is that each
poem is its own world.
are living things
that breathe new life
into your world and, like
the caterpillar, you are freed
from your tight cocoon and you
go through the Gethsemane of change.
let you soar
like an eagle and make
your nest among the stars
and brush against Orion's dazzling belt.
give you gills
and plunge you
to ocean depths
of jagged coral reefs
where rainbows of fish
flash their colors in worlds
of sea unseen beneath the vault
of heaven--but for the poem's eyes.
give your world
that sudden small heave
as you sit in your room, in your chair,
tears on the ledges of your lower eyelids
and hear a cricket chirp and know the cricket's
world, small as it is, adds its largeness to your world.
years ago sitting in a boat
on a peaceful lake
a small breeze blowing
a line in the water
hoping the fish wouldn't bite
I would watch the contrails
lines drawn in the sky
from east to west
from west to east
by the big jet liners
on their way to someplace exotic
I would envy the people
on those planes
off to some great adventure
a planned vacation
or to visit with relatives
they hadn't seen in a long time
the height of luxury
compared to my quiet life
especially by jet plane
but today when I saw
a lone contrail in the sky
I thought of the people
their belongings gone through
searched and prodded
crammed together like cattle
on their way to market
their money taken
for every small comfort
I felt no envy
only sorrow for what
we have become
Poets were loved in olden days
but now their form has many foes.
And while it's true, a few remain,
it's only those who can't write prose.
A dieing breed, it's such a shame,
their stock-in-trade has had its day.
Especially if their poems contain
some catchy rhymes - they're DOA.
On second thought, as I reflect,
sometimes a rhyme may be the best,
if you're upset and need to rant
because of gripes upon your chest.
Don't write a note in caustic prose
that you'll regret when once it's read.
Just vent your bile in scathing rhymes
and mail it to your foes instead.
You needn't fret that you'll offend
because you wrote those nasty lines
or that they'll be upset with you
'cause no one reads a poem that rhymes.
(Published in the Journal of Modern
Honorable Mention in the 2013 Poet
Laureate of Rhyme category)
Why bother about that red farmhouse on a hill
when its porch drooped & its rooms whispered mildew?
The slope up to the pond asked a question: why bother
scything a footpath past blackberry bushes
when the grass grew back in a week? When the tall
man in a bathing suit leaned to hack milkweed
was the sun on his shoulders a problem? Were calamine
lotion & his care enough for her bee sting?
The whiteness of sugar, the cream on the berries
they picked in a heat wave, the lavender
five-o'clock dawns that awoke them to grackles:
what's there to revisit but feelings too mixed
to regret, too hard to forget, like small shadows
beginning to fall over unspoiled high meadows & orchards?
from a store
to mark the coming summer,
when the hot Sun, the robust Drummer,
is sending th' warmth so much expected,
when Our Planet will protect us
with grayish skies and rains
to grow the Wheat and Grass again,
to cheer and encourage human creatures
with the renewed SunPhone features
for which we shouldn't pay,
not for a second, not for a day...
Green Wheat and Grass,
the Green of Life
that will shoot seeds and grain
reminding me of my Ukraine,
and of the ever-lasting fight
for what was right,
for what is right,
as everybody has the right
to sow and grow in one own's field...
the Wheat and Grass will bring the yield!
No winter duds, no heating bills
Just ocean views or gardens verdant.
We just might leave our ills behind
And seek the treasure islands hold.
Our US lands that seem so far
Yet hold the promising tang of spices new.
From cold and mountains, icy tipped
Then down to valleys flowering more
Than all we find in our closet space.
Yet, should we trade it all for more
And will we evermore forget the shores
Homeland may beckon us to mourn?
The seasons changing oft to see
Us trading skins and seeking all
The usual patterns, rites, and yes,
The holidays with all their glitter mess.
So sparkle us within our molds,
Or break out swiftly changing roles.
Which seems the path we choose to take
May be our place of last repose and peace.
The time has come
to sort out my dreams…
Watching pebbles in the water,
bobbing up and down
in my life steam,
the sun will rise and set.
Yet, the current flows
steadily and quickly.
