May - August
2011 Poems May thru August
Ending in Tears Print this poem only
In 20 minutes I will be letting go
of the last tattered strand
of bureaucracy glued to me
for thirty-seven years.
I did not imagine that I would feel this way
like falling facing up seeing that rope
wondering how it will be
without this adherence.
I left part of my soul up there
most of my life still is bound
in the spirals of remembered moments
in minds and hearts of those of us who touched.
Being in the air like this
is free and breezy twisting easy
with my muse and pixies
poets and cousins by the dozens.
But still the loss haunts me
in these last moments of goodbye
images of friends and fellows
of embers and smoky nights in bars.
The young whose questions thrilled me
the old who taught me lessons now practiced
with joy and pain as I gain on the finish line
images of those years now gently mingle
with my tears.
My last official day to be employed by El Centro College was today (August 31, 2011), midnight to be exact is the end. As I look back on my teaching career with the Dallas County Community College District I feel some satisfaction but I cannot deny the feeling of sadness at this moment. Many wonderful and some sad memories flash through my mind. I have known some magnificent human beings there - students, colleagues, staff, and administrators. But I am also loving retirement. I have been on "phased retirement" teaching part time for the past three years and now I am completely retired.
Written August 31, 2011
A Cajun Concoction Print this poem only
Chef Paul and painter George
serving Cajun to the world at large
spicing each others dishes
with blue dogs and red fishes.
A grateful public bows in your direction
savoring your Cajun connection
hoping you keep forging a trail
and spreading your art full sail.
I never met George Rodrigue (image above on left) but I did go to his gallery in the French Quarter in New Orleans with my sister and on several occasions enjoyed crawfish etoufee at his Blue Dog Cafe in Lafayette. His art is striking and uniquely Cajun. He is world-renown now and has painted his own version of several U.S. Presidents. But I really first heard about him from my cousin Gary Reed (sadly both are not deceased) who went to high school with George in New Iberia. They met regularly in high school reunions and I got to know George's wife, Wendy Rodrigue Magnus, who was devoted to him and did a blog about him and his art. Wendy was kind enough to allow me to use an image of one of George's pieces on a poem I wrote which was inspired by that painting. George and Wendy founded a foundation which gave thousands of dollars in scholarships to young painters to encourage their growth as artists..
Paul Prudhomme (image above on right) is a famous Louisiana chef who has had a lasting influence on Cajun and Creole cooking.
Being Homo Sapiens Print this poem only
Hi, I am I
and I am a homo sapiens.
Sapiens... the wisdom to know
I cannot be I
an errant ion
yet to be discovered
Then I walked into this little universe.
You were in conversation
engrossed in your mutual darkness
glowing with grace conferred in stories.
I settled at last
into an orbit
around the star
you managed to find together.
Your laughter and your tears
tore tiny openings
eroded the ramparts
that hid my soul.
My shadow now melts and mingles
in the sapiens of my fellows
where now and then
I happen upon serenity
and find my humanity.
Author's Note: This poem speaks to the human need for connection with others, for we cannot be human without them. And hopefully we can all find a few brave and open souls to share the darkness as well as the light.
Conflict Print this poem only
Conflict. It is not an attractive word.
Eyes glaze over as if unheard,
its meaning as confusing and strange
as quarks or the stock exchange.
It might mean divorce or an angry fight,
opportunity, crisis, darkness or light.
It’s just a word like its sister dispute
but where does it lead, what is its root?
Politicians use it for attention and fame
zealots slice with their sword of blame
poets and novelists spin in its web
friendships and love and families ebb.
But when I found the inner space
to fall into its mystic embrace
to bridle my ego and ire
I reached through into the fire.
I found a glen of orchids and springs
where the morning mockingbird sings,
underground streams beyond mental poses
where souls open and the heart discloses.
But I did not arrive to that fertile glen
by accident. Now, I can remember when
this woman of fine and classy bearing
called me in for conversation and sharing
about a need for training in ADR
downtown. And with my mouth ajar
she asked me to help chart
a new program they wanted to start.
And so, unsure and afraid I’d be a fool
I jumped into this deepening pool
of conflict resolution and mediation
slipping and sliding with dedication.
I discovered a field both big and small
too big and complex to learn it all
but under its massive tent
everywhere I went
I found good people trying,
through the anger and crying,
to help others make something new
in the red and the blue.
This field is small enough
that all of us, weak and tough
can paint on the canvas of our time
our own poem with our own rhyme.
Fence Builder Print this poem only
All the houses around us are fenced.
Boarded against the hoard
of vagrant eyes, imagined robbers.
Five yellow pages of our fears -
many hoping we will overcome our thrift
and buy their iron or vinyl
rather than the cheaper wood.
I prefer to see my neighbors
repairing their pickups
throwing their kids a party
driving, walking, scooting
down the back alley.
Where are they headed?
To the store for lettuce or the lottery
to the doctor for their asthma,
some at an unsafe speed,
are they late to the office
or are they slaves to productivity?
It seems we need a retreat
from the attention-demands of a crazy world.
But is it too easy to insulate and isolate?
My no-fence house
is my declaration of dependence
on this neighborhood
and my ties to it.
