and left behind a plucked sound and a steely resonance that still smells of lavender and wheat. There is only the question of these fingers that may have walked here. They may have. They may have plucked strings and caused a resonance. They may have left behind a steely sound like a plucked guitar leaves behind a scent of lavender and wheat, and a kind of shimmer because the woman is not alone even if she is lonely in her loveliness and he has plucked what could be an exquisite guitar and she is drinking a tepid cup of black coffee and the room is lavender and the drapes are lavender and the table is draped in lavender drapes except for the boxed long-stemmed red roses because roses are long-stemmed and red when boxed in a white box and the lipstick on the rim of the cup of coffee is red and something will give it all away how the fingers walked across her arm like fingers walk across a strung guitar and make a sound of color and a color of sound not at all predictable like something abandoned still holds the scent of wheat. She too will hold the scent of him and the resonance of that sound that escaped her throat, that cry that is still lonely in its loveliness plucked from her throat while constellations pass overhead she cannot see because of those fingers, that plucked sound.
St. Patrick's Day is coming, beauty will be seen,
pretty soon, everything you see will be green.
Green is the salad bowl; green is the dollar bill,
green is "the day the earth stood still."
Green is the color between blue and yellow,
green-the color of the envy of Othello.
Green-evoked by the lights of Cyan,
green-like the Irish man O'Brien.
Green-wealth, merchants and bankers,
green-the seaweed surrounding anchors.
Green-Mona Lisa's clothing, her costume,
green-grapes of wrath we all will consume.
Green-the environmental party;
green-our fatigues from the army.
Green-the card for the Latino,
green-the money of Al Pacino.
Green-what complements magenta,
green-the leaves of the pimenta
Green-the rough skin of a toad,
green-the last pub on the road.
Green-topic of rhyming couplets;
green-eye color of quintuplets.
Green-color of Playdo and slime,
green-would you care for a lime?
Green-could you eat your beans and peas?
green-pizza with spinach and cheese!
Green-St. Patrick's Day explosion,
green-the earth without erosion.
Green-the one we all have wanted,
green-on St. Patrick's day it is flaunted.
Green-the goblin who leaves me haunted,
green-the Irish can never be taunted!
is a blank gray slate; a thin patch
of dirty snow ribbons the road
and the trees stretch out their scrawny
hands as if longing for Spring's
rich touch of green.
I throw off depression's shawl.
Someone has said, to each time
its season. I pay attention
to how things turn and in the turning
I notice a feeling of peace flowing
through me like a river, my well-being
crescendos like ocean waves crashing
on and on, blessings flow uncountable
like grains of sand.
Looking up, I see today's winter sky.
Looking in, I see the work of hands hidden from me.
My own hand laid the foundations of the earth.
In that world there were no Lost Girls.
To be lost, somebody had to miss you
in the place you came from, want you
to come back from elsewhere, need you
not as a daughter,
as a mother,
but as a creation of God in your own right,
a One whose specific absence was felt.
In the world the Lost Boys came from,
there would never be a word for lost girls.
She has seen the window
endure the redbird's
relentless mirror-match assault
against its scarlet reflection,
and the synchronized
retaliation from the other side
by her well-fed feline,
whose nature still springs
toward the flutter of feathers.
In this clash
the peaceful pane
does its best never to break
before the house erupts
with the noise of boys,
this mother sits at the sill
with a cup of coffee.
She watches the redbird
on a maple limb;
reflects on the clear lessons
of a window.
(from Encore Prize Poems 2018)
early in the morning
my wife awakened me
telling me there was a visitor
at our back door
I got up
and found a golden crowned kinglet
standing right outside the kitchen
looking up and down
left and right
maybe because of the sudden cold weather
or accidentally bumping onto the transparent glass door
this lost little bird
was looking for her mother
and their warm nest
I picked her up gently
and put her in a plastic box
giving her a small cup of water
and a piece of bread
shaking her head slightly
suddenly she opened her wings
and flew up toward the sky
yet hit the white ceiling
returning to the floor
she stood on the edge of the plastic box
looking straight at me
while I looked at her...
finally I picked her up and put her back
outside the door
leaving it wide open
to let her make up her own mind
before I could figure out what kind of cage to buy
or what poem to write for her
she was gone
I can totally understand
no matter how big our house is
to the one with a pair of wings
it's still a cage
I really would like to know
if she has found her mother
and her warm nest
too bad I can't think of any way
to convey my best wishes to her
but hope that she can find a leaf
to scribble down the messages with her beak
and send it to the wind that will carry it
to the front of our back door
the very spot where she was standing the other day
Is true love built on compassion
or what it takes to be kind
or merely a soul reaction?
It might be based on passing fashion,
imagination of the mind,
a biological reaction,
opportunities for passion,
family ties or vows that bind,
a gripping heart-felt reaction.
Where the source of strong attraction
pheromones might whisper to remind,
it's a mystery reaction.
Surely love is not a fiction
something we seek until we find
chest-swelling lasting reaction.
There may be quarrels or friction
deciding if a love is blind.
Is true love built on compassion
or merely a soul reaction?
So long ago, our Dearest God, did look into far empty space,
And He did see a vastness, void of life - which He could not embrace.
Then God did Breathe upon a dark and lifeless matter, which did spark.
He gave His Gift of Light, the Sun, so warm and bright and very stark.
The golden sun, now brightening the once dark sky, a Godly Deed,
Did shine upon some void and empty rocks which circled sun - own speed.
Now, God did Tear, for joy - His Teardrops making water - His Life Source,
He then considered Work and Knew that must now have, a future course.
He was not satisfied, for God saw planet missing Love, His Key.
He, now was ready for His Gifts of "living creatures" - as trustees.
Upon this sphere, He Blew His Breath, gave life to - Beings - God's Great Love,
Made insects, fish and mammals, plants and birds - abundance from Above.
Great colors, liveliness and pleasing scents, bestowed to Earth, God sent,
He now was pleased and knew that His Pursuit was Gracious, and Well Spent.
He looked upon His Work and saw that it was Fine and very Good,
And God was Pleased, for He did Give - the Right of Birth - of Motherhood.
And God's own Thoughts that "life" is given freely, to respect, enjoy.
For Motherhood does bring great love, for all new-born, with caring joy,
Our Mother Earth, God's Gift, needs love from all, with tenderness and care,
T'was meant that Earth stay beautiful, for all to live, enjoy, and share.
Our Mother Earth, so strong, but yet, so delicate needs gardeners,
The need for maintenance is needed daily - void of wanderers.
Our home, this globe, was given with God's Blessings and His Godly Love.
Made man in Image - to respect, in peace - His Work - with God Above.
The Earth's mankind is filled with gifts of wisdom and intelligence,
T'was meant that man must reign as Mother Earth's sole keeper, so immense.
And do the job, so plentiful, in Mother Earth, as gardeners,
Man must acknowledge what our God did plan - with no abandoners.
For man was chosen, representing peace for one, and others, all,
And man was touched by God's Great Hand, and heard Dear God's Great Voice, His Call,
Becoming gardeners of Earth, our home, our rock, dear Mother Earth,
Will strengthen one in knowing God's most Treasured, Honored, Sacred Worth.
Sweet Mother Earth, God's prized bestowment, of all life, we honor you,
And proudly so, we'll be your gardeners, with love, so pure and true.
With humbleness, we'll strive for lovely Mother Earth's, deserved - finesse,
To care for you, your gifts of life, so lovingly - in God's Caress.
or if Congress met on a corn field and members' homes
were built next to broccoli farms,
if their children's schools bordered on apple orchards
or the offices of the EPA were set down in alfalfa country
and crop dusters spread chlorpyrifos while they met,
bringing on headaches, nausea and asthma
or if the children born with brain deficits
due to prenatal exposure from a near-by orange orchard
were their grandchildren,
if the air conditioners at Dow Chemical
ingested chlorpyrifos drifting from soybean fields,
circulated them, and board members suddenly
began coughing, could not breathe and were rushed
to a hospital emergency room just in time—
or a few minutes too late—to save their lives
or if their own children breathed in drift
from vineyards or played in creeks where the drift settled
or were farmworkers exposed to pesticides week after week
as they labored to provide food for their families
or their grandchildren suffered irreparable brain damage
because they were close to a golf course when it was sprayed
then Dow Chemical would have ceased making chlorpyrifos
or the EPA would have banned it decades ago, and not granted
another delay in the decision-making process at the request of Dow
or Congress would have acted or the President would appoint
an Environmental Protection Agency head
who would act immediately to outlaw chlorpyrifos.
(First published in Prairie Light Review)
On a ship sailing north,
away from my father's workbench,
I straightened the leftover boards
and nails and tools.
He had always praised my neatness.
On the deck I was alone for good.
Far away into the night
I lost all time, mesmerized
by the dark, churning waves.
Storm clouds moved in overhead
and covered up the stars,
rolling, shaping into an angry bear.
The clouds banged together
and the bear stretched open its mouth
and growled, white streaks of anger
flashing across the midnight sky.
I pulled my slicker tight around me
and gripped the railing as the ship battled the waves.
Large chunks of fur and teeth and bone,
broken off from the bear,
hovered over the ship,
changing, forming into smaller pieces,
then smaller still.
When the black rain hit, I felt a claw reach down
and slash into me with its cold, steely fierceness.
My shoulders and back bore the weight
of the blunt shock of the cold, calculating,
and very personal impact of the growling rain.
For 11 minutes this torture continued.
Then the bear closed its eyes and mouth,
dispersing into the night sky.
The waves ceased their crashing
and the ship steadied.
I uncurled my frozen fingers
from their grip on the icy railing.
I bent down, said a prayer,
and began straightening the leftover boards
and nails and tools again.
She pinned them inside
a plastic container,
butterfly next to butterfly.
Their names scribbled in ink
by science category.
Nothing familiar, like Judy or Mike.
Pinned them to special paper.
But over time
their wings dried out
and eventually, fell apart.
All this, so one day
she could remember
trapping butterflies in her net,
taking them home for display
far from their fields
of freedom, and now sorry
for the ones
that didn't get away.
Some burn like wildfire
Protesting the coming of Shedding,
Saying, "Look at me,
I'm bright and I'm worth keeping."
Others slowly fade, accepting their fate.
They simply shrug and wiggle
Then let them all fall.
While I... I blush at the thought of
My imminent nakedness next to you.
I guess that's why the gum trees scream
Until their leaves turn bright red and shine.
What stunning images to keep
So when you see them nude in the winter,
You'll have alternate pictures in mind.
I've always envied you, Evergreen,
Standing still, strong-willed, unchanged.
The Cold does not touch you
The way it touches me and my friends.
Envy me? But I do you.
Your turning chartreuse, golden, amber, violet.
You get to wear bright crowns and gowns
While I wear the same all year round.
What happens after Fall is what I want most,
When you flaunt your sturdy trunks, your lovely arms,
Standing proud, true uncovered beauties.
While I'll be heavy and droopy blocking the light,
When the Cold brings his white coats,
You wear them elegantly, sparkling as
You let the moonshine and sunlight pass.
Those are the images I keep
For when the Warm comes back,
For when we're all green and boring.
On the prairie
with faraway whistles
I feel the pipe waves,
pipe dreams of youth,
see the whale's eye,
and coastal mountains.
Sunrise, my sacred place,
where sea touches sky,
steams my pores,
brushes my back
in the ebb
of another life.
It's such a magical moment
A rhyme comes together sent
By a haunting melody's lament,
To be a wonderful blessing of
Many thoughts and ideas of love,
Only Heaven knows from hence
It all began from a sixth sense,
Take a page of white lined paper
With an Ink Pen and the Creator,
Who gave a kiss of inspiration
A soul that was looking for salvation,
The obsession of the Mystical Rose
Without any thorns of a lovely Pose.
A muse of stanzas of adoration
For a tower of Ivory's advocation
Such is a gift of poetry's creation,
In oration of a heart's aspiration
For light and dark and earth and trees,
Living creatures, plants and seas,
For sun and moon and stars above,
The evidence of Your great love.
I praise You, Lord, for all You've made,
Your awesome genius on parade.
Your perfect law revives my soul,
Your righteous precepts make me whole,
Your clear commands enlighten my eyes,
Your sure decrees make me wise.
I praise You, Lord, for Your Word is true.
I know I can always depend on You.
As far as the east is from the west,
You removed my sins and I am blessed.
For mercy and grace, unmerited favor,
For loving me enough to send a Savior.
I praise You, Lord, for hearing my plea
And putting Your Spirit inside of me.
For mansions in heaven and streets of gold,
Revelations of prophecies long foretold,
For the bride of the Lamb in dazzling white,
The wedding feast and angels in flight.
I praise You, Lord, for Your Promise to me
That where You are, I will also be!
The day begins, the mask
goes on. You think you know
me, I think I know you. We've
spent a lifetime together looking
at the veils we wear, too afraid
to show each other the thoughts
spinning wildly through our minds.
Memories we've shared have sent
us to the darkest of places. Wishing
we could lean on each other, bare our souls.
Afraid I sit dropping my disguise alone,
quietly spinning my darkest thoughts
as the day shifts to a moonlit night.
As the stars take their place, I wonder
if there is anyone that knows who we
could have been? I sit quietly wondering
as the moonlight turns to darkness and the
reflection I've been watching in the window pane
begins to look like a part of myself I remember.
The day now begins with a quiet pose.
of leaves flame
their colors as the sun
draws them into
its own brilliance—
some deep cranberry
of bright red, edged
in crisp white.
But don't stop there!
Another set of leaves
are pale pink or peach,
with faint spring-green
panels, in rows
like ladder rungs.
There are lemon-yellow
ones, with edges of snow,
shooting tart flavor of that fruit
to my tongue. I painted
this plant, a palette itself,
daring me to dip my brush
into every pigment pan,
to spread the paints across
as Mother Nature designed
on one of her more
waves soft greetings
from their green whip-like
handles, bright sunlit stems
supple as the rubber sea
onions streaming ten sandy yards
away on beaches briskly swept clean
by ocean breezes and tidal vacuums.
(...won citation from Pennsylvania contest,
1st HM at 2016 NFSPS contest, and
1st HM at P&P, Chicagoland Contest 2017)
Who do you think is defending our country,
black folks — and brown —
the ones we continue to denigrate
their mothers line up at the graveyard site
with folded flags and bugles blowing
taps for them is truly the end
their sons and daughters, the sacrifice,
wrapped themselves in uniforms
saluted the colors
while we sat back and watched the news
deployed to places we'll never visit
on our luxury cruises across the seas
their children spend time when home on leave
cruising for bargains at big box stores
while we dine in comfort on wines and snacks
from boutique shops
how do we reconcile telling our children
that slavery exists - still with us, now?
A perfect day
sunny, warm, 80 degrees.
The boat was huge.
Eight hundred people.
I could feel the gentle pull
of the boat through the water.
I got a little nervous
when we sailed past the breakwater.
The Chicago skyline
retreated to the horizon.
Pleasure boats passed us
and the people waved.
We started to turn a little
and I realized
that we were still in sight
of Navy Pier.
Cruise, Part Two: For Mark
The baby-blue sky
the rippling teal-blue lake.
through the calm waves.
They squelch through the dollar store
right when it opens, tucked inside
oversized white footwear
unisex with velcro closures.
They sway back and forth
through aisles of toothpaste
and hula hoops, neither of which
they will ever use again.
Their orthotics squeak like invisible
rodents, cradling the desperate bunions,
the lost rainbows of fallen arches.
The whispered panting
of their polyester sighs
drops to the soles of their shoes.
They rock from one place to another.
Anything to avoid the promise
of horizontal stillness, to hold
eternity at arm's length, foot's length,
for one more shopping day.
I'd promised myself years ago,
clicking with officious competence
on fashionable heels at work
with all the other smart people,
that I'd never join the ranks
of those with heavy breath and
(First published in Third Wednesday)
Her words were manna.
I love the eye
she said, and I loved
her in that moment, this doctor,
who saw some part
of my body
I want to fall for my body—
to love the contusion
where right shin banged the side
of a pontoon boat,
the twin bulges at C5/C6, L5/L6,
inflammation of the eyelashes,
who knew, the left leg
out of lockstep, the talus bone
in my left ankle that's forgotten
how to flex, the right thumb smashed
in the cedar chest,
the tip sewn back on, or the scar
in my scalp where wall
met flesh and cranium, the burn
of the coccyx that keeps me
vertical or horizontal—difficult to sit,
that remorseless knot
by the right scapula, the jaw
that resists the toughness
of celery, the assemblage
of ever-tight muscles
gone rogue, command-central,
the brain that keeps shuffling
I want to be smitten.
Teach me, doctor, to love
the way you love the eye.
(First published in Rogue Agent, 2020
Before we gave names to the days of the week,
The sun was as easy as yesterday's friend,
And the moon came and went whenever it chose.
We knew all about the design of the stars,
The cadence of trees, the shape of the seasons.
Even the homeless were lovely to see
As we spent our time carousing with saints.
And so at the end if tomorrow never comes
And meaning gives way to precious moment,
We can wait for the darkness that follows the light
And dance with the rhythm of the shifting wind
As we listen to the music when the young stones sing.
One year today, Dave...
Have the catfish had you—
like a hungry man has catfish,
leaving only sharp, gleaming bones
protruding into watery air?
Someone told me a pocket of the river snagged you.
Were you just loose change?
No, you have been bought at a higher price.
Do I know you're really gone—
Surely you're going to show up some night...
Your presence could show me
God's love in whatever night I'll be wading through.
Let me thank God now
intensely for you
where you are
light in his rest.
A robin bustles around the meadow
collecting dried grass for her nest, and
rabbit hustles to construct her burrow,
digging a hidden hole lined with flax.
Tender leaves push through hard soil,
urged upward in a hidden scheme while
rose and raspberry vines start greening,
following nature's mandate unseen.
A verdant haze haloes treetops as buds
appear at the end of every branch, and
flowers emerge enchanting a forest where
yesterday's view only bare wood chanced.
(Published in Lone Stars #88)
It is time
To slow down
Watch the birds
In the meadows
Admire the flowers
In the garden
Chat with friends
In the neighborhood
Have a cup
Of hot tea
Read an amazing book
Play some relaxing music
Sing your favorite song
Go for a walk
With your loved one
Say how much you treasure
Her or him
In your life
Cherish this present moment
There is more to life
Than making it go faster
The Navy decided that I take a trip,
They gave me my orders to find my first ship.
USS Neptune was my new home,
Over the seas together we'd roam.
A story of water comes into my mind,
Norfolk, Virginia, nineteen fifty nine.
The world was at peace, no enemy in sight,
My job was to paint both day and night.
I spent my time every day,
Painting and painting Navy Haze Grey.
When work was done we all gave a cheer,
It was off to Belle's to have a beer.
It's getting dark and what did I hear?
Must paint our waterline from front to rear.
Three hundred feet long and five feet high,
From Haze Grey to water, black paint to apply.
I found a raft by the pier,
And got two mates to help with gear.
Lines were tied from raft to ship,
With roller and paint I started my trip.
They pulled me along the three hundred feet,
Within an hour our task was complete.
Next day arrived the morning sun,
My Chief showed me what I had done.
In my haste I did not see,
What the sea did to me.
It seems my raft went up and down,
A straight black line could not be found.
For a brief period of time,
The Neptune had a water line.
Yeah you guessed it, next two days,
Repainted the waterline, without the waves.
Winter with white snow-covered fields
and a peaceful falling. Sometimes stunning
when the sun streams down in an orange glow.
The wind breathes in deep
and exhales frost onto the bare branches,
creating a wonderland, pleasing to the eyes.
But at times, like a bullet, forces its way through
the silence of a cold night.
Lessons in cruelty I had learned
when his words as winter lulled me into believing
life could be beautiful. Only to cut my heart in half
with the sheer scissors of his lies. Ice hardened
over the pieces to melt slowly, drip by drip,
by another's soft-spoken words
in the warmth of his arms.
Since then, doubt has resurfaced
each and every time, bringing its icy breath.
When My Love becomes distant,
waiting for that glimmer, I prepare to watch him
shred my life.
This time into pieces too small.
Never to try again.
In search of hindsight,
"hindsight is always 20/20."
I put on my graduated lenses
At the age of eight or so,
too long ago to remember
I may have had 20/20 vision.
At the age of eight or so,
hindsight was not my concern.
And...I would not have understood the
so English, so American expression.
English American idiomatic expressions then,
not my forte.
Didn't speak English or American then.
Origin of "hindsight is always 20/20"
expression unknown, late 1800's,
mid 1900's, no one sure.
In American pioneering fashion,
I go with the flow.
I take the bull by the horns.
Come hell or high water, I proceed.
I have learned that indeed,
make no mistake about it.
"Hindsight is always 20/20"
excuses past misjudgments.
Past knowledge enriches my present.
Prescription glasses or no, I look to a
future unfiltered by lenses of any sort.
Wool-hatted, mufflered, New York readies itself for
New Year's, their muted "Hellos" sent to strangers
ensconced, as am I, in living rooms quiet as a single
shard of confetti falling through their cold air. Still,
I converge with them yearly, bear witness to this
change no one is able to see. One year concludes,
another steps up to take its place, but always, the
New Year's Eve show continues, unchanged, the globe
above Times Square counting the time in inches as it falls,
every pane of its glass skin glowing the pale gray that shines
bright as a morning star on every watched-for horizon.
We all watch as it descends, slow and cautious as a
spacecraft uncertain of its landing point. We are there in
that giddy sea of waves of welcoming arms, we are all so
full of glittery anticipation of what's ahead-- almost certain to be in
the year almost here, almost , almost ready, or almost done,
Easter lilies gladden
(and teasingly madden)
the kitchen atmosphere
as I perform and pay income tax
on vocational gettings
needs some of what
I never quite received).
Gifting, I notice,
pleases the law
and reduces the obligation.
"Give and thou shalt deduct."
As a man receives for himself,
so must he give to us all.
Around Easter tide we set right
every least account
with the mighty US
and hope no mistake
will cloud our reputation
or shrink our havings.
IRS laws embody
a sprawling neo-Bible,
rife with moral assumptions
(teeth implicit and feared)
the rich man's burden--
tradition all hard-wired.
Inexorably the Old Covenant
is infiltrating my Easter
as potted lilies
perfume my reluctance.
As for Christ, how often
I am invoking him
as these tedious tax forms
dance about under my fragrant lilies!
From Thunderbolt Blooming
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