In a building that used to be a pizza joint,
I felt that people can disappoint.
I was at a found art sale put on by my school,
and I was there, feeling like a fool.
They had my art priced low as can be,
some pieces sold, while others almost free.
Yet, people would give it a quizzical look,
as if doing art is as easy as being a crook.
the comments I heard from negative patrons,
Makes me think they'd prefer us in aprons.
One lady said "Oh, I know this artist!"
"Oh, that's real weird!" her husband said, hardest.
Another lady said, "You have to start somewhere,"
but they all really got into my hair!
A parent says to a child, "we'll travel again,
When we go to the lourve you won't complain."
Must be totally nice to have such a rich father,
but the kid was more into baseball, why bother?
Then a man with a basketball shirt comes in with his girl,
Acting like art is the dumbest thing in the world!
With a sarcastic laugh, that sounded like Beavis,
his laugh was the impression that grieved us.
The purpose of the sale was to raise money for my school,
I even bought some stuff myself, which was cool.
But to see this art practically being given away,
but who will pay unless it's a Picasso or Monet?
I guess I'm a starving artist, with a big belly,
But I'm doing better than if I lived in New Delhi.
Being a creator is the best thing to be,
Even if people treat you like a flea.
2:(This is a found poem, now to 2015,)
as I add more to the computer screen.
The corner is now home of "World of Beer,"
the art of making money disappear.
How many alcoholics will lose their homes?
Wouldn't they be better off writing poems?
I once walked by, two college students outside,
drinking tiny beers, and giant hamburgers I spied.
The world of beer maybe is also good for food,
it's good for business, it creates a good mood!
The fries can take catsup, salt, even pepper,
but the artist is treated like just a big leper.
The panhandler has a better sale pitch than I,
the drug dealer knows who wants to get high.
The prostitute sells her body for a hit,
the preacher man says she'll be able to quit.
The artist paints to an audience of none,
the chef likes to put a wiener in the bun.
The baseball game brings fans, rain or shine,
the artist is lucky if he finds a place to dine.
The poet who is famous gets unending praise,
the politician does nothing and gives himself a raise.
The children, the only hope we have got,
have teachers who have brains ruined by pot.
The teacher teaches, the preacher preaches,
while kids which they could be back at the beaches.
The football player kicks a field goal; it lands on the moon,
the swamp thing still hangs out at the lagoon.
The cowboys still hang out at the saloon,
drinking and spitting in the spittoon.
You probably thing I write from a drunk perspective,
but that would it make it more ineffective.
Drunk poetry becomes incoherent,
but what am I turning into my parents?
Am I a positive role model, could that be?
Am I grateful I'm not positive for H.I.V.?
Yes, I once was young and stupid, too,
and now I'm older, and still have screws loose.
At least that's what people seem to think,
but to catch up with me, they go out and drink.
They think its okay because it is legal,
so says our mascot, the bald-headed eagle.
So is that why we've made Al Capone a hero?
We've forgiven him, whose conscious was zero?
Of course selling crack is a sin we can't pardon,
we'll have to hand that person to the warden.
If you kill an innocent American, you're a freak,
but they'll pay you lots of money if you get a sheik.
Where is the value for human life we savored?
I guess it's only for the elite and favored.
So as an artist, it's time to shut my mouth,
they would like me even less down in the south.
Before long fall rains will arrive.
Auto mechanics will lower their lifts
and sniff the air, snapping their fingers.
Hunting will be on their minds: Day-Glo
orange vests over their ponchos, shotguns
slung over their shoulders, bird dogs at heel,
they will clasp hand warmers and flasks,
then crouch in duck blinds, assaulting
each other with stories about cars.
Before long they will grow tired; they will smoke
weed by tiny fires and yawn when they see
faces in the flames. Their girlfriends have
left them, their bosses remain to harangue them.
But they've spent enough winters to know
that survival depends on the perfect decoy
and a freezer full of duck.
as October rides
in, like a prince on a
chestnut steed, robed in rich reds,
vibrant yellows, deep browns, subtle
beiges, and half-greens. Wheat stacks, cap-sheaved
salute this cascade of autumn splendor.
*The Etheree is a syllabic form invented by Etheree
Taylor Armstrong (1918-1994). Mrs. Armstrong lived
and wrote poems in Arkansas. The form is known for
its simple beauty and easy flow of diction. The
Etheree features ten lines with each line adding
one syllable for a total syllable count of fifty-five.
(Previously published in Limited Magazine,
My parents are forced to sit in straight chairs
and I on the stiff davenport of gold and olive green.
Held captive in the pale living room until my spirit
feels like a stuffed plastic covered wingback,
the adults talk over me.
They speak of the weather,
and "Those kids today…"
and "Those blacks…"
and "That President…"
We are served dry pork, spinach and beets,
save for the joy of 7-Up,
(I love when it tickles my nose).
Bored, I'm displaying black olives on every finger
(my own early artistic expression).
A frown from my father and I hide my fingers.
After dinner, back to the sticky plastic living room.
Again the meaningless talk of "Church politics…"
and "That Pastor should…"
Auntie lets the dog out.
A momentary reprieve.
Then I am told to play Auntie's electric organ.
"What were all those lessons for anyway?"
My stomach hurts,
Everyone is staring.
I want to shrink away
but I play every note instead.
I'm like a shooting star
and I'm afraid of fizzling out!
After my small repertoire,
long looks in the narrow driveway.
The dog frantically barking.
Fake smiles, tepid hugs.
As we back out, Auntie waves good-bye,
her lace slip showing.
A visit made, nothing more.
I think of her rotting lace curtains,
a maraschino cherry in my 7-Up,
the gold and olive green davenport,
the one that makes the noise if I kick it a certain way,
the dog barking.
So quiet in the station wagon on the way home.
The silver maple tree
surprised me today when I
revisited after long years away
Once spindly and young,
now it's shaggy-barked and
dominates the backyard
Twin arms aloft, victorious
over my years of neglect.
A welcome or a rebuke?
at the perfect rate
to realize its
sweet or tart
red, green, or yellow
embraced by sun and air
only to be plucked
from its lofty cradle
protective seal pealed away
cool juices drained
golden meat consumed
until only the core remains
the apple's essence
born from a season
crafted over time
generously gifts seeds
for a budding tomorrow
I see a strand of poetic gems
coming out of the urn
twinkle in the bright autumn sun
before falling into the open arms
of the earth
that thirsts for love
graceful and elegant
a real lady from the South
the floor kept tipping
and my mood kept tripping
not a sip of wine in my heart
just dizzy on autumn's sardonic breeze
a chill in the chords
music in my glass eye
but i still see you in another world
parallel to my movement
as i danced to forget,
but each step caused me to remember you more
until i just wanted to turn off the band,
weddings make the old ring marks
on my finger reappear,
and that floor of memories
just keeps getting more and more claustrophobic
as i teeter in and out of silence
sure to pass out in those dreams
twirling in the arms
of my emptiness.
If it's just about the catch
then this snapshot tells me to relax and let him be;
he's about the moment of his hand inside the gills
of this monstrosity, the dampness drying its weight
against his blue-jeaned thigh,
fish-flesh and bone nearly wide and long as the man.
He furrows a hungry smile against the sun,
same smile he ravishes my mother with
when dinner is done—those nights
when he comes home.
I will arrive in '54.
The plates on the Ram behind him are '53.
It's just about the catch;
don't take those other nights so personally.
(Alimentum Journal, June 2015)
what high hopes I had
when first I bought the boat
dreams of afternoons
drifting in calm water
beneath overhanging branches
shadowed air heavy
a line out into the deep
fish waiting for lunch
but a gentle breeze
before running into
of burning sun
and the fact that
I don't even like
Invisibility walks through the night.
She can do anything she wants
because no one will knowingly see her.
They don't notice their expectations
of having no expectations about her.
So what plays upon her shadow smile?
Simple absolution for transgressions
she will carry out because she can,
her revenge for not letting anyone know
how much she wants to be seen.
a virtual, untouching love,
a virtual non-palpating kiss,
a distant "that",
a nearby "this",
video-smiles of the cartoons,
a dim projection of the pale moon,
a light-gray promise of the morning to come,
the train's rails-o'-wheels instant drumming,
a plunge into the halogen space of phones,
the thoughts flying thoughtlessly, like geo-drones,
the threads of the lights
and the yawns of the fall of the men,
and a genius' potential of a pen-
all stops that are at, and all stops ahead,
the updating of the heads
by the music, a paper, a book or a cell,
the moving from the dwelling to an outstay of a job space,
at the base of the cases,
a wish to kiss all
and to see none-
a vision of a boredom and a hope for fun.
hits quiet water like a plane
The S curve of nervous blue heron
among the cattails
a small flapping dinosaur.
