I assure you that you are quite dead. You float like a wrinkled thumb, wind-kissed with rue, downstream. You drift and drift and drift; a bit of driftwood in some poor poet's dream as those white, white veils trail behind you, seaward. What liberty, then! What noise! A thousand stars ring out above you. They are celestial bells that hang from silken cords; the cries of a thousand lunatics let out of lunatic wards; the crazy songs of strange young boys with infinite eyes. And, it's true. Each star dies for you; each one; and all those young boys that will be put into earthen jars. What a waste of words and stars, Ophelia. You are quite dead.
(After Arthur Rimbaud's "Ophelia".
First published in After Hours Press, 2020)
Forty-eighth or fiftieth?
I lose track again.
Scraps of scribbling
behind the toaster
beneath the bedboard.
One moment, wordless,
pummeled by an avalanche.
Buried under divisive devices
beneath the desk, I choke on
hacking up restless syllables
parched to the tongue
too garbled to slide
onto smudged paper.
On my knees, breath spent,
I open the window for a few whiffs.
Through pine-scented sky,
hearing a warbler's refrain,
I crumple and pitch my stale gibberish.
We have been given the gift of music,
Created before there was time.
Our Holy God placed the rhythm of the universe
In melodies sublime.
Music releases a spirit of hope
And like an eagle on wings,
It soars to the very presence of God
As all creation sings.
Our voices blend in harmonies sweet
With myriads of angels above,
And the saints of the past join in to create
A mighty chorus of love.
Start the drums, the strings and the trumpet.
Let the glorious music begin.
But the very best part comes from the heart,
For the Music Maker lives within.
see your face
absent from my
body, wide awake
in heaven. Then I shall
know you more fully, even
as I am fully known. Then I'll
better fathom your beauty, my King,
and see the far reaches of your country.
That day, when I shall see you face to face,
the desert and parched land will be glad.
My wilderness will no longer
be sad. How joyful I am,
dear Lord, that I will be
like spring crocuses:
mighty bursts of
So small, Mother's frail 85 pounds,
weight and age a near match.
She sits poised on the exam table's
rustling paper, legs dangling from the edge
like a school girl. Silence.
We can't think of anything more to say,
but the extra-large man who booms
into the room has kettle-drum words,
thundering a dark diagnosis,
the terror of suffering.
No, Mother says,
she doesn't want to die a horrific death.
She doesn't want to die at all,
she tells him.
The oncologist is at the door now,
broad back to us,
when Mother adds,
I want to sing a song for you.
Softly she begins a hymn
. . . and He will raise you up
on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn . . .
The doctor stops,
pivots in the doorway,
begins to sing along:
. . . and hold you in the palm of His hand,
their unlikely duet, flute and bassoon,
filling the room with the day's
most hopeful words.
(From Common Ground)
As I 'Rock Around the Clock'
I know 'Time is on my Side'.
Listening to my favorite songs
like 'Sleep Walk' and 'Ebb Tide'.
Doing a 'Whole Lotta Shakin'
with 'Donna' and 'Mary Lou'
With 'Gloria' and 'Lucille' —
not a 'Boy Named Sue'.
While I'm 'Twistin' and Shoutin'
to a 'Travelin Band'
I'll be telling 'Long Tall Sally'
'I Wanna Hold Your Hand'.
'Chances Are' she'll 'Love Me Tender'
and get 'Misty' at 'Twilight Time'.
Just strolling down 'Moon River'
with a little 'Love Potion # 9'.
I'm sorry 'I Shot the Sheriff'
with the 'Big Iron' on his hip.
Now I'm doing the 'Jailhouse Rock'
'Singin' the Blues' — what a trip !
So when will you 'Come to Me' ?
'It's Not For me to Say'.
For it's a 'Long and Winding Road'
before we find 'True Love Ways'.
will mass reproduce themselves
to gather votes
And once in power
they will without doubt eliminate
their blood replicas
knowing full well
that they are every cell
The Stepmother club
is a complicated one.
Actually you never do belong
you just sing
There's no trophy
local chapter or clubhouse.
It isn't even a sisterhood.
You're written as evil—
There's no stepmother's day
for celebration or
awards for hard work.
There's no expiration date,
a union for complaints
or offerings of a special discount.