But how well I know
my dark talent
for building walls within
to divide me from those I count
I don’t want to be
a fence builder.
The costs are too high.
Written 5-9-11 Revised 9-1-19
Hackberry Print this poem only
Near the sidewalk beside the house
you tilt slightly toward me
in your brown hackberry beauty
as if to remind me to lean into life.
Jambalaya and the Grandfather Clock Print this poem only
The rhythm of our conversation
slow and easy as we dip
deeply into the chambers
of our hearts
is joined as if on some cosmic cue
by the deep-throated avowal
of the grandfather clock.
Between gongs time stops.
I am on a peaceful planet
the laws of physics suspend.
Space bends between breaths
in these emerald moments
fertile with quiet attention.
Something sacred is happening here.
Strands of connective tissue
like the brown bayous
and roots of Evangeline Oak and water lilies
stretch across generations
into our accented words
and mist in our eyes.
It is good to be here
taking in the crazy simmering kettle
Author's Note: A visit to my cousins in Louisiana prompted this poem. As I sat and shared with my cousin Marcia the big beautiful grandfather clock behind me gonged. And on another day my other cousin John prepared the most fabulous jambalaya I have ever had and I had a wonderful reunion with other cousins and their children in their home in New Iberia, Louisiana.
What do you see -
standing there looking at me?
The dip in my back
from the loads I've packed
the silver between my eyes
or the sadness in disguise
a worker for my man
just a dumb creature who can
do nothing but obey
what the reins convey
or the children I took
back and forth from the brook
the family I support
the dreams I transport?
Who are you, standing there
in your momentary stare?
I stand here being me
my jot of eternity.
Author’s Note: Written after a visit to New Orleans’ French Quarter and Jackson Square. Photo taken by me. One of my favorite and most memorable photos I’ve taken. I love this picture. I felt a strange kinship with and compassion for this animal.
Mosquito Print this poem only
Mosquito you flit and ride the air
Your little eyes always seek
while you blow north and east
looking for a place to feed.
Your flitting doesn't cease
until you light on my arm
find your way through the hair
to plunge your sharp needle there.
Mosquito you in the big office
checking your wealth finding mine
got your minions on the line speaking
finding loopholes, sneaking
around in every cranny and nook
bumping against the rule book
to find a warm blooded beast
for your next asset feast.
Which of these creatures am I?
The one with cash in its eye,
a bug with a hungry need
or some other stealthy stalking breed?
Author's note: I loved my recent visit to the Jungle Gardens of Avery Island, Louisiana, but was surprised by the multitude of mosquitoes.
Oh! blessed fall Print this poem only
Oh! blessed fall
I rise up, I crawl
where art thou?
My sweaty brow
yearns for just a hint
of your coolness in this heated stint.
Our Wondrous Wanda Print this poem only
I heard laughter from the room
stopped there in my tracks
atypical of the normal gloom
on students writing just the facts.
I looked in to see the source,
the stimulus of this brightness,
she spoke with such great force
on matters of both import and lightness.
What I didn't know then
was the depth and strength of her care,
the great love and respect she'd win,
or the times of fun and pain we would share.
Ms. Jones, the thing that will never vary
is the love of learning and life you've taught
and a spirit wondrous and extraordinary
in whose net all of us have been caught.
Author's Note: This poem was my birthday gift to Wanda Jones on her birthday. It was read to her in the Blue Moon Cafe amidst the bells and beeps of the slots at Choctaw Casino June 9, 2011.
I had the pleasure and privilege to teach with Wanda for several years at El Centro College in Dallas, Texas where she was renowned for her skill and verve as a history teacher. She was one of the most popular and beloved teachers among students.
Stroking Fantasy Print this poem only
At Jackson Square my small sliver
of imagination paints plowed land
the calliope plays the river,
brush cradled crooked in my hand.
Clods I kicked Monarchs chased
romping dirt mauling shoes
in earthen colors I trace
and strokes of fantasy suffuse.
Author’s Note: This was written after a visit to Louisiana, recalling a brief stop to watch an artist painting along the outer fence of Jackson Square in the French Quarter in New Orleans.
Verdi Print this poem only
Now I am a memory.
In recollection -
a silly smile, twinkling eyes
betraying my plot to make you laugh,
for life was much too ridiculous
to be taken seriously.
But - don't berate memories!
A nephew of mine visited with me
no more than half-a-dozen times,
but he'll remember me forever.
At first he'll feel a void,
but when he remembers
those crazy moments with me
the void will become a smile.
Memories are impressions,
and by God! I made a lot of them.
And don't you forget it!
I will be the natural wit
of the earth
a daisy growing from soil
fertilized by manure.
I will be the hops
flavoring the beer for a bachelor party.
But really, seriously...
Death is peace,
the noise of the city - silenced.
Death is freedom,
life's burdens finally lifted.
Violence and disorder are no more -
now... harmony with the earth,
at last all is calm.
The earth and I are one.
I will renew it.
Author's note: This was written shortly after my uncle Verdi's death. I think he died between 1970 and 1973. I post it here because I re-found the poem in 2011.
Found in poems written probably in 1973