -
you were there -
to say I had been expecting you
would be like saying
I always knew
the difference between being
lucky and simply being
where I was.
But at that moment I couldn’t
imagine being anywhere else

I keep opening the door
hoping to conjure you,
to say that I am disappointed
would be like saying
the difference between finding
a door and you behind it
is nothing more than
a matter of time.
But right now I can’t
imagine expecting anything else.


Sunday, April 01, 2012

Orchid redux

In an earlier post, I published a version of this poem , Orchid. It appeared however in a counter intuitive format which required that the reader scroll to the bottom of the text and read his way up to the end of the poem thus offending nearly all normal reading instincts (at least for readers of English) and frustrating even the most sympathetic readers. Here's a slightly revised version in the customary format. I've also a link to an audio recording of yours truly reading the poem. 

Orchid by Kevin Cahill

the beginning,
early it comes,
a slender stem,
an upturned brush
dipped in harlequin hues,
demurely rapt in plasm,
at length,
an orgasm of spreading petals,
lavish, gaudy, yet graceful,
a long ravishing run to the end,
in full season,
laden, lilting, lovely,
beyond any reason,
then at length,
the slow, garish curtain,
unseamed, unstemmed, undressed,
and depressed underground by callous hands,
a dark brown bulbous sun,
razed and set,
buried just deep enough
in the credulous earth,
less living now,
inert, hardcased,
more death like now,
then tendrils demented by dark,
interred in dirt, innately infested and inseminated
inside the underground,
out they come barely born,
beetling the air,
their dyes all cast,
a fancy in waiting,
just so,
a perfect vanity,
up – wordless,
pitched perfectly,
tuned by time absolute –
and all for nothing,
only this,
the coming out,
out pour all things,
all things uproot,
they leave to stem no tide,
neither sun nor moon,
rather husband the earth below,
a little moment shouldering an infinite empire,
bowed head, crowned and cracking,
now and forever out of time,
always coming,
always dying,
always too early
it comes,
the end.