The time has come
to sort out my dreams…
Wond'ring 'bout the tides…
the ebb and flow
and round I go…
a bird soars through the sky…
Dreams are like sandcastles -
seas sweep their shores.
Dreams are like leaves waving,
blown and no more.
Sorrows and joys
bound as one to the vine.
Sweet grapes and thorns -
Life is for living.
Dreams to endure.
And this is my moment to live.
Mom would always say to me you need to forget
Her you're better off without her in my sunset
She and I had so much in common but I discovered
It takes more than commonality for love uncovered
Indiana doesn't call anymore, no more
We were different is how I got my Purple Heart
Wounded by living in a fantasy of living in the past
I thought I knew her but the mask came off at last
Indiana doesn't call anymore, no more
I'm grateful that we did not get together because I
Knew she was a trickster that used camouflage's lie
No Indiana doesn't call anymore, no more
My life would've of been a living hell in my anxiety
Trying to make her happy I might of lost my piety
I was so taken by her beauty and mystery I was blind
So Mom if you can hear me thank you for my kind
Heart that's so simple I can still hear your words in
The back of my head saying you need to start again
So I turned her away from my heart before it was too late
So Mom you saved my life
From Heaven's beyond
No Indiana doesn't call anymore
Today I looked at the photographs
of last summer's dahlias, brash faces
crowding a London garden with lemon
and magenta, a folly of profusion.
How I needed those deep colors
turning to the sun, breaking through
the pinpoint English rain with a sudden brilliance,
licking stone walls with luminescence.
Here in Chicago, a colorless winter
prevails, the days sickly and mild,
waiting for snow. White would silence
everything—the dull lawns brown-stippled,
leftover asters, bits of newsprint stuck in shrubs,
while the whole world beyond dies
in blizzards unforeseen.
Something in this global garden
is amiss. Geese stagger into traffic.
Birds have forgotten to migrate—
I can hear their idle chirpings in the dawn.
It seems just yesterday
that small, fat English robins
fluffed out their ruby breasts
among the willows, swallows swarmed
over scissortail meadows and, awaiting
the certain death of the hoarfrost, dragonflies lit,
iridescent, on dahlias that could not decide
whether to be purple or red.
(First published in The New Writer)
Your words heavy, still linger in the air;
as I recoil from the shock wave. In disbelief,
I look for answers in your eyes, only to see
you turn and walk away.
Slowly at first, ever so slowly, as if
each foot required permission to move.
Like a soldier traversing a mine field,
or an angel treading upon clouds.
Each step carefully measured.
As you begin your journey down the long hallway,
my mind is suddenly possessed by a single, clear, vivid thought.
The sheer horror of which contorts my face with fear,
and drives terror into the very marrow of my bones.
In desperation I attempt to follow you,
but my legs are unyielding, as if turned to stone.
Determined, I struggle to call your name,
but find my lips frozen motionless, paralyzed.
Then without warning, the full concentration of my consciousness,
becomes solely focused on the tunnel before me. Reverberating
with the echo of each step. My chest tightens, and I feel my heart
pound in unison, like a metronome, in rhythm with each step, each step.
Overcome with dizziness, I feel lightheaded and falter to stand;
reeling from the blows delivered by each step, each step, each step.
When you reach the door you hesitate, and time slows to a crawl.
As you touch the doorknob, a chill runs down my spine, and I struggle
to catch my breath. My eyes riveted to your halted figure. Did God
hear my frantic prayer?
(inspired by "Still I Rise"
by Maya Angelou)
She walks into a crowded room
commanding, strong and proud
You'll have to deal with me sometime,
you know. She says it right out loud.
She stands tall, her body stout
Her skin glowing, smooth and black
Folks try to push her down,
but now she pushes back.
No longer will she be a slave,
nor will she be downtrod.
She walks with mighty presence
and feels the grace of God.
Like a phoenix does she rise
from a dark and painful past.
Though the battle is not over
she claims her due – she's free at last.
We as humans have an ultimate goal. A goal that put us
above average and not less than expected.
We strive everyday to reach our specific peak, but some fall
An individual must first have the desire for fulfillment.
Secondly, you must believe that it can be possible.
