Jim Henle


it is three forty in the morning and a robin has begun to sing
I can hear it over the whirring of the fan I use
to soften the sound of trains and traffic
I can hear the robin singing nearby in the dark
or in what darkness there is in the city where it is never quite dark
and one is never quite alone and I am waiting outside the door
of my once therapist’s office where there was a white noise box
only it was not gentle like this fan it had a hard gargle
like a geiger counter at a radium dial
and over the gauzy roar I could hear the sobbing
and keening and shrill complaints of the patient
who preceded me a fellow sufferer like the robin
who sings to no one at an early hour
unexpectedly in the dark
and there was some kind of extraordinary
silence inside that office that did not come from me
and did not reach into my whirring mind but I felt it there
and I think it was the afterglow of the other patient’s
outpouring a woman whom I never saw except
her stylish shoes since I kept my eyes
averted in a magazine when she would slip out
through the waiting room under the sound shroud
of the noise box and the unseen robin has stopped singing
and in the morning I may see its apricot swell out the window
but now my mind is still whittling the stick of itself down


                                                               –Meteorite Crashes Through Ceiling and Lands on                                                                            Womans Bed [NY Times October 14, 2021]

What followed the fireball in the night sky was the hard thing, like a paving stone
flung in a Parisian rage. Or a fastball high and inside, head-hunting, soaring skew
like a tooth flying loose from a gravitational sucker punch.   In 2020, an Indonesian
coffin maker was startled by a 4.4-pound meteorite that came through his roof. 
Is God a comedian? As Mike Tyson said, everybody has a plan until
they get punched in the mouth. 

This time the stone missed, spraying drywall on a woman’s head
and landing next to her on the pillow. Was this karma, Ms. Hamilton of BC?
Ive lived through this experience, and I never even got a scratch. So
all I had to do is have a shower
and wash the drywall dust away.” Along with space dust.

God, because you missed, there must be a meaning.  Where
did that rock come from?  Panait Istrati, most obscure
of writers, Romanian vagabond du monde:
It’s such a long path from the hamlet of Baldovinesti
to the City of Lights! When I measure the distance I covered,
I have such pity for myself. When does a rock
become civilized?  Help, I’m a rock!
Chicxulub, Tunguska, Vredefort.

What a cold coming this was.  Wouldn’t you think someone
was out to get you? That some astounding malevolent bird
dropped a bit of cosmic shine on your pillow?  That some mule
of fate wanted to kick you in the head?  Some drone pilot sicced
an MQ-9 Reaper on your suspicious quietude? Wouldn’t you think
there’s a meaning?   

We talk about the odds of it.  Oh probability, you are our Milton,
reconciling the ways of God to man.  Probability and a warm shower
might do that. But Halyna Hutchins said she came from the Arctic Circle
surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines before she was killed
in Hollywood by a prop gun with a real bullet.
Tell me about your trajectory.  Tell me about the odds.

Note:  All italics are quoted directly from the NYT article referenced in the title, except: the
Halyna Hutchins, quote – from NYT Oct. 23, 2021; Panait Istrati (C’est un si long chemin, du
hameau de Baldovinesti
à la Cité-Lumière!  Quand je mesure la distance parcourue, j’ai tant pitié
de moi.
) from Pour avoir aimé la terre; and the Mothers of Invention Help I’m a Rock!

Jim Henle                            

Jim Henle lives in Jamaica Plain, MA. His poems and translations have appeared in Salamander, Consequence, Cambridge River Review and elsewhere.