Another July morning
beside the sentimental idiom
of pond I love
more than most things.
Winter so full of anger
amnesia, separate bedrooms.
In a few months
the grey geese will leave
in an arrow of sliphorned honking.
The unfathomable beauty of deer
will again make hunters rage.
My heart jumps like this
ruthlessly happy or not.
Against my will I think of you
in a Rorschach of cloud
just as the sweep of sun
a network of birch branches
pools between hackberry and hickory
and the whole bounding forest
on the water's slick surface.
The rhythm of the earth
is not measured in days or months
and your parting is not so much
beside the sweet collisions of comets
the erosion of quartz to prairie sand.
The woods in the pond are on fire
and I sit dazed among blue-eyed grasses
the mud chimneys of crayfish
realizing that the greatest pain
is to be ignored.
(Previously published in Big Muddy)
Yeast rises all over the maple
table, sits in pocked tins
near the registers, on window sills.
Covered with flour sack dish cloths,
a scent, earthy and sweet snakes
across the kitchen floor, up the stairs,
under the closed doors of sleep.
Gramma rises early in spite
of the cold North Dakota spring.
It is Saturday, baking day on the farm.
A garden of breads sprouts
in the kitchen: whole wheat, sour dough,
white, clover leaf rolls, cinnamon buns.
Pie crust is rolled, raisins soak in rum,
nutmeats are roasted.
The first hot and sugared pie scraps
are handed to my sister and me,
melting on our lips. We warm
ourselves by the old wood stove.
Gramma tosses apple skins on the logs,
checks the dimpled dough, springy to her touch.
We sit on the rag rug,
look at the opened page of Adam and Eve
that our mother read last night
in our children's bible. Already at seven,
we know Paradise. My sister says,
I would have taken a bite too.
As another good guy
bites the dust
was he felled by greed
or was it lust
Still another person
we shouldn't trust
As we shake our heads
in feigned disgust
Our heroes aren't allowed
to show any rust
Our heroes aren't allowed
to gather dust
are so unjust
is now the must
While to err is human
and forgive divine
But one mistake
and they're a headline
Who quickly get rushed
to the sideline
by spin artist hired
Their public likeness
Before their image
and they've no option
So if you want to be a hero consider this….
Either live a life
of no transgression
or consider another
Because if you can't achieve
you'll never survive
the media inspection
When her eyes
disclose and share in sadness voiced,
"Do you ever listen?"
I know a number of things. Like I'm
never finished listening to what she's said
while reminding myself the flower is the space
between her wish and blood within my veins.
My ears then catch the frequencies
beyond the talk to where the heart
does sense a voice crying in the wind,
carrying fire no waters could douse
and with that fire comes
an ask that sears "Do you ever listen?"
And then maybe I'd hear
the gentle air that wraps in candle love
sobbing in the night wind
lamenting probes she makes,
"Do you ever listen and feel within
a word that breathes my need?"
And, when I travel facing winds that weep
and catch her voice in eyes that show
no sugar only pleading love,
if I'd just heed, "Do you ever listen?"
then I'd too feel raptures arms can bring
enfolding hope embraced in both,
and I'd stop walking so alone.
Henry says the Lakota called it black medicine.
I can imagine Black Elk drinking from a gourd,
huddling around a teepee with a peace pipe
sometime in July when the cherries are ripe.
Henry looks at each customer with green eyes
full of gourmet hot chocolate and caramel mochas.
He moves his arms across the espresso machine,
steaming milk, whirling words with a smile.
His eyes sail through you like a windjammer,
as if you've been caught by a cool island breeze.
He hums as he scrubs stubborn stains off of soup
kettles, stocks the pantry, or pours steamed milk.
He shakes his head and his braids rustle round him.
I work the register, exchanging money for drinks.
The smell of French Roast perfumes the air.
You can hear the crackle of beans as they grind.
The line is long: a mother with a stroller, a boy
in a wheelchair, two ladies with Gucci bags.
Two wealthy ladies talk of sconces in their new
living rooms, a young couple orders hot chocolate,
and a lone man with dark black hair stands at the back
of the café wearing a T-shirt, his arms exposed to reveal
a green tattoo: "I-R-A-Q" neatly printed across his skin.
