upon learning of my cancer diagnosis
For three days the full moon,
a white rose, sleeps in the black petal sky
and the birch sheds its overcoat of leaves...
a lonesome inscription for day's end.
The garden gate creaks above swirling sprays
of twigs and dying daffodils,
but, there are these winds that carry me away.
Clouds rise, heavy with dark delirium,
the northern stars stone-still hang overhead.
The tracks of my years run non-stop
as I shiver, in the evening's gloom,
while leaves murmur, hinting of another world.
What distant journey pushes me towards darkness?
Will my winter come this year?
God, could You not find some use for me
for I am Your silent splendor--
swept with Your voice that sears
like gypsy songs above the shadowy streets.
Even in these raw autumn days
I wish to look in human eyes forever,
but, that may not be just what You wish.
If not, then raise me up with You,
You, who first kindled love within my heart,
then send the angels to put out the sun,
and I, turning from this nameless dark, will go,
resisting not these winds that carry me away.
Who is it
At the edge
Your mind incapable
As always too focused
On usual scenes
Whoever it is
Drifts like mist
Out of a corner
Of the invisible eye
It's no more then
Than the moon again
To the end
The heart within
Has never learned
You can not have
A bullet just flies
It has no eyes
It doesn't care
When he pulled the trigger,
with such vigor,
did he know
would be bent,
from the shell that he spent.
When he took aim,
did he know your name.
That you were far
too young to die,
staring up into the sky.
you'll never grow old,
as you lay there so cold.
As all around,
soaks the ground.
Oh what sorrow,
for there is no tomorrow,
my dear child.
I feel my pain turn to anger,
my anger into hate.
it's wrong I can't wait.
the day comes,
when he too,
feels this pain.
life ends in vain.
A bullet just flies
It has no eyes
It doesn't care
it's going ....
This September light
burns so fierce before the slowing of the rays
In these great arms of sun I lie
before the dark
before the winter night
This autumn crackles with my life
This knife-like light
It wakes that sleeping hound, my heart
before the chilly shadows of the night
This September light
pours longer than the rain
in silver flood of memory
to show me windows opening on trees
and rivers wild and bright
before the smoke
that dims the shedding roses of the light
(DuPage Valley Review, 2008)
I set her luggage on the curb
as she steps out of the car,
then hug her slim, confident body,
feeling the weight of her head on my shoulder
the way she used to fall asleep
when I rocked her twenty years ago,
colicky and tired, possessed
by sudden calm, the dead-heaviness
of her slumber wrapping my neck in silence,
her small snores whistling in my ear.
This is what goodbye feels like:
she pulls her green nylon suitcase
through sliding airport doors,
her dark, straight hair tangled
in the Burberry scarf and brown coat collar
where I have just buried my face.
She turns to wave.
(Published in Not A Muse: The Inner
Lives of Women. A World Poetry Anthology.
Haven Press, 2009.)
out of the mire
your mind draws me
till I'm reeling
like a fish on a pole
a spavined sprat or a mundane minnow
sometimes a fabulous angelfish
knocking you out with my fibulous wings
but you're intellectual
and I am dumb to
o p e n m y m o u t h
your rarefied air
you let me go
in a flurry of color and fins, flash
into your mind
splash your dun brown walls
FIRST PLACE winner: Chicago Poetry Summer Contest, 2007
Oh if I were to live for just the spring
If that was my only hour
What would I be worth remembering
Better than the plum tree flower
I am the first of the blossoms to appear
Like the first of light to break the long winter cast
Like the first of song birds you will hear
On the morning after a season past
My scent among the lilacs and lilies stand
Is like the Siren's song to men's amour
My blossom among the fruit trees grand
In the tales oriental lore
And like Solomon's glory for that day
Babylon's gardens of wonder and fame
On sienna branches bursting with white array
I am the herald of all spring's acclaim
Once in a while it's useful to fly
over Kansas and points west.
Greens and browns
paint a landscape puzzle
plentiful in another time
before spiring glass and steel
knit together by endless concrete
peppered with parking meters
too small to glimpse
from my cabin window
and too distant to hear
far from fresh air
that still blows over
the last prairies and farms
through the clouds.
Driven to please false gods
Seeing beyond shades
Feeling, knowing much too much
Traveled by every man
April brings a stirring to things thought long dead,
to skeleton-like branches hanging overhead.
April brings a stirring.
She is not always amiable in her celestial display.
With silver slashes and tumultuous crashes
her heavenly ablution gives way.
April brings a stirring, an awakening to things thought dead.
She pours torrents of water on mounds of thirsty, fractured clay
and drenches newly-weaved nests that within the fingered boughs lay.
While down below squirming worms wiggle in puddles of reflected grey
and robins breakfasting on mats of greenish hay.
April brings a quickening to things above and below.
Together with Mother Nature she puts on a grand show.
Yet in truth neither have sway
for it is Father Creator who authors nature's play.
and I almost didn't notice
today was better, less
consumed by pain and terror.
When I awoke, still in bed,
for a little while I wished for
tender and unhurried sex.
Suddenly cancer wasn't a nightmare,
nor a frightening intruder. It's become
a foreign cousin, here to stay the year.
I got up, shuffled through a little
housework, paid some bills. Opened
the blinds to let the sun into my heart.
Today I kept down lunch, on a hunch
chose tomorrow's menu. Let myself
want to live again.
(Third Place in ISPS Free Verse category
in 2007, published Ocober 20, 2008 in
ON CHRISTMAS EVE THERE'S SOMETHING WONDERFUL
OF THE APPARITION OF THE VIRGIN MARY SO COLORFUL
BEHIND THE WATERFALLS AT WILLIAMSPORT INDIANA
IN MY SPECTRAL POEM THAT I CALL MY VICTOIANA
A WARM DECEMBER NIGHT SHE'S THERE SMILING AT
SHE'S WAVING HER HANDS IN TIME TO THE MUSIC'S
COMING FROM A CHOIR IN A CHURCH THAT IS NEARBY
LAUGHING AND MOVING NATURALLY TO THE SOFT LULLABY
THEN SHE SAID,"IT'S CHRISTMAS GO OUT AND SING
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JESUS OUR WONDERFUL NEW
HAVING SAID THAT SHE ROSE HIGH ABOVE THE WATER
AND DISAPPEARED IN THE SKY LIKE MILK AND WATER
I REALIZED IT WAS A DREAM FROM THE COSMIC RAY
IT WAS WONDERFUL TO SEE ON CHRISTMAS DAY
THAT SPARKLED ON THE WATERS OF THE WABASH
IN WHICH THE MYSTICAL ROSE CAME TO DELIVER
A MESSAGE OF PEACE AT CHRISTMAS IN THE TOWN
OF WILLIAMSPORT THAT SHE GAVE ME TO WRITE
OH, MY SUPERNATURAL MOTHER I SEE FROM HEAVEN
I WISH YOU'D TAKE ME WITH YOU AT CHRISTMAS
UNCLE ERNIE DECEMBER 25, 2008
Black, red, ashy grey:
The colors of death and slow decay
Green, lime, navy blue:
The colors of spring that grow anew
Gold, bronze, silver steel:
The colors of fortune that appeal
White, pink, tawny clay:
The colors of life soon fade away
Written from Florida
I chased my nephew with a giant crayola crayon,
Then we hopped into my sister's van.
We were off to the airport to Florida we'd go
Leaving Island lake and Chicago
We got in a bus to get to an airplane
The kids were nervous on the bumpy lane
But we got through security just fine
We were going where the sun does shine
Ryan looked out the window at taxicabs
While my sister got food and picked up the tab
Then at the airport our flight got delayed
So far, the kids weren't afraid
Something went wrong with the engine on the plane
So they got another one into the lane
Instead of our plane departing at one, it was three
I tried to practice some serenity
They suddenly didn't have a pilot to fly
My sister looked at me and started to sigh
They sent in a crew coming from Cancun
I'm feeling like a character in a cartoon
So we get on the delayed flight and my nephew started crying
My nephew is four and he's afraid of flying
We get him on the plane while it's on land
We take off in the air and he holds my hand
He's full of fear, but when it's all done,
He happens to say, "That was fun!"
The next day in Florida, I hear my nephew echo,
"Look, Uncle Mark! I see a gecko!"
On our porch a little lizard is there,
In Florida, they are everywhere.
We go swimming, go to the pier,
Where sunshine and seagulls are near
And in the pool, my bathing suit broke
Turns out I was the "butt" of the joke!
And in the park, my nephew rants
"Oh look! I'm really scared of the ants!"
Then on Thursday, a new nightmare evolved,
A mystery that couldn't be solved.
On Wednesday night we ate at a place called Toojay's,
The food was good, better than okay.
But my sister discovered the next day
She left her movie camera at Toojay's.
In tears, she feared it was lost forever
And that it might be returned never
We went in, but it seemed it was gone for good
Why someone took it was not understood.
The film contained my nephew's 4th birthday
Why did someone steal it from Toojay's?
But then they called, and it was found hidden
We went and got it, and all was forgiven.
Then my mother was missing a bill
She thought she sent it, at least until
She opened a garbage bag and there it appeared
This vacation was getting quite wierd!
The kids started getting antsy on the vacation
I wondered if I could go the duration
I heard it snowed back home and so
I'd enjoy Florida then back to Chicago.
After more trips to swimming pools
We'll be returning on April fool's!
I guess I'll be returning to colder places
But I will see familiar faces
And know that my family is more extended
It's really everyone I've befriended!
The sound jostles my afternoon,
wavering, coughing and moaning
from across the way
with an occasional thump
heralding tree chunk
meeting half-frozen ground.
Old age has caught this stately oak,
leaning perilously over my neighbor's house
as though wanting to join her brethren inside
who were installed thirty years ago
after being torn
from their foreign forest home.
She must be seventy plus years old,
having survived dodgeball between farmland and strip mine,
as she observed her fading forest become an enclave
of asphalt, shingles, and grass
deprived of chlorophyll by her shade.
