Do clowns hate tangelos? That's what the sign said.
On the road to Michigan where my parents had led.
I never heard of such an unlikely fruit
But I'm sure a deep question was at it's root.
I never even knew such a fruit existed
But I still feel the sign was really twisted!
So why did they put that image in my mind
I must leave it far, far behind!
Now we're on the way to Uncle Jack's
In a cottage in the woods that's carved by axe
And that's a "Paul Bunyan" acting the role
My butt really hurts on this seat made of gold
On this road trip across the states
We'll be arriving as my uncle waits
Raindrops appear cameo on the windshield glass
As a G-R-8 sign we just did pass
Now a sign appears, "Who is Bob Frahm?"
Well let me tell you, he acts like a ham!
I'm just trying to enjoy the view
Taking vacations a thing to do!
We go by a prison on the way to our cabin
Not too far off for something to happen
Like they all escape and chase us at night
What a terrible thing to happen, it might
As we drive down Coon Hill drive
I'm out in the country, will I survive?
Now to my uncle's where wine and cheese
Remind me now that I have a disease
Crazy tales of a loonatic woman over potatoes and steak
She doesn't leave home for weeks. Now we're by the lake
Will we go fishing tomorrow? Will my aunt work as a nurse?
Does my mother have crazy glue tucked away in her purse?
'Cause the ear of the ceramic dog that I gave my uncle is broken
The poem that I write speaks the truth of these words I've spoken
The men are out fishing, caught quite a few
Should have lunch with a fishy or two
But each one too small thrown back in the lake
Catching a small fish ain't no mistake
'Cause many little fish makes a giant meal
Jack throws his rod in and starts to reel
Fish for breakfast, pizza at night
Eating like a pig everything in sight
Fireworks tomorrow, lots of firecrackers
Hidden among a whole lot of tractors
My aunt talks about picking strawberries
By a pig farm, and the wind really carries
Uncle Jack got Renbo a rowboat
On the edge of the lake it floats
While Hutch and Goulashe, the bad dogs rebelled
They crossed through the yard where a seesaw has dwelled
With two little kids on the teeter-totters
And the dogs approach them to give them a bother
Reminiscing on the porch before Ohio is our next stop
My uncle talking about being with his wife and being stopped by a cop
And great grandmother remembering as much as she's able
That when I was a kid I set fire to the Thanksgiving table
Now we're talking about eating smoked duck and geese
On this trip I'll probably get obese
Then we went to Hell, a place in Michigan
A place where you couldn't fish again
It was a creepy place with witches year-round
Now we're on the road, we're Ohio-bound
My cousin Eric has some plans
To introduce an artist who makes art out of trash cans
He shows me the art of P.R. Miller,
A junk artist who lives like life is a thriller.
Next day we meet Miller over fries and a reuben.
An outstanding individual or regular human?
He says things that sound like an artist
I listen, say little, the way that is smartest.
Last night, we watched his video, "The Grizzled Wizard."
Today we ate lunch at the Winking Lizard.
This trip is really winding down
Do I have any tangelos for a clown?
So now it's the last day, I'm headed back to the North Shore
I wonder when I get home what'll be in store?
Will I find it hard to believe nothing changed when I was gone?
Will I find the usual garbage strewn across my lawn?
I'll be glad to return, but it won't be as a king
I'll be glad to go back and just do my own thing.
So I'll never solve the riddle of tangelos and clowns
Maybe I'll see other signs as we pass other towns
But it's just another vacation to record in history's notes
Of wizards, children, picnics, fishing poles and boats.
Walking through a field
I found a sadness in the wheat
growing in America
about a billion feet
were ordering a tractor
ordering a plough
everywhere we looked around
there were orders to be found
some would work at IBM
some work for police
some work for the joy of holding
a little mental peace
but after night September 10
a lion charged the gate
and every soul in paradise
felt passion at the hate
a pilot at the console
could not play pretend
as he saw life the World Trade
was coming to an end
the Pentagon was next in line
we saw it on TV
as cameras let roll the tapes
something came to be
every jet in America
landed on the ground
in forty minutes
air born silence
America was down
"Faithful Love and Loyalty join together,
Saving Justice and Peace embrace." Psalm 85:10 (JB)
Night riders whose shots
grazed your skin could not deter you.
The deputy whose bullets danced
around your feet, who threw you
in a Georgia jail, could not defeat you.
