with sails like angels' wings
that would transport him to beaches
of bamboo flute and conch shell horn,
where sand sings and grasses whistle,
where barefoot women ride elephants
through groves of gnarled pepper trees,
and days grow sweet as exotic blossoms
that spill into a thousand colors
every evening, dropping petals from the sky.
He wanted to see for himself
if the moon tossed diamonds
into the other side of the ocean
and if mermaids would jump up
to catch them in their hair.
he opened the world to me
and showed me sights
I had never imagined,
as he jostled my stroller
across the old trolley tracks,
went to the corner store
to buy 10-penny nails
to repair the back porch
and a popsicle to split.
memories are errant things
from the beach of my mind
tumbled this way and that
the sharp edges rounded
the clarity blurred by time
going through a drawer
I find a packet
about my ancestors
a chart done by my brother
not so many years ago
but it is new to me now
as if I had never seen it
as if it just appeared
the stories never told
relationships never known
my mind grows old
the numbness of days passed
hours spent thinking
of other things
rushing after nebulous dreams
time wasted on recriminations
have somehow dulled it all
memories filed away
in the drawers of my mind
have turned to dust or moldered
until nothing is left
but a vague disquiet
for all the things
I should have remembered
He's taken to wearing colors to bed,
orange tees, or eggplant, the new purple,
with boxer shorts in mismatched plaids.
Is he planning to woo me all over again,
replacing his worn-out stripes
that button down the front, the vee
having humbly framed his fleshy neck
for years? His old sheepskin moccasins
have fallen apart, the stitching frayed
like the wicks of spent candles.
He now wears dark, smooth slip-ons,
and floats about the house
before bedtime like a well-shod
aristocrat. Finally, sitting on the edge
of the bed, he swivels free of leather,
then cotton. Mischief, autumn,
and jazz rise from the crooked
little toe on his right foot.
The crickets are singing
their song of summer
to young minds in old skins.
The moon opens wide,
welcoming the dark
with bright silk.
(First published in After Hours)
Only slow, she isn't comatose.
Sometimes she sleeps.
This hauling miracle of sedentary beasts
To prove her reign
she blares a trumpet blast
at jungle, hill, and sea
but never can dismiss
her ancient weight and load.
No sudden tears relieve
this miracle of freight.
She trucks with tree-trunk steps
to move her tired weight
from front to back.
A tail-swatch dusts and sprays
the lazy homestead flies -
stars that rise and set
and, stinging, stick again:
pain she must endure.
She lumbers down to
kneel within a pool,
adrift in an endless sea -
victim of memory.
(First published in RIVERRUN)
The elephant mourns, brings branches to cover
a motionless body, heaved back to dust.
Tight in the curl of her trunk she carries away
a shard of ivory as she moves with the cowherd
down paths pressed by one less set of footprints.
Who knows how long the elephant remembers,
how long she grieves, believes that her happiness
lies, irretrievable, beneath the weight
of bleached bones and bramble. Perhaps in sleepless
nights she watches old stories acted endlessly against
the dark curtain of sky—memory's single spotlight
casting larger-than-life shadows, till finally
the painful clamor of recall gives way to softer sounds:
her own fresh footfall on the path, surprising echoes of joy
Three times each fall, I must corral the leaves
that October winds blow off bushes and trees.
I take my leaf blower, when not much breeze
knocks about, and steer these roaming dogies like thieves
corral cattle on the range grazing freely.
I use my trusty air gun to drive all
fallen leaves in piles ten feet tall.
I stride back and forth blowing really
stubborn grass 'til reluctant leaves join the herd
while keeping my eyes open for stray steers.
At times I use the rake to drive them on.
My job is hard, my efforts are undeterred,
winter's closing fast, and these give me fears.
Then I pretend I'm driving longhorns to Tucson.
I'm the leaf rustler on a cattle run.
I must corral these dogies before the season's done.
Can a black dog fill a dark hole?
Her husband took nine months to die.