Patience will be an endurance among the mind, heart and soul.
Finally, all winners have the strength and courage that
triumph them to victory.
Failures haunt the restless nights.
unbidden thoughts that stain us,
how quickly they restrain us.
We let them contain us
and keep us from our better selves.
But, the heir of justice is also the judge,
so a kinder sentence is given. A dream!
Decades of life float away
like chunks of islands disappearing.
My former self waves to my present self
waving back with a wide smile.
(Published in the 2012 issue of Muse)
She has waited for me since the birdsinging dawn
and has swept the leaves from her doorway.
In her long dress, she has lit a candle in the window
on a sunny autumn morning.
And I arrive at her house loaded with my baggage of televisions
chairs rugs refrigerators cabinets tables pictures piles of clothes
boxes of whims closets of bedding hiding worry and shame.
She welcomes me with my baggage into her home.
I cannot bear to drag it in it drops by the door.
Calm and light from her rooms
slake an ebullience for my freedom.
She offers me the soft chair while pushing the ottoman
under my feet. She brings me lemonade with ice.
She leaves the radio off as she kneels beside me in silence
in the cool of her home within cedars—
shoeprints on the dusty floor.
Others have prayed here too.
The clean wall down to the wood floor.
A table sprouting wildflowers and grasses in a vase of water.
For lunch, she serves me strawberries with sugar
and fresh bread and butter on a flowered plate.
I shall sleep warm and sound this night on a mattress
with sheets. The comforter, she freely gives.
A purple butterfly flits about the room. It sings.
(Previously published in The Penwood Review, Fall, 2013)
an effort to fine tune words, listless
perfect placement complacency's enemy
but that's your war, not mine
scattered ink dries the same everywhere it lands
my syllables don't wear suits and ties
my themes don't go to stuffy cocktail parties
for the literary lint
that attaches to the fabric of pretentious style
my efforts lack discipline, i know
but messy doesn't necessarily translate
to sloppy, or incoherent
or inconceivable as poetry
my form is a bit formless
a bit nameless
a bit bitter to the taste of the purists
but i still drink with other poets
raise my pen in salute to them
even if my weapon does so called
mass destruction to the genre
i can clean up good
if i want to
and my ink is the same color as yours
the paper i write on just as white and pure
even if to you, my poetry is polluted
with reckless madness
and maddening recklessness
so like it or not,
i will see you on the next page.
Sifting sunlight glimmers, winks
with every lilting breeze that ruffles
medallions of the linden tree.
Folded secret shapes of roses blush,
while out in the meadow tiny bursts
of yellow mark out dandelion halos.
Her lawn gives up pinecone boats,
fragrant and floatable, but squirrels
and rabbits run away nervous, unsociable.
Caterpillars and beetles pose, gamely
walk our stem and twig rows, get stuck
in the wheel of a sticky spider web.
A bevy of crickets inhabits the treetops,
noisily serenades us, as fireflies flicker
and flash in the last glow of sunset.
(Published in The Storyteller)
This started out the summer for which we yearned,
we hoped to go to the beach and get sun-burned.
Old man winter had slunk away in retreat,
the summertime was here, and we welcomed the heat.
But at the same time, I felt a tinge of sorrow,
my mom was slowly dying, it could be tomorrow.
I cried and wrote sad poems, but knew that I'd be fine,
God would walk beside me, and the sun would shine.
Even my nephew cried such bitter tears,
a sensitive young lad mature beyond his years.
Just when I feel like isolation is my right,
I find myself cranking out the poetry at night.
It takes tragedy to make the greatest writers,
it takes challenges to create the strongest fighters.
I've had some temper tantrums, lashing out at others,
but now I know how people felt when they all lost their mothers.
Jesus said, "You should love me more than your parents,"
But I've felt him, seen pictures of him, but sort of incoherent.
In church they said no human being saw God in human form,
my mother soon will be with him, in hands that are so warm.
The summer heat will not help me with the numbness in my mind,
my mom's going to heaven and she is leaving me behind.
The only thing to do is to try to go there too,
no more fooling around, I know what to do.
I'll never stop sinning, till the day I die,
I won't be self-righteous and tell you lots of lies.
