Curable sickness

Curable sickness
Michael Gollin
January 2013

Pinch — the Amazon rubber boots don’t fit,
rubbing raw my little toe,
and infection comes to visit.
Ssss — that smarts until
good shoes and Neosporin on Band-Aids
let new skin grow well.

Ouch — my head will explode in the high vacuum of Cusco,
massaging throbbing temples at Pachapapa.
Take water and Diamox until
next day Eureka — I’m good to go.

Ohh — my bowels turn to liquid for a day,
my life runs out, I faint,
then revived, drink and eat water and toast.
¿Donde está el baño?
Four bowls of chicken soup
(quinoa, noodle, potato and egg)
make me hungry and then
Wow — this beer tastes good.

Cough– the cold from Steve then Jim
tickles my throat and then my nose runs fast.
Sudafed early and Benadryl late,
tissue wiping and hand washing.
Then I sleep dry without drugs.
Oh it’s great to be healthy.

Forgot sunscreen in the Andean haze,
so my head is red and sore.
It peels and peels some more.
Flakes of skin fall off.
Fresh skin looks nice!

A disease can be a gift,
once you find a cure.
Bang your head against the wall
then stop to feel good for sure.


Memento Mori

Memento Mori
Michael Gollin

Dead —

No longer alive.

The dead —

All the people who once lived.

Remember the dead –

How the living relate to their origin and destiny.

We remember the dead —

A communion with family, friends, colleagues and compatriots.

Do we remember the dead?

A challenge that keeps us centered and humble.

How do we remember the dead?

The way they asked.
Celebrating the lives they led, their work, spouses, children.
Kind words, spiritual practices, grief, graves, and graveyards.
Laughter and forgetting what’s best forgotten.
Stories told, pictures taken.
Transmuting memories into new relationships and shared experience.
Homes built, wealth achieved and heirlooms passed on.
Struggles and troubles survived.
Battles waged, achievements won, institutions that live on.
Good deeds done, works published, songs sung, art displayed and athletic triumphs.
Mementos, monuments, and memorials.
The way they would want.
The way you would want when you are gone.

Bitter End

Bitter End
June 30. 2013
Michael Gollin

The Bitter End is a sweet place to be,
safely moored past the sound –-
Fly to full moon beach party,
ferry to sloop for sleep,
sail to Gorda,
then dinghy to shore
walk up the beach
and sway in a hammock.

Rested, cross the channel to Saba Rock,
island harbored in an island,
tropical space capsule,
circumnavigate barefoot in 10 minutes
if you take your time,
past 1950s Seahorse outboard motors,
cannon and anchor from the wreck of the Rhone
sharing a concrete pool with Moray eels and sea cucumbers,
tarpon gathering to the light at the wharf.

Painkiller in hand, step up to Bermuda grass lawn,
sporting a new deck built since my last time here.
Recline and look Northeast at the wind blowing waves from Spain.
We sailed out there today.
Our big boat was infinitesimal at sea.
Closer hangs my hammock, now empty,
across the water at the Bitter End Yacht Club.

A sailor’s dream.
If this isn’t paradise, well, I can see it from here.

Nothing between my head and infinity,
I lay on deck with my daughter looking up at the stars,
through shrouds and stays, spars, and massive mast
pointing straight up at the Zenith.
My sky app shows where the constellations are,
even if we can’t see them, even beneath the sea.
It knows where we are in time and space. I do too.

The best aquarium in the world is down below.
Just look.
Snorkel above or scuba within.
Garden eels play peekaboo, spotted drum with stripes,
clumsy shaped filefish,
giant hawksbill turtle rises for a breath,
but we don’t have to.
Bluebell tunicates predate vertebrates
black coral looks green to me,
waving with the countless fans.
Swim hard against the current,
and stay low.

I haul myself through the Baths,
natural amusing park.
Commerce can’t top it.
Boulders, tunnels, and pools,
Angly stairs, ramps, and ropes
Sun and shade. sand and rock,
trails past beach gooseberry and grape trees.

The rain chases me off my lounge chair,
into the ocean, not to shelter,
Surprise — I get wet.
Spoiler alert – I get dry.
I swim toward Dead Chest from Deadman cove, alive,
then shower, drip dry in the light rain.
Steady state damp.

Pelican dive bombs the surf and beaks a fish,
seagull swoops onto his back, a thief.
Pelican pecks and gulps, relieved.
But it looks bad for fish and gull.
On Beef Island beach, cute kitty begs scraps, then vicious,
claws down a gull, and torture plays it to death.
Gulls live on the edge.

We each came for different reasons,
Parents, children, and friends,
And the same – we all want to be here,
afloat among islands at sea,
adventure and challenge for fun
together in real not virtual space.

Crickets chirp, birds sing, rooster crows,
moonrise over the island hill,
behind a black cloud,
shines a silver lining,
no gold, no blue sky tonight,
rain with no rainbow.
motor running without sail,
electronic pings.
Gulls cry from the cleated dinghy,
dropping white spots that wash away
like memories.


Natural Herritage

    Natural Heritage

September 2013
Michael Gollin

Sun rays filter through green leaves.
Crickets chirr.
Gentle gnats drift above a log
and spiders’ webs shimmer, waiting.

A rivulet of water winds down
the creek bed behind me in our valley,
where I sit leaning against a tulip poplar,
reading and writing in this temple of Nature,
facing West, and waiting for the sun to set
upwards, through the canopy,
so I can break my fast with my family
and millions of others.

Every tree that ever lived,
every tree that will exist,
will drop one day,
by wind or saw,
slow or fast,
following its leaves in a final Fall.

Do not mourn them,
or not for long.
It is their fate
to reach for the sky,
then descend to the earth
as these pillars of the woods
become lumber, fuel,
or soil for new growth.