Beau, boyfriend, a black mutt
has been in residence but three.
A rescue dog, middle aged, large, stocky.
He does not chase balls, is beyond that silliness.
Patrols the yard. Walks the neighborhood
dressed in a red leash and collar.
Barks with an old man's voice,
the remains of a smoker's cough.
Perhaps the ideal boyfriend.
Dressed in his Sunday best,
steel-gray-blue eyes rest
just a moment
between Job and Paul.
through gilded glass,
crosses the caped choir,
leaving lovely shades of gold and red
upon the human hourglass.
His head bows
in tiny increments of time
til he drools
onto the blue silk tie
bent above his waist,
a gift from a beloved grandchild
this Christmas or last.
The room is warm.
He lets out a hacking snore or two
before my gentle hand suspends his dream,
wipes the slime from his tie,
elicits his grateful smile.
But, soon he nods again.
Again, I touch his weathered arm,
but this time he is gone;
can no longer flash his blue eyes,
will not again hear the choir
he always came here for.
On the floor before a television,
Small child sat enrapt watching recording
Of Disney classic animated flick.
"Whatcha watchin' Allison?" I queried.
"Allison Wonderland," she retorted
And quickly asserted, "She has my name!"
No need to correct name in title role
As she clearly identified with her.
Like her alter ego, Allison was
Sane protagonist in a mainly mad
Domain inhabited by strange creatures
Urging her hither and yon and to grow
Big or small or not at all, play croquet
And beware the Jabberwock, my missy.
Hatter once asked her to try broccoli
Disguised in cheese. "I don't buy it," said she.
Wonderland wandering, perchance to dream
Of drama and performance on the stage,
Star-struck, felt stifled by powers that be:
"Acting's a tough gig once you have grown big,"
They admonished, as if, "Off with her head!"
She, astonished, moved on, grew up, triumphed
And dreamt new dreams fed by faith and promise.
Despite insane events the fates assailed,
She fought and won 'gainst caterpillars and
Cheshire cats, tweedle-dees and tweedle-dums,
Walruses and carpenters, red queens and
Mock turtles---forged on and at last prevailed.
Allison Wonderland, brave heroine
Nonpareil, emerges from rabbit hole
Whole, hopeful, strong and indomitable.
To Part One
A gentleman I've never seen before
was driven up front in a limousine
used his own key and glided through the door
He was neither overly kind nor mean
curious seeing what was to be seen
I suppose it's not hard to understand
he owns it now briefly and wished to see
before he sold what was his grandpa's land
But oh the effect that it had on me
when he said they'd tear down my factory!
"Tear it down" I asked "and what will I do?"
"I'm afraid I don't know." said he slowly
realizing to himself a shade too
late his lack of basic humanity
gauging what his obligation should be
I'm quite sure I ruined his nostalgic
trip to the past left some blistering bile
on the tongue of his memory a tic
in his field of vision After a while
he went rolling away It's a new trial
that's all I kept telling myself a new
room to be entered a new bus to ride
a new mountain one last movie to view
It wasn't the first I'd been cast aside
no I've learned well how to row with the tide
Though it used to be easier I will
admit and quite a lot less frightening
That night I prayed and rested by the still
waters of my faith In the new morning
I would walk familiar halls and sing
But I did not sleep well at all that night
nor did morning bring a song at its start
I couldn't help thinking it wasn't right:
wrecked bulldozed drawn and quartered In my heart
it hurt knowing he would be picked apart
It took me three days to caulk every crack
to seal all the windows and doors The air
became pretty rank by then from the lack
of oxygen the flues were stuffed with care
Drawing a breath became a chore in there
Well a patient man might have been neater
or have much more skill than I had when I
loosened the pipe to our big gas meter
and the hole started to whistle and cry
Boy that room filled in a blink of an eye!
So I ran like mad out-racing the gas
to the only unsealed first floor window
but the damn thing was stuck! I broke the glass
never expecting what was to follow
as I then flew from Hell to tomorrow!