State troopers and their horses
on Bloody Sunday on Edmund Pettus Bridge
could not destroy you or your dream
of that elusive embrace of justice and peace
toward which you edged.
Even when you saw the wicked
swallow the righteous, the poor
sold for a pair of sandals, their heads
trampled in the dust, and glory
stolen from the children of your people,
even when faith trembled, still you believed.
Like Moses, you peered into that land
of promise not yet fulfilled.
When I knew you in life
You were a collage of color
A different one every year
Yellow hair blinding
Blurred to brown
Bangs of red the next
Orange peel #107
Back to yellow
Then there were hi-lights on top of black
Soon turned to blue
And after a while you settled for silver
But the white wig you lay in now
Tarnishes the memory I have of you
It washes out the brilliant colors
You brought to my life
And dulls the world for me
Fades it all to gray
My grandfather, father, uncles built roads.
From earliest age, I'd stand beside my father
watching those metal giants.
and learning their evocative names:
bulldozer, sheep's-foot roller.
And the scraper, bottom-loading trailer
pulled by a two-wheeled tractor.
The diesel engine strained and roared
as the scraper cut into the ground,
filled itself with earth, then raced
to deposit its load where the road bed was low.
The radio spoke of skyscrapers.
How I longed to see one at work.
I'm glad I saw you once.
It was at Michigan, as you came shuffling out to read
beneath the spotlights at the podium.
The place was packed,
and silent as a snowdrift as you made your way
across the stage. Oh, so slow,
with baby steps, as if to show
that it was indeed the truth that you were ninety years of age.
All that white hair,
and a voice so very, very strong,
without a quaver,
as if simply to defy
the many years that held you in their grasp.
And the words, the many, many words,
that traveled like a shout
and held the audience
enthralled. You read our favorites,
and no one moved or coughed.
"More time, just a little more."
After thunderous applause,
you read again, and all who heard you stood
beneath the blessing of your first encore,
then your second. Turning, you began
the long, slow, shuffling journey back across the stage,
and all the way we cheered and clapped.
So dramatic were the entrance and the exit that
we would never ever be able to forget.
You died when I was on the threshold
of my own career, but now and then I'd read my favorites from among
the poems you wrote. Now I have more time.
Our son has given me
your Collected Works, and, from a new perspective,
I have begun from the beginning, sensing that
the earliest I could surpass, if not the best.
Alfred Adler would likely say
that you display great social interest,
mixed with all the homely things
rooting the people that you speak of to New England earth
as well as to each other.
Some of your tales are rather quaint,
some quite abstruse, but always there is power
pushing through your pen for just another word,
just one more phrase, like the cascading force
of some torrential storm.
There is a sense of fellowship throughout,
as well as a focus on the oddities of men
and women, too. Those I have studied
as a psychologist, and as such I might construe
that there was a yearning for that kind of depth in you,
as though trying to link through eccentricity
some common threads as they may exist for all.
Those that are timeless and universal are your best.
My world wasn't quite the same as yours.
Prior to college my father's life was spend upon a farm,
but then he grew to be an ad man, then managed a regime
of sales for washing machines and freezers in Detroit
both during and after the War.
Have you ever read a poem about a washer or a freezer?
We lived in a two-story house on a hill beside a lake,
had adventures there, and advanced to school in a place
where some believed that money, not apples, grew on trees.
Altogether different from the world you describe.
But I shall try to learn from you, and, with you, I
make this solemn pact.
In the years that I have left I shall strive to be a poet,
and I am going to try to match you, Mr. Frost.
I stumble out of the caverns
of sleep, out of cobwebbed dark,
shadows clinging to my feet.
I gaze back at enormous
caves of silky fur, swishing tails--
the tunnels barren of heat,
holding in my arms old bones.
I crawl out of dimness, death
and rebirth, eyes silvered
over with tears, scalp tingling
as though from icy water,
with secret whispers of ghosts,
heart dazed by memory
carrying a poem.
(Published in Natural Bridge,
No. 15, Spring 2006,
University of Missouri)
The hills alight with colors bright
Their beauty lives as one last flight
Before autumn's ablution.
The woods aflame, spared agony,
Are suffused with hues of tangerine,
Glow citron, warm mahogany,
Magenta, crimson in between.
Pale light sifts down mid soaring beams,
Illumes a cathedral made of trees
With swaths of glory sent in streams
To beckon worship out of me.
And praise I must with eyes that see
By God’s design, within this bower,
The secret beauty meant for me:
My faith renewed at just this hour.
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