The door knocker’s clang sounded once,
startling us from Unforgotten on TV.
It was almost time to give the cats snacks
and head upstairs to bed.
I clasped the phone in my firm hand
while my husband peered into a peephole.
“Who is there?” he called out to no reply.
“It can’t be an animal that high up
and no bird would fly in the dark
and not leave a mark where it landed.”
After fifteen minutes, we ventured outside
to the long bone-white patio glowing
under an almost full moon, the tinkling
of the chimes in the slow rippling breeze,
an owl silhouetted up near the chimney
tooting his plaintive cry, and the psst psst
of tiny flying creatures. I could smell
the night jasmine releasing its bounty.
How many animals were hiding nearby
in the bushes and flowering shrubs?
Whoever rang the bell, were they gone?
I startled from a skittering behind me.
Then I saw the gecko bend from side
to side as he climbed along the stucco
from the porch light busy with insects.
Tapping my husband’s arm, I nodded
toward the unintentional culprit
who shook us from our cosey couches.
He’s outside now as usual
planting a cactus arm
that fell from its column
the watering can at his side
as it follows him over our acre.
He’s planted in the wash
sustenance and flat boulders
for the wanderers as they travel
through this land we share
with lizards and rabbits, snakes
and bobcats, quail and owls.
We’ve hosted hawks, coyotes,
a Great Blue Heron, and earlier
today in our pool and fountain
two ducks, male and female,
contemplating a nest site,
circled each other in
figure eights, the rippling
etching hearts in the water.
We sat on the lounge watching
the ducks gaze at each other
in their spinning infinities
so long that we began to hope
they would stay, then the pool
shuddered as they rose with
a whoosh, wings outstretched,
and flew over our
When I Bravely Attended My 50th High School Reunion
Beyond the gazebo I shelter under,
past the grills, the tubs of potato salad
and coleslaw, the lake shimmers
under the August sun. All those years ago
my family spent summers at a lake close by.
The same shimmer, the same sun splaying
over the water, my brother splashing
near shore in his search for bullfrogs,
our dog at his heels--loving the swish
of his tail through the water--,waves
thudding the dock when boats passed by.
Summers were the reprieve from school
where I picked my way carefully through
the gauntlet of mean girls as if the silence
of my careful moccasins in the woods
would protect me from their disdain.
Those days were fifty years ago, although
time has collapsed like a travel cup, taking
me on a trip to my past, and yet--
I don’t recognize most of these people,
their edges soft and blurred like my own,
with lopsided grins and crinkles around
their eyes lending kindness and grace
to our eager re-introductions.
Later in the afternoon, my cry catches
in my throat. There we are at the dock,
lithe with long hair in movement, our
short dresses jostled by the breeze.
I sit down so fast on the bench my knees
scream at my neglect for forgetting them.
But these girls have lined up for a boat ride.
They are not with our party, of course.
Their pontoon swerves away from us,
and we walk to our cars back into our lives.
Is It Theft if It Fills an Absence?
I saw my father palm
his attorney’s antique cane
with exaggerated pomposity
and strut down the street.
I lagged behind, praying
nobody thought me with him.
The cane flamed like a fire baton
leading our thief parade.
My thieving father could not
withstand my constant begging
to return the cane and make
me clean again, so he swallowed
dirt and unswallowed the sword
outside the lawyer’s dark door.
Only all these years later
do I suspect him of paying back
the Man for the birthright
and surname robbed from him
by his own physician father
who denied him three times.
Perhaps I did understand
elsewhere than my thoughts.
For Father’s Day that year,
I bought him a peace pipe pinned
like a butterfly to backing board,
the irony of the gift on land
stolen lost to me at the time.
When a Leaf Falls
Evenings like this set the girl humming
her toes, elbows and stomach
as if lamplight
has amplified within
and now warms her body
sending her blood buzzing through
its gridded network
Lamplight casts a golden sheen across
the coffee table
which hums, as does
the mother in the swivel chair knitting
and these aren’t the hummings
of the hi-fi
although a Nancy Wilson record
rotates its steam
like the lamplight
The father hums at his basement work bench
and it’s not the paint-spattered radio
tipping its jaunty antenna
The girl would be happy forever except
for that feeling
like a boulder held just above.
She can’t get too
as anything could unbalance it.
An extra star in tomorrow’s sky, rain
or no rain
could re-set it all.
In the morning
sun will draw dust to the coffee table.
Couch cushions will fray
in that stream of daylight.
A leaf will drop to the sidewalk
where it is crushed
Note: this last poem was originally published in my 2015 book Doll God (Aldrich/Kelsay).
Luanne Castle’s award-winning full-length poetry collections are Rooted and Winged (Finishing Line 2022) and Doll God (Kelsay 2015). Her chapbooks are Our Wolves (Alien Buddha 2023) and Kin Types (Finishing Line 2017), a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Luanne’s Pushcart and Best of the Net-nominated poetry and prose have appeared in Copper Nickel, Verse Daily, Saranac Review, Bending Genres, The Ekphrastic Review, TAB, Does it Have Pockets, Sims Library of Poetry, Pleiades, River Teeth, and other journals. She lives with five cats in Arizona along a wash that wildlife use as a thoroughfare.