Now it had been my plan to help him die
a peaceful death a graceful departure
I thought that he might go out with a sigh
not shrieking with laughter in the rupture
not wildly riding a flame in rapture!
You know I'm not complaining what was done
is done I thought I was doing a good
thing for a friend that old son of a gun!
But I did learn something I really should
remember: sly minds lurk in Elderhood!
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.
Our expectations are so unjust,
complete perfection is now the must.
While to err is human, and to forgive divine;
just one mistake, and they're a headline.
Hurriedly rushed to the sideline,
by spin artists hired to define,
their image before it starts decline,
and they've no option but to resign.
So either live a life of no transgression,
or consider another career direction.
For to achieve some measure of perfection,
is the only way to survive the media inspection.
Unless of course….
you become a hero at non-detection.
I stopped at a traffic signal
on a bright spring green day.
Across the busy road I saw flags
hanging half-mast mournfully
honoring thirty-two dead
at Virginia Tech.
As I sat, I thought of
all the faultless dead.
My best buddy from grammar school
Killed in Viet Nam.
My aunt and uncle
Killed by a drunk driver.
My friend Bob
Killed at the World Trade Center.
I invited them all
to join me in the car.
We looked out over
an immaculate golf course
appearing like a cemetery
We all joined hands
until the light changed
and then they told me
that I must go on
with my day.
Their spirits waved to me
while they drifted away
as the wind whipped the flags
into a snappy salute.
That wind will be
in Pennsylvania tomorrow,
and out to sea the next.
As will life.
Let me tell you about the brick I met
today, on my travels.
A boy had kicked me down the street
and bruised my face
and smoothed a little more my edges;
and I lay there, alone and sore,
abandoned, feeling low,
I, a rough, unpolished stone.
He proudly sat among his clones,
Stuck in a church, haughty and steep,
Perched as a king upon his throne,
For he was high up in the heap.
Bricks have a patriarchal air,
In someone else's scheme enshelved,
Belonging, as they do, and heir
To something greater than themselves.
They sit, and fit, square and erect,
Without a rift within their bones,
Proud, prim, proper, always correct,
Contemptuous of vagrant stones.
I don't know if ever they could dance
at the end of a boot,
or take a chance in a dark alleyway.
I envy them sometimes their lofty place,
surveying, as they do, the territorial race unfold
beneath them in the street.
I am ageless,
I get a little smoother as I go,
but I breathe the passing air with joy
or I escape it when it cuts through bone
I am immortal.
I have seen the years and centuries go by,
and walls and monuments decay and die,
and brittle bricks brought low,
the highest lowest
in the final fall.
Garlic and onion cling to your clothes,
the smell of a restaurant kitchen
beyond the help of Tide or Wisk
bought for a dollar at the Laundromat.
Second hand Nikes soaked with grease
disintegrate on your feet as you walk.
Your muscles bulge from toil
that would fell someone twice your size.
You sleep in one room with strangers,
Taking turns on the sagging bed,
night shift, day shift – who remembers?
and scatter like cockroaches at a knock on the door.
Miguel's cough is better today
but when Raymondo starts,
you pray not to be next.
All this for the family back home
where books are more exotic than pomegranates
and children play frantically,
knowing their joy is brief.
(Published in Iconoclast, Feb. 2013)
Growing up in the fifties meant
biking the neighborhood to find
a friend to come out and play,
walking the long hot hill up to
the corner candy store where we
could spend our nickels, gathering
girlfriends on my screened porch
any sticky summer's day for a doll
tea party, coloring and cutting out
paper doll clothes (with tabs) at our
kitchen table on blustery Saturdays.
Pulling on coat, boots and mittens
to make snow forts with the boys
or snow angels with girls, organizing
teams of neighbor kids to make money
for our own circus prizes or costumes,
building a clubhouse - hotly debating
the club rules - under spindly sumac
sprouting by the alley, but stopping
everything to wave at passing trains,
hoping for a toss of gum or candy
from the engineer on a steam engine
as it rumbled loudly behind our street.
