2021 Poems: September thru December
Poem List: 2021 September-December
A Thimble, a Cup Print this poem only
Usually when I open my eyes,
creeping through the blinds a sun rise
brings a thimble of gratitude to my sleepy mind
for yet another day above ground.
But last night
news of flooded darkened homes
faces full of desperation and despair
delayed sleep until another morning
was about to dawn.
I turned the lights on
just to make sure.
Now I am awake
a cup of gratitude.
Spending Print this poem only
When I spend time with you
the investment pays dividends
deposited in my soul
and like a big bowl of cereal in late morning
satisfies my hunger and thirst.
Your listening, whispers
arrest my heart
and take it prisoner.
I am yours.
Thorns Print this poem only
The thorns in my side
I try so hard to hide
with humor, cleverness, even kindness
but after so long they are well-planted
like seeds they’ve taken root.
I am a man full of grace and gratitude
even changes in attitude
I float on great waves
in my wooden dinghy
precarious atop mighty waters
and angels visit
take me into smooth azure lagoons
where I reside in peace
even serenity from time to time.
I weep in great sadness
occasional fits of despair
I swim up to gulp for air
leap and glide into the light
breathe mercy in my flight
pray for courage and gumption
I cannot stay afloat alone
so with abandon I dive
into bright souls whose hands and hearts
reach down to rescue me.
Some of them are thorn people too
battered, broken, and rugged
who’ve found the courage to change
the things they could.
I guess these thorns are there
to make me come up for air
to give me the zephyr of humility
the certainty of a love
that save me.
Author’s note: This is written for those who are in the grip of one or more addictions.
The Builder Print this poem only
It is hot
I am sweaty and already tired
a lone mason out here in the sun
my back bent over the edge of the foundation.
Behind me the stack of bricks
in my hand the trowel
snatched up from my weathered toolbox.
My forehead drips joining the goo of mortar
I lay the mortar bed row
and grab the first brick
to begin the southern wall,
the wall that will face the squalls
of this troubled season.
Author’s Note: Sometimes one must begin again the project of building sanity and good mental health.
Surprised by Astonishment Print this poem only
Can I still be astonished
or have I become so inured to the darkness
and fallibility in others
that I expect nothing more?
It does not surprise me if
the wealthy ignore the poor
fundamentalists hate nonbelievers
I eat too much
men abuse women
I forget to stroke my wife’s hair
political fervor stifles compassion
I reject needed correction.
But I am astonished by
nurses and doctors who care for people who abuse them
the tenderness of a mother who loves her malformed baby
when I’m forgiven by someone I’ve hurt bad
politicians who compromise for the greater good
a firefighter who runs into a burning building
when my apology is gracefully accepted by a victim of my folly.
give me hope
lift me from depression
bring a smile in the midst of my sadness
prove my humanity.
It’s like fishing… Print this poem only
Contemplation is like fishing.
Often my reason fails me
and I cast out into the waters
hoping I can catch that vital energy
feel its power, its resistance, its strength
that is elusive
but I know is there
and those moments of connection
with that mysterious force
give me energy.
I am alive
so I keep castings into the ocean
knowing the elan is there,
the verve that takes me from my mind
to dance, to move, to swerve
in that moment of now.
Author’s Note: I bow in gratitude to Brian McLaren and Barbara A. Holmes for their wