i. Almost
A flock of grackles in the November sky
Races toward the darkening trees.
I called the dog and headed back.
Puddles in the road
Catch the almost fallen light
I stopped
My shadow resting at my feet.

ii. Before Class
I teach english to chinese immigrants.
Before class I exchange a few words with a young mother,
her young son and daughter.
The young girl is shy and stares open-eyed at me,
eyeing my strange aging face, my blue eyes and clipped white hair---
We are a rhinocerous and a tiny bird. 
She stares silently, her black eyes round and open,
capturing me completely. 
Nee jeeow shempe mingshi ? I ask-
what is your name ?   Linda she says. 
Inside her eyes is likewise a strange world to me--
a mixed world of mandarin and english.
How far apart we are,
and yet so close.

iii. Pittsburgh 1951 

My father was a big Pirates fan (remember Rosy Rosewell ?) 
so it wasn't unusual to hear a ball game playing somewhere 
on the radio. Just the sound of a mulling crowd and the 
crack of the bat, then crowd roar takes 
me back. Sometimes I will find a ball game on the radio 
and follow it because of the relaxed slow pace. 
The mulling of the crowd.
The crack of the bat.

iv. Salzburg

A vase of flowers on a table
Is touched by a spring breeze
As she opens the door and leaves for school,
Just as she opened the grand piano
Before playing a Mozart sonata
To see the steel strings
Strong and tight, not like her soft hands
As gentle as can be on the keyboard.
The hammered steel and the warm wood
inside filling the room with music,
and Mozart within the music and
the music within her being. 
But with the last note it is quiet.
I reach over and straighten an imprecision 
of the flowers.
v. Stained Glass

Breathing in, then  together,
with the first notes left behind,
and firmly the tympani adding
authority to the almost a capella
choir... eternal God.... my bass
notes supporting the beautiful soprano tones:
how wonderful, how wonderful..
the glory as in the Salzburg
Cathedral, all gold and blue 
rococco, with each  phrase, 
except I am not at all singing, 
I am listening to the chuff of the 
wind pipes, beside Jesus in the
stained glass, the pity and the 
terror and pain,as real here as my fist,
shining now in that broken light,
all voices sweetly breathing in together,
then repeating.

vi.The Theory of Providence

Far out at sea, a lone sailboat, headed
where-- who knows ? Above, a clear blue 
sea and sky I cannot touch. As 
peaceful as Eden. 
Here, Adam's shadow falls broken on 
tumbled walls-- with schoolgirls in their 
plaid uniforms, tossed like broken dolls
outside the school. Like wet sticks over 
mud.  Over all, the unbearable sadness, 
the thirst, the heat of the sun, the
cries for help. 
Far out at sea, the shadow of a gull 
passes over the sailboat.
The wind is in the sails, the waves
curl from the rudder.

- Roger Clough

Dr. Roger Clough NIST (ret.) 6/13/2013 
See my Leibniz site at

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