Henry talks to them all as they huddle around, waiting
for their black medicine. Henry makes everything look easy.
He can do three things at once. Yet Henry's not easy.
He's just trying to figure life out before it passes him by.
(Winner of Wilda Morris' Poetry Challenge, February 2015)
Greets the day
See the light
The light of day
Noon day sun
Hugs the earth
Sun's brightest rays
Sunrays hug the body
Bask in the light
Late afternoon sun
Five o'clock shadows
Sunshine softly fades
Pink, blue, and golden hues
Fleeting glances of sunshine
The last of daily light
I am the light
You are the light
We are the light
Live in the light
My eyes scissor down
a bolt of two-lane asphalt,
unrolling its dingy selvage
toward a stack
of silver crepe clouds
pressed thin beneath layers
of pearled sateen,
somber business flannel,
slate and charcoal wools.
Utility poles, like old needles
with drab thread,
push even stitches
along the highway's edge.
I travel, wrapped
in the soft shades
of an overcast day.
Tonight I want to dream of the Virgin Mary so very bright
Yes it's another Friday that Mary brings me poetry to write,
A Christmas feeling in October as the Mystical Rose appears
In my unconscious state of sleep I can see the Virgin peers,
The Madonna looked so lovely to behold and yet so very glad
As the Queen adorned a white veil with a crown on top she had,
Streams of light shooting out from her fingers in a friendly way,
Her majesty adorned a blue, white, black camouflage designed mantel
She wore a green, black, brown camouflage designed gown I can tell,
I know that the window for Christmas will not let me sleep until I
Write this poem from Mother Christmas to convey her words on high,
Mother Nature of Christmas said in a soft voice echoed in my ears
By saying, "To all the soldiers that are near and far and to the years,
That they serve with their families as they wait for your happy return
From foreign lands to come back safely to the ones they love I pray
They can't hold back the tears of joy as Waterfalls on a lovely day,
This is my dream for our soldiers around the World that Holy Mary
Will watch over you, guide and protect you from all evil and carry,
You safely back to the "World" and have peace for Christmas this year
Thus the White Snow Queen smiles at our soldiers to hold them dear,
Then I woke with a yawn I saw with my excited imagination eyes
The Mother of Heaven and Nature sing as I look up into the skies,
So to all the U.S. Service members and their families I wish with all
My heart as being one time where you are a Mary Christmas I call,
So I have finished this and Mother Nature will surely let me sleep
As I know her highness will protect us in America to bless and keep,
The White Lady of Peace always comes to me on Friday nights round
A few months before Christmas to inspire me for others that's around
Ancient times, ancient places; timeless people, forgotten faces.
Souls that whispered, love gone by; lives of hardship, lived then died.
Work and toil, sweat and tears; joy in breathing, relinquished fears.
Birth of children, prayers for life; tiny headstones, grief and strife.
Reasons for each life unknown; lives that mattered, heaven's souls.
Violets grow among the weeds,
hiding seeds for my discontent.
The fertile soil
will spawn them all,
and absorbing the Sun,
into a bountiful array
of nature's arts
to restore my spirit
and nurture my soul.
The moon rode all night to find
in the lilies, in the leaves
mowing through dark over secrets
the moon rode all night to find
in the shadows light as piano notes
in the wind soft as owls' breath
the moon rode all night to find
past misty stillness at the edge of the lake
past bright silver dreams of swan children
the moon rode all night to find
on the train of shining, on the song
of ecstatic explosions of free stars
to find everything
that ever fell down from the sky
(Published in Prairie Light Review,
Vol. XXXVII, No. 2, 2015)
There can come a moment
when stillness reigns,
when the actor in the mind
is curtained away from view,
when reading is unneeded
though the book be open.
With animation suspended,
whole libraries may be
now serenely renounced,
conversations unengaged in,
writing saved for a later muse.
Images stream in and out
with no conscious guidance
or disturbance, each
morphing into the next.
Is this interlude a taste
of the long and quiet phase
that humans call heaven?
An after-state wherein they
reap the ecstasy they sowed
while living the virtues?
Euphoria must pass.
Soon will be seeking,
effort, grief, desire—
but for now the mind
is permitted its silence,
and the heart and soul
their benign repose.
(From Recent Poems)
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