Lord, I am like a new river
gushing merrily over the old banks,
searching out the least resistance.
Dusty crevices soak up my strength.
I spread myself thin.
Perhaps the warming sun can tame me
though I long to caress
the thirsty thorns of the scraggly rose
in Your name.
But I am confused by the mercies
tendered and those withheld
in all the land around me. Your glory
blinds me, absorbs me into air-light
even as the cool spring feeds my
Can I not follow on this new course
as I am compelled
until Your call
resolves my wandering?
Until Your call.
I ran for success
No matter where I got the access
Many times I was blessed
But sometimes very stressed
Failures made me surprised
To the extent I was depressed
Dark nights Gloomy days
Wet eyes staring gaze
Failures brought me to the bottom of Earth
To the empty life nothing worth
Long tunnel without light
In the sky like a torn kite
I did not give up my dreams
I did loudly scream
On that failure ladder I climbed again
Step by step
Correcting the previous mistakes
Failures gave me strength to success
Here I am back again.
Life is great
Value the failures also.
Shadows obscure the spherical skies
While life speaks of kisses and lies
I laugh at perpetual revolutions
Awaiting an ocean of revulsions
Unfiltered kisses portend the ravens
As butterflies survive liquid havens
I laugh in Neptune’s lair while
Peace pretends staging a reversal
Stormy evolutions, unfiltered dimness
Thieves staging respectable heists
I laugh at every minor statement
And ponder energy, kisses and beer
i wake to a sullen morning
tears fall from its clouded face
the eyes cast a gray glow
luminous but lean in mirth
as it's sorrow's birth
that rises from the dawn's dew
like a misanthrope scoping out the day
where dread and misgivings play
and the mind in sunset mode
rests within an unsettled abode
morning pulls the shades
locks the sunshine in closet pretense
as it leaves me peeking through the slats
of rising feelings immense
of dark memory pervading
into another bleak week
of life--- without you in it...
I believe there's something that's misunderstood.
It's the the need to do things for the greater good.
So many are stuck in their own realm
Thinking that they should be in charge of the helm.
Leaving others alone that could use a helping hand.
As they boast about their self importance and finances so grand.
Why would one want more than they need?
Over abundance isn't the way to succeed.
Seriously those that have amassed fortunes so great.
That won't give a pauper a taste of their plate.
Will never be totally Loved or understood.
From the lack of their care for the greater good.
I would say,
I would do-
I have faith,
I have th' right,
I have life
To go on,
One more traitor,
Like a pic of an alligator
On the channel of geography…
Let me send your photography
And the tape of your voice's phonography
To the stars
Never more to return.
That time, was just my turn
Petty beats of the memory
That, with you, has been stammering
At the thresholds
Of temples and feasts-
We are men,
We are not any beasts,
And, when we feel a lie,
We just wave a bye-bye,
For the liar to have a happy life,
Or to newly engage a new guy-
Their number could be even five-
Just forgetting your prayers
And your face,
'mongst the music of the church choir-
Ice and fire,
Fire and ice,
Lips and nose,
And the promise
That was common,
And, now, less common,
As we do not apply the Roman
Laws any more:
I am happy
That you are who you are,
And your happiness is somewhat far,
Like the sounds of the guitar
Clinging a serenade,
Like this poem
That isn't too late
To be rated and to date
Clever ears of those who write
Excluding your rite,
And the worst thing
Is that you are right!
I wake to morning's
and hear a
daring to fill
the early air with a
An idea flashes brainward
out of recent sleep as,
having risen from my bed,
I stand within
a splash of sunlight
on the carpet—
an idea taking on words:
"How you feel
is from what you do.
To feel differently,
I stand still in the light.
"What changes shall I make?" I ask
outdoors or innerly.
The same cardinal,
gives simple counsel
three times again:
but on the farm
when I was young
I used to shoot
with my BB gun.
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