I can't get into heaven based on good deeds alone,
if we did we'd all be playing a great big "game of thrones."
The throne that belongs to God almighty can not be destroyed,
standing before his judgment is a thing you can't avoid.
If we were God, we'd judge much harsher than he probably can,
but God is slow to anger, and his son came as a man.
I may be full of mischief, as my mother always knew,
but my conscience now is clear, because God's word is so true.
I may not be a bible scholar, but the word is in my heart,
my mom installed a lot of lessons that'll stay when she departs.
So don't let the evil in this world make this summer a bummer,
God can't get any smarter, and the devil can't get any dumber.
Struggling to empty frozen chamber
pot. Should I thaw it by the stove first?
Everywhere, the smell of three month's
wearin' winter unders, and too many beans.
Can't take it, Abe!
No fresh milk; cow died last blizzard. Eggs
freeze on their way out the chickens.
round every corner.
Pure tired of bear meat. Flour 'most gone.
Been craving coffee since October.
Tell again of the full,
rich life on this prairie,
…or at least offer to take over
chamber pot duty.
Where the sun splashes
holes onto your bed
Where the bed holds a jumble
of toys and a box of crayons
Where the crayons lie still without
a hand scribbling lines on paper
Where a folded crane sits crumpled
next to a photo of you
Where you no longer lie
with a batman quilt in sleep
And your sleep does not break open
in the morning light
(Previously published in Ephemera
Magazine, Fall 2012 )
My steed will share my dream
on my bid – will go to the extreme
icy streets and bumps in between
cannot stop her nor can a ravine
her skin has an alabaster gleam
over silver coats – a sum of eighteen
just don't mess with her schemes
of firmware and their subroutines.
This should have been a perfect time
for the life examined:
a frictionless sideways slide,
the "too fast for conditions"
icy velocity only boosted
by my heretical pumping of brakes,
a sweet free-floating lift before judgment,
spinning and spinning the useless wheel
as on a bumper-car carnival ride,
the gradual slowdown to an ungentle rabbeting
far into this fat drift. Postdeath survival
should have been on my mind
or the cosmological argument for divinity.
I should have noticed too
how elegantly, how lovingly
snow touches earth in moonlight,
how quickly the warm windshield
releases each flake to a green filling of ponds
as the body itself is released,
as Thales of Greece proclaims
all things to be composed of water.
I should have meditated at length
upon the flurries camouflaging
even this random corduroy of slashed woods,
slag piles, indiscriminate land mines,
the barrows of various genocides.
Patiently awaiting the tow truck
I should have contemplated
predestination, categorical imperatives,
the ghost in the machine.
I should have considered beauty and reality,
frozen six-sided words like graupel and rime.
Instead, I thought only of the spent night,
a waitress at J.B.'s Place, topless,
the way she held the small flashlight
in her mouth as she counted out my change.
(Published in the book American Chicken)
My inner peace is like a butterfly—
A Monarch seeking warmth, nectar and light
In a spring, sunny day— wings on high flight
With regal roses, many flowers close by,
And the wind gently blowing, caressing
My wings to make me feel secure.
I gently float on blossoms to procure,
And sense the light's calmness is my blessing.
I fly from place to place, plant to flower,
Gathering warmth, sweetness and the gentle breeze,
And, with each fleeting sunny day's hour,
I'm confident I'll reach the tallest tower.
Yet, I know the fall will bring my death's freeze,
My inner peace gives my soul new power.
When the good Lord makes a daddy
He builds a sturdy frame
And adds a cheerful spirit
That can play a childish game.
A furrowed brow and smiling eyes
To watch his children grow,
And wisdom by the ton He gives
So Dad will always know
Just the perfect thing to say
And the proper thing to do
When everything is right – or wrong,
When the world's too big for you.
He makes big feet so little ones
Can try his shoes to fill,
And gives him arms both long and warm
To chase away the evening chill.
And when He makes a daddy's ears,
Though stick out a bit they may,
He fixes them with special skills
To hear what only children say.
And when He gives a daddy hands,
He makes them calm and strong
So they can grasp a trembling chin
Or row a boat along.