My grandparents left their distant homes
for the long crossing here
on a quest to foster a new world.
They came and went like so many more,
and lived and worked and loved
and left us to continue their journey.
On we go, gratefully.


The New River Is Old

    The New River Is Old

Father’s Day 2013
Michael Gollin

The New River is old
as the gorge it cut
through upthrust rock,
transecting Appalachian ranges,
a force before our geological time.

Flowing drop by drop through rapids and waves,
ground rock silt washes north to the Ohio,
curling west and south
to the Mississippi Delta
and the Gulf.

We join the flow for a brief ride
floating in blue rafts above grey water,
down and downward but well above the
coursing gush and rush of a valley wet and lush.

Green leaves blanket the steep slopes
soft and fuzzy except for craggy outcrops.
Trees fight to hold their grip,
roots probing cracks for life.

On command, we dig our paddles into white waves,
finding water, not air or rock,
each stroke an act of faith,
legs wedged in, holding on
and enjoying the ride.
It’s just what we came for.

None of us fall out
but, in turns, we jump in and swim.

So high above, like Heaven, the bridge appears
and arches over the take-out beach, from river left to right.
Bungee jumpers, crazed with fear,
would fall and spring back up, but no more.
On Bridge Day (not today) skydivers jump and land right here.

Today – the river flows,
like always, new and old —
and we come
and then we go.


We Will See

We will see
Peruvian Amazon, January 5, 2013

We drive from Puerto Maldonado
on dirt to Infierno
with bridges incomplete,
optimism measured in rebar and towers of concrete,
but yet no help to cross the creeks.
Big van tires tread over gapped worn planks.
Will they be there when we come back?
Says Julian, “We will see.”

In the wooden canoe sit a dozen of us and half again more,
luggage in back with 75 horsepower.
Captain stops mid-river and grabs another boat, adrift,
Rescues two ladies, 3 girls, and dreadlocked ecologist who fill our benches.
The story unfolds over days –
drunk captain, drunk passenger tipping boat, engine stopped and wouldn’t start.
Our rescuees come to Posada Amazonas for further help.
Drunks left in a canoe on the Amazon’s Tambopata river, at dusk –
We will see.

Mosquito nets and hurricane lamps,
Lights out at 9. Early to bed and up at 4.
Oxbow birds – stinky and Anis, striated heron and neotropical cormorant
White-throated toucan, and guan.
Piranhas, tiny sharp-toothed nimble to nibble the meat from our hooks.
Then, juices of copuasu, papaya, and sweet cucumber to eat.
Luis shinnies up and tosses down wild cacao fruit,
yellow skin, white jelly, says the seeds taste bad.
But I eat them, delicious, pure chocolate.
What is for lunch? We will see.

Dozens of scarlet Macaws flutter and peck up river bluff clay.
We see them from a blind, but not they.
A parade of leafcutter ants carrying green bits, and manager ants on their backs,
Loading the nest with food for the fungus they eat.
A tribe of monkeys – a second, a third – jumping through the jungle, cackling to each other.
The shaman’s farm, with ayahuasca and pari pari to make us stand up and wait.
A night walk with headlamps –what’s out there in the dark with the stars?
We will see.

At the farm, 2 women sit on the living room floor
2 feet above the hens and puppies.
And repair Stihl weedwhackers.
The rain clears and the husbands buzz the papaya field,
The first cash crop (after tourists) for a subsistence farm,
Bananas, sugar cane, rice and corn, peppers and pudding fruit/soursops
supplement the jungle foods.
How many of their 30 hectares will they use?
We will see.

Siblings by blood and marriage, nephew and niece,
we enjoy the adventure in animals, trees, water and land,
food and sights and deeds, and words – Please, just listen.
We are a family saga, a journey of love through many lives,
ours and those before.

Our threads are thin in geological time,
against the Andes’ crash and rise and exploding thrust,
the patient river swirling brown silt down Amazonian meanders.
But we weave a mighty rope.
Where will it end? Where will we?
We will see.


Going back (and forth)

Going back (and forth)

June 2013
Michael Gollin
A 35th reunion haiku sandwich


I look in your face,
and see myself reflected
now and long ago.

I look in your face,
and yours and yours.
We see ourselves
both young and old, together,
smiling at each other,
here right now,
and so many years ago —

We formed one class with
countless members,
courses, dorms, and clubs.
The first community we found
as adults–
home away from home —
was here.

Then off we went
like every class
for jobs, new friends, and love,
trouble and joy.
Life sweeps us forth.
But we go back
time and time again.

I look in your face,
And I see all of us, all
our lives, reflected.




Michael Gollin
May 2013
For Natasha

“DAD!” called the college girl voice —
I turned but she was not my daughter —
1266 caps and gowns,
tassels blue and brown,
shoes, sandals (no bare feet yet),
long brown and golden hair, and short,
rows of smiling faces glistening with relief
and pride and joy.
Do I catch a glimpse of fear,
trepidation — loss?
Their college years recede
as this timeless weekend
pageant of completion
poetically referred to universally
as university commencement

Incurable disease

Incurable disease
January 2013
Michael Gollin

I was born with a terminal disease,
Progressive and incurable.
What can I do but live with it?
And live well, as long as I am able.

One day will be my last,
But not today,
There’s too much to eat and drink
and learn and fix and say.

There’s no mystery at all,
If you look at things up close.
The truth is there for you to see,
Right before your nose.

Some things last forever,
Land and sky and sea,
But living things are born to die
Insects, plants, and me.

You, too, have the dread disease,
The one without a cure.
So we must both find joy
and live our lives, as long as we endure.

So how to live with purpose, then?
Prepare for what life brings you.
Enjoy the good, improve the bad,
And help others do so, too.