And, no songs of praise.
There're no pictures
of stepmoms in paintings
or tributes in books.
Just television programs
trumpeting her isolation
in being a one-woman show.
I can trace the chains of slavery
clanging against a strong cotton wind.
But instead of hearing hymns of bondage
I sway to the dismal undertones
of a bittersweet Stepmother blues.
The soundtrack of covid-19 fills the air
Sirens sound with fortississmo as the first responders pass
Bellicoso words spew from the politicians
Health care providers' distress calls crescendo
Staccato pings alert from my news app
Words describe the painful deaths con dolore
But the morning chorus calls us to reflect
The soprano cardinals hit the high notes
Prima Dona Carolina wrens air the arias
Baritone crows bring fullness to the song
Honking geese hit the low bass notes and
The downy woodpecker keeps the beat with crisp rat-ta-tat-tats
Music is still in the air
I led my nephew to the swings.
To veer off to draw some scenes.
A bridge in Wisconsin to draw
a perfect scene without a flaw.
I didn't want to leave him alone.
He could've vanished unknown.
When teenage stoners wandered by
drinking beer and getting high.
They disappeared into the woods.
To get high like teenagers would.
I felt intimidated as they approached.
It looked like they passed a roach.
Then we entered the county Fair.
The teenagers were ahead of us there.
Suddenly I began to understand.
They were the rock and roll band.
They were playing at the fair that night.
They really gave me quite a fright.
Black t-shirts menacing tattoos
A little partying with some booze.
Grimacing teens riding bikes.
Smoking joints that were spiked.
How you ask do I know these things.
I once was a teen who couldn't sing
I played in bands that were tone deaf.
My average grade in school an f.
I didn't stick around t to hear them play
I had better things to do that day.
So why do I think they weren't any good?
Because they were doing too much partying in the woods.
No one wants the piccolo.
Sorting out my life, I discovered in the closet
a sterling bird known to shriek three octaves
and crown a Sousa march,
or rest for a hundred tacit bars of a symphony
in the lap of the second chair flute.
It's been years since my querulous embouchure
kissed the warbler's beak,
my breath exploring his tubular mysteries,
but now my lips, like the rest of my body,
sag and groan. And no one wants to buy
my piccolo, that silver lark
whose incessant chirps once pierced the cosmos.
Little tyrant of youthful songs,
hot as curry, strong and tensile
as the wire holding Wallenda,
it cuts the sky like a comet on an August night.
But no one wants to buy a shooting star.
(From A Light Dusting of of Breath,
first published in Seems)
Born of a star born like a song
a seed starts humming itself
in the indigo soil of first home
a wave a rumble a pitch
it begins to beam forth
a piccolo of color and sound
Without much weight and heft, it disappears
Beneath the brass and percussion of earth
feels pulled and plucked like a violin's bow
It loses its simple song
tangled in the others' complex harmony
until one day silent it learns to listen
Breathing one breath wind breath
beating one pulse tide pulse
singing one song earth song
it hears a familiar sound
in the flicker of a firefly night
and remembers its light its note
Now it winds back to beginnings
proud of its own shimmering
adding itself to the world chandelier
that immense crystal that keeps us
singing across time
(Third place, Green Bay Symphony competition, 2008)
You come — but once — within the course of every year,
You come — so widespread — having things your way —it's clear.
From you — we have renewal of all life — enchants,
And through the air — is heard a promised time — through chants.
How is it — this phenonmenon — each year — takes place?
What is it that can bring about — this lovely grace?
Earth's creatures — are invited to this — atmosphere,
It is contagious — in arriving every — year.
Philosophers contribute — very own great thoughts.
Arrival is precise — but just how was this — taught?
The gracious sun — does grin upon this deed — for Earth.
The magic forces — work together on — rebirth.
Soon — flowers do appear and bring — Spring's Love — to bloom,
And — singing birds return — in sharing — Spring's perfume.
Spring's melodies — from here and there do bring — great glee,
Then — beauty — does surround — as far as one — can see.
A blanket — of soft green — now covers the bare ground.
And nature — livens creatures — singing, making sounds.
All life — joins hands in leaving — winter's constant wrath.
New life does celebrate — Spring's welcome path.
Just what is this magnificence — for every one?
Why can't Spring's — beauty — be compared to one — or none?
And how does Spring — arrive upon expected — time?
Perhaps the answer lies with friend — Dear Father Time.
All Nature welcomes Primavera's — newest — all,
'Tis Earth's — rejuvination — love — from Nature's Call.
The — allegory of the Spring — 'tis work — of art,
The universe — gives gifts — which envelope's — each heart.
A welcome — lovely Flora, goddess of all — blooms,
You do your job — so well — in bringing — scents — perfume.
The Spring's — spectacular new life and growth — is clear,
This happens — each and every coming season, year.
How fresh and lovely — are you — dearest scents and sights?
In budding, radiating — Heaven's — God's Great Light?
'Tis once again that Earth and Heaven — do unite,
'Tis once again that Earth's — great beauty — will excite.
A good writer possesses not only his own spirit
but also the spirit of his friends.— Friedrich Nietzsche
Poets bask in each other's lines,
their heat a comfort,
words a beacon, sometimes lamps
over their own pages.
In these rays I write,
reach like a plant
though more than plant,
hope to ignite
though less than light.
I am a sunbather,
toasting every inch to amber,
lingering to absorb the warmth,
daring to reject the risks
in imitating gold.
Slather me in heroes' genius.
Spare me shadows.
Penetrate my pores with fire.
I sunbathe in those dazzling rays,
trying to turn the color of beauty,
showing much more than I should,
defying the burn, blister, and peel
though I glow and redden,
modeled on the brilliant star
whose lines blaze from above.
Centuries of fiddles
have grown from these hills.
Spruce, willow and rosewood
root through the mountain,
scrolling through soil
beneath an orchestra of trees.
Dark rivulets trill
the last crystals of melting winter.
Vapor ghosts this shaded path,
swirling into hollowed stumps
whose trunks have been rifted
and splayed, sliced into billets.
Their spirits resurrect at dusk,
spilling a sigh of music
through sprouted leaves
as pollen rosins the wind
to draw its bow across branches.
(Previously published in Green
Hills Literary Lantern)
There is an image of you interwoven into my very being.
Memories of you surface afresh into my consciousness
Repeatedly, suggestively, without summons or effort,
More real than photos; on the slightest, strangest pretexts,
Revealed by capricious neurological connections.
Seeing the stairstep where you turned to smile at me
Will do it; passing a window through which I saw
You at work, bronzed arms bared in the summer sun,
Will do it; noticing a wooded scene that once
You commented favorably upon, will also do it.
Chancing again to hear the strains of some
Folk tune you unabashedly swayed in time to
Will do it; everyday things call to mind, at times,
You: the flare of your nostrils, square of your jaw,
The kink in your hair, the twinkle in your eye.
The set of your shoulders, lean of your neck,
The shape of your fingers, tones in your voice,
The scent of you, look of you, feel of you
Rush in, startling and awakening my senses,
Your nearness perceptible once again.
in memory of Paul
(Published in Cornucopia, Nov., 2009,
Anthology of Creative With Words Publications)
Life-long discoveries, each day a song.
Of love and loss, the burdens shared
Are half as hard, so down this road
We hand in hand would each day find
A way to live and love and forward go.
And Nature's Treasures for us to find
While sheltered we can also look within
Our notes and footfalls so entwined.
Heartbeats to our music so sublime.
Forward, keep marching our course.
Sky blue, ice blue, robin's egg blue, ocean blue,
indigo blue, gentian blue, violet blue, velvet blue,
wildflower blue, eyes of blue, Van Gogh's blue,
Monet's blue, Manet's blue, Picasso's blue, Matisse's blue,
royal blue, cobalt blue, teal blue, navy blue,
azure blue, turquoise blue, midnight blue and aqua blue
So many ways to describe the blues:
from the deep blue sea where the devil hides
to the clusters of blue that limn the sunrise
We swim in the blue and revel in blue
we rock in the blue and sigh in the blue
and finally, when weariness overwhelms:
we rest in the blue.
Spring has arrived and the windows are open,
letting the neighbors' dogs, an ambulance,
and travelers flying to somewhere come in.
In the basement, great-grandchildren
exclaim at old board games and albums
of family they never met
who we now must remember.
The dishes are quiet again.
She puts polka music on,
convinces her daughter to dance
between the island and the sink.
Their husbands look up,
say hey it's your deal,
return to their team's latest loss.
filled with easy silences.
The fans cheer a homer.
The band plays on.
The clock ticks.
(First appeared in the Writing Knights
Press anthology, National Poetry Month 2013)
a long stride
over the chalked bromide
ages sixty and above
in the safety of quarantine homes prison air
the spring wind full
of virus masks
chalked on the path ahead
I didn't know you were leaving
Didn't say any proper goodbyes
A million words going through my head
Chaotic visions race throughout my mind
Strangers saying words meaning to be kind
Good intentions fall from unknowing lips
Granting absolution for what I'm unsure
Now another new year has come and gone
Resolutions were made to be broken
The earth continued on its course
Hours turned into days without notice
Absolution eroded into nothingness
No one wants to know what it's like
Grief is not a pleasant discussion
A journey no one wants to join
I hope I can leave one day
Just like you I don't want to say goodbye
The meaning of life is different for all
Kindness and love should be the goal
I hold faith and love in my heart
But there's one thing I learned the hard way
Logic, family and water slip through your fingers
Dissipating with or without absolution.
I began my early life with musical sounds.
My mother's soothing lullaby lulled me to sleep.
Polish songs and peppy polkas instilled my ethnicity.
Catholic Latin prayers and chants are tranquil rituals.
Humming kiddy tunes like "Zip a Dee Do Dah".
Patriotic songs instilled love for my country.
Female Jazz singers lift WWII soldiers' spirits.
Heartthrobs Crosby and Sinatra, crooned lyrics.
Hollywood musical spectaculars become popular.
Street singers, jiving voices, snapping fingers.
American Blues, soulful beat, rural migrant talent.
Beatniks, folk singers, seek love, protest, social change.
Rock and Roll's new pulsing sound excitement.
Little Richard and Elvis, sexy gyrations banned.
Rock a Billy sound, Fogerty expands the beat.
Motown, talented Detroit talent, wall of sound.
Guys drag racing cars "Wipe Out" at "Dead Man Curves".
Garage bands jam with loud amps, guitars, drums.
Beach Boy surfing hits blaring on the radio, Cali girl.
"Born to be Wild", theme song for motorcycle riders,
Mopped-haired Beatles, 1960s rage, ageless songs.
Disco "I Will Survive" by Janet Gaynor influences.
Wedding organist plays "We've Only Just Begun".
Couple dancing to "This Old Heart of Mine" at Studebaker's.
Nashville, Country Rock, attracts fans and new line dances.
Dramatic operas express classical voice and music.
David Garrett's sweet violin Rock Symphonies.
Awesome stadium performances, Rolling Stones, McCartney.
YouTube videos, Internet streamed music, instant requests.
My musical gendres expands, now addictive and spiritual.
PICTURE IT THE YEAR IS 2020 AND
SOMETHING IS BLOWING IN THE WIND
A VIRUS IS ATTACKING OUR LUNGS
THROUGH OUR SKIN
A WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC AND THE THEORY IS THAT IT
CAME FROM CHINA FROM VENDORS
SERVING UP DIFFERENT SPECIES OF ANIMALS LIKE
LIVE BATS, SNAKES, DOGS, CATS AND FROGS.
IT IS CALLED THE CORONA VIRUS OR COVID 19 AND
IT'S CAUSING PEOPLE TO GO OUT AND PURCHASE
TOILET TISSUE AND DISINFECTANT IN HOARDS
We have to wear plastic gloves and masks to stay above
We are encouraged to use hand sanitizer often
There is a new phenomenon called 'social distancing' that's been
Introduced so that we won't end up in coffins.
People are encouraged to stay 6 feet away from anyone that
They come in contact
Nonessential businesses have shut down
Schools and churches have been sacked.
We're encouraged to self-quarantine at home
There is no vaccine currently to date
Governors and Mayors are ordering us to 'shelter in place' or
'PLEASE DON'T GO OUT OR YOU WILL SEAL EVERYONE'S FATE'!
Graduation, Baby Showers and Weddings are being
Cancelled or post postponed in venues
Beaches and lake fronts are closed or have not opened
Some people are very scared they think this is the end
Of the World or the Second Coming they think that
Their Savior is making his Final Trumpet call.
The world went from mourning Kobe to mourning
Deaths due to Covid.
Young and old are dying by the thousands in every country, city and
Nook and Alcove.
Loved ones can't attend funerals in droves.
Hospitals are overwhelmed there are not many
President Donald Trump who was made aware of the situation
In January but didn't notify the public and is the usual agitator.
I believe he took the "I'll cross that bridge when we come to
It is now April 2020 and we have reached the apex of the crisis
Lord, I pray that this is the end of the casualties.
My eyelashes fluttered, became butterflies,
cerulean and gold. They smelled like blueberries
so I plucked and ate them. The tortilla
I dropped tattooed a Mayan sun disk on my right ankle.
Drops of my blood splattered on the stripped floor,
became notes on a treble clef and sang La Bomba.
I leapt up, clicked my knuckles like castanets.
My blue jeans became a scarlet skirt.
I spun out into the night to the rhythm
of a painting by Frieda Kahlo,
whirled into El Jardin.
When I paid a pigeon cinco pesos
for three boxes of Clorets, it offered me wings
instead. I flew into the tower of La Parroquia,
pulled the ropes of all four bells. They were heavy
as Diego Rivera. When the bells rang, I jumped
onto the horse behind General Allende,
circling the park in his blue uniform.
Startled, the horse galloped fast
as the bite of a jalapeņo. Francisco's laugh,
an octave higher than bougainvillea,
turned his cigarette into a stick, his teeth,
to corn-on-the-cob. I smeared butter
and chili powder on them and sold his mouth
in the north-east corner of El Jardin.
I clapped. Skin dropped off my arms and legs.
My face became a candy skull. I hobbled home alone,
now a Katrina on skeletal feet.
(First appeared in The Ocotillo Review)
Keeping my daily journal diary short
these sweet bird sounds lost—
reviews January through March.
Joy a dig deep snow on top of my sorrows.
Skinny naked bones sparrows these doves
beneath my balcony window,
lie lifeless without tweet
no melody lost their sounds.
These few survivors huddle in scruffy bushes.
Gone that plastic outdoor kitchen bowl that held the seeds.
I drink dated milk, distraught rehearse nightmares of childhood.
Sip Mogen David Concord Wine with diet 7Up.
Down sweet molasses and pancake butter.
I miss the feeding of the birds, these condominiums regulations,
callous neighbors below me, Polish complaints.
Their parties, foul language, Polish songs late at night,
these Vodka mornings—no one likes my feeding of birds.
I feel weak and Jesus poor, starving, I can't feed the birds.
I dry thoughts merge day with night, ZzzQuil, seldom sleep.
Guilt I cover my thoughts of empty shell spotted snow
these fragments, bone parts and my prayers—
Jesus dwelling in my brain cells, dead birds outside.
I miss feeding of the birds.
The silence of this moment
has a tune that speaks
to anguished souls about oneness.
It is music as it finest
teaching us to pause, and open up
our hearts and minds to compassion.
So we can hear its vivacious voice
saying, "I'm here, in this isolate window of time
bringing you back to your senses..." "Can you feel me?"
Yes, tragic times are infallible conductors:
make you stop and think and find
the missed rhythm of real life —What matters!
So, when the last accord get played
music will bring Joy and happiness again;
sorrow, pain, fear and desperation will vanish
and a new song, plethoric of hope a new vision,
will go out announcing that we are ready to move on.
For we have learned the lesson, after all.
Flute music meandering called my name.
Insisted I hurry to find my muse.
I flew and dove, heart aflame.
Melodies rippled like diamonds in a waterfall.
A winged horse promised assured fame.
I swam, ran, galloped, danced a feverish gig.
Breathless arrived a crafted poem to claim.
And... fooled, I believed the flute's ruse to amuse.
Assembled poets, tricked in their quest for fame.
So soon we grow old
Life comes upon us
As we look the other way
White hair, tired eyes
All too knowing
The world we've seen
The world we didn't see
I am your oracle
Because I've reached a certain age
But I haven't figured it all out yet
So don't coming asking questions
Let me sit awhile
I crochet my heart back together
With scraps I've saved from other lives
I blend the yarns with tears
Cried only on Tuesdays throughout the years
Such a haunting horn
Bellows from my past
I shut the door to stifle the sounds
My efforts are in vain
The horn must blow to tell the story
Good or bad, who decides?
Only time will know
An epic tale of life
My own, ours together
Is reduced in part
And fed into a man
A breath, a feeling, a horn
We hear the tale
No words, only music
Only joy, only sorrow
One note, signed by life
Strangers mostly, those unfamiliar families who
pass my window now, everyone's smile six feet apart. They are
in the Social Distancing Corps, too, soldiers in a war not
like any other. Now, peace is health. We battle boredom with parlor
games, books, music, now everyone's a general
in sheltering skirmishes, fighting fear, isolation and
a disconcerting quiet. This stealthy virus has made field
commands of resolute hearts, our stripes, prayers for deserters.
wear their scars
In full display
Yours were hidden well
but the pain
in your eyes
betrayed your hurt
I have a particular eye
Are bare to me
it's my gift, my curse
I marveled at how well
You didn't stumble
Only the briefest wince
Gave hint to the pain
As you sat down
And the veiled smile vanished
With your detachment
You broke into tears
The pain came home
Time for my work
It's what I do
Break up scar tissue
So full movement can be regained
You pull away
Slow, inward recoil, then you droop
A rejection, disgust
Stay-away-from-me silent wail
As if my touch brings you pain
So I step back and watch you from a distance
You slowly wake up, open up to the sun
And your pom-poms shake in the wind
As if teasing, touch me again
Very very gently this time
Seven years I'd tried to keep the peace
Being the bigger person
and letting go
of rude comments
How many olive branches one could extend?
How many times you could say sorry
and know that I forgive?
But most of all,
dealing with that what you have deep within,
your green-eyed monster
That force that pushes and prompts you
and comes between us,
and makes our friendship
I set out to quench it a thousand times
Pleased you in every way possible
But what you need I can't give
What fires jealousy in your heart,
what ignites envy in you
at anything I have or do
I can't give you
I'm not going to gain sixty pounds
I will watch what I eat and take care
I won't live unhealthily
That won't be fair to me, nor my children
I won't destroy
my relationship with him
when I know, he loves me,
when I know, I found someone who cares
Someone worthy of my heart
I won't leave him
just because you've been without for ten years
I will raise my son in a way that keeps our bond
And won't be like you
although, I'm sorry that your sons are happier
when you're gone
You say you're sorry
when you go too far,
when you know you really crossed the line,
when you feel that you hurt me too deep,
and I might stay away from you this time to keep
a border to protect
my loved ones and I
from your cruel comments
and your lies
music and films,
I enjoy recalling
"The King and I"
Because I can see
Yul Brenner look
in the eye
As they waltz
to a song using
the word perchance
That needs no
"Shall We Dance"
it's hard to walk away
when you feel the sway of that song
could it be terribly wrong
to join the throng who exhibit their enthrall
top of their lungs and fall
prostrate while vendors call "cut
prices" all of them in their rut
making money their shut brains a dim gray.
my dad was an earful when he yelled
a belt full when the source of temper
a wicked deed
of my transgression
but a soft hand in a certain moment
an understanding twinkle in his eye
as wont to make me cry
over spilled milk
as is a child's prerogative
a pillar when life became a freeway pile-up
a mind-metal mess of destruction
he was the on ramp
his ashes lie interred in a quiet urn
as i remember now,
all i could have learned
and all that i did
from this man
who was an earful
man of many seasons
but always a spring to my winter
a splendid New England fall
to my summer
and an entire course on life
i hope emphatically
to have passed.
Today I opened
a checking account,
helped by a friendly
banker lady who
pointed to all the X's.
She took my driver's
license and called
a phone number
to make sure
After the bank finally
permitted me to let it
profit from my money,
I walked outdoors
with only lockbox keys
and deposit slip as
evidence of worth.
How many bank accounts
will I end up having?
Is this one the last?
(I get like this sometimes.)
After I'm finished,
will someone empty
the lockbox for me?
Turn in both keys?
Will a bank clerk
close my account
Will the friendly
banker lady be
pointing to X's
for someone new?
Will anyone know
what's beside my X
as it goes through
From Just Below Now
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