And in a daddy's brain He puts
All kinds of special things,
Like how to hook a worm just right
Or do some tricks with strings.
And then He gives him solace,
So he can comfort Mom
After all the birds have flown the nest
And childhood joys are gone,
But the best thing that He gives him
Is Love – even when he's mad - .
For any man can be a father,
But it takes that special love
To make a man a Dad!
The old man watches
a tiny frog
with new-formed legs
letting go its tadpole safety
of dark water
for a bright-lit bank.
Long ago, he let go
a safe hand
to wobble his first steps,
let go the crib rails
to wander wider rooms.
He let go homestead,
parents for partner,
one job for the next,
a thousand good ideas
for a thousand better.
Now the old man sits
the red-and-white bobber
of his fishing line float
like a planet
in rippled stillness.
He feels his damp cotton shirt
rise and fall to slow breathing,
wonders when one breath
will not be followed
the last letting go.
(Deluxe Box of Crayons, 2012)
Laughing in silence
A life in slow motion
A life on hold
A few pictures
Don't even begin to tell the story
Of how we loved
And went without
Perhaps I'll paint a picture
A relentless note keeps pounding
Yet the piano has been retired
I still hear the familiar melody
And rush to gather in the parlor
Where we played together
And learned of life and love
Because, of course,
Sorrow must always intrude
And you were there to hold my hand
And kiss my face
Before you went away
Now what is left is sadness
A sour note held for all eternity
I saw its first wave
back in nineteen forty something
an old concrete road
bent, buckled and broken
stretching around the north side
of Mexia, Texas—leading to Tehuacana
and other unpronounceable places.
Now it spans the continent
with waves of interstates
and whirlpools of urban freeways,
rural byways, parking lots…
In World War II
concrete boats sailed the briny seas
in search of freedom and
an end to tyranny
and yet are we not imprisoned
in a concrete American Sea?
It is hard.
It is unyielding.
It breaks instead of bending.
But it is new and improved
with steel rods to strengthen
It is a tsunami of cement, rock and sand
mixed together for decades
of bonded togetherness
while it smothers loamy soil
that awaits a millennium when the
concrete sea shall turn to dust.
The children are gone now,
grown, now, into men,
of anchors to their native ground,
they walk on water with bare feet.
But their boots
worn out before the thaw of spring,
the frazzled fur
spilling over the rim
with the smudges of their living,
torn in mighty battles
on the bus to school,
lame with the burden
in the corner, behind the door,
they bore, I think,
the weight of centuries.
Unchecked, brazen brash and bold,
eighteen-wheelers racing for the sun
Here is one climbing on my back
shoving such fiercely forward draft
my rear view mirror shakes, or is it me?
Eighteen-wheelers, a woman in the cab
Shall we dance on the interstate?
Your eighteen to my four
I'll weave, you'll rumble
race you to Dowagiac,
then to Paw Paw, Portage
you got your country sound
I got Mozart all around
Uphill you wheeze, I breeze
downhill you blast, I gasp
my needle nipping ninety
your thrust tingling my tail
a thousand tons on my bumper
Dancing with the big rig
the jack-knife shuffle
on I-94 we make thunder
was simpler then,
we knew the words
we knew the steps
socks came off
drowning in decibels
in the roar
in a daze
walking all naked
in front of
voices draped in ugly
dance halls of hell
as if dead
with cosmic mix
songs falling, yes,
through night to
from clear cuts
letting the music be
hand in hand
Walking at night
to the corner mailbox,
breathing deeply of
cool September air,
I look up and see
Mars by the full moon,
like a tiny garnet
by a round opal
set in the sky's
A carful of teenage girls
emanating shrieks and
careening between curbs
The red taillights
soon zigzag away
into velvet distance,
and silence prevails,
broken now by
this old mailbox accepting
my letters with a chuff
and a clanky groan.
I look skyward again.
Mars and the moon,
quiet friends still,
stare winkless from the surface
of the universe.
Has anything changed?
Yes, my letters are
in the mailbox;
yes, the car has painted
a picture in my ears;
yes, the moon is
closer to Mars now--
but nothing deep
The night has merely
taken a breath.
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