She gives up her limbs gracefully,
the tree man scampering up and out and back
while the wavering moan
and the occasionally thump
lull me into tomorrow
when all the trees will be gone
and the humans will be pallid
as once was the grass.
She walks like an empty wrapper
in cold unsteady wind
brittle and fragile sorrowful
gashing the glacier
of her countenance
shatters on broken mirrors
in her eyes
life goes on for others
but not for her
nor her son
taken from her so quickly
the hardest part of waiting
for time to heal our wounds
are the days at the beginning
when everything's in ruins
but she knows better
in blizzards where her mind goes
where her trance flows
that life will never be easy
nothing will ever be easy
never or ever again
Somewhere deep in her core
boils vile anger
a river of lava it rolls
to her shore
a bell in a typhoon it tolls
but release can stand outside the door for now
outside the gate
beyond the silence
wait for her heart
to find its roar
In the meantime
she can't quite imagine
any thing worth caring for
she puts one foot
in front of the other
for a fall
this long bitter winter
has eons until the thaw
there is something
about the term
that echoes in our bodies
it is troubling
should be troubling
and yet until it hits home
until it is your job that is lost
your house on the auction block
your children with no place to sleep
it is unreal
like those old
black and white
from the 1950s
where the children
duck and cover
hide beneath a wooden desk
to escape the force
of an atomic blast
we always seem to believe
are something read about
in history books
that lurks around
the next bend
Life is not the same
since the wolf showed his face.
I no longer dally
along the path picking daisies,
finding sheep or dogs
in the nimbus clouds,
whistling the song of robin
or cardinal. Seldom
do I traverse the route alone
and never at night. He comes
in my dreams, his hot breath
on my neck, or on grandmother's,
his cackling laughter, his leer
saying more than his lips,
his sharp teeth ready to cut holes
in my sanity. At home, sheep,
goats, even my own border collie,
take on some aspect of the elongated
chin, deep-set eyes, teeth or tongue
of that wolf. Though safe, I shudder.
(First published in Homestead Review)
The morning is cool, quiet,
set perfectly in place
and her eyes are filled with it.
She kneels down,
bend the silky petals
of her favorite flower.
Time is a deific ox
pulling her life forward, steadily
and her eyes are splintered by it.
She stands up,
hears a starling
stream music from its breast;
today it will find a mate.
With two fingers across her wrist
and a mild concern in her heart, she thinks
Where does the beauty of a flower go when it dies?
(From his chapbook Selected Poems 2004-2007).
The drought has come,
‘Neath prairie sun,
And over the landscape wide.
My lungs are parched,
Hot days are harsh,
When will it ever subside?
No summer's song
Cause crops are gone,
The heat has takin' my pride.
The sun has won
My journey's done,
No clouds o'er my grave will glide,
So bury me deep
Where heat won't reach
And the sun can't tan my hide.
She was a good daughter, an agreeable lass,
did her share of the laundry and watered the grass.
She would go to school early, get home right on time,
had a sweet disposition, some called it sublime.
Just an average student, neither brilliant nor slow,
though she worked hard backstage for the drama club show.
Went to college nearby and worked summers at Sears,
came to live back in town where she met Bill Compeers.
They were married in church, honeymooned at the shore,
bought a house in the suburbs that they worked to restore.
In a while had a family, first a girl then a boy
and of course as expected, called them her pride and joy.
She would visit the doctor and dentist when needed
but was glad when the othodonture was completed.
Always trying to be the way good people should,
flashing signals when turning, parking just where she could.
When the flag passed, saluted, heard the anthem, arose,
voted each presidential but for whom, no one knows.
She subscribed to three magazines, watched evening news,
once a week saw the movie that got good reviews.
Every month she'd sit down and go over accounts
where she'd ratify checking and bank card amounts.
Her opinions were standard, her passions mundane.
She was part of the mainstream, her thinking quite plain.
When at war she'd support it, when at peace she'd applaud.
When calamity happened, it was surely from God.
Then she'd cluck and sigh sadly while shaking her head,
lock the windows and doors and go safely to bed.
The perfect poem isn't written with a pencil or pen,
it's from a message that comes from within.
Every one of us has words of insight,
some bring sadness and others delight.
The form that we use to display our inner self,
can lead us to happiness and maybe some wealth.
Yet, wealth doesn't always have to be monetary gain,
chasing the almighty dollar can drive you insane.
Many die and go to their grave without a dime,
leaving beautiful verses that become famous in time.
Everyone's an artist in a particular way,
whether with paintings or simple words that they say.
There's many ways for one to shine through,
with all the talents that humanity can do.
But, fortune and fame aren't the only things artists bring,
sharing their hearts souls and minds creates an infinite thing.
I ask how eyes know when to wake
and lovers, when to love,
how engines feel when pulling trains,
why planets need to spin.
Does every point in cosmic space
touch every other point?
Can money buy creative thought?
Is dark the price of light?
Does every pain result in gain?
Does living have a goal?
And what's left out when parts fall short
of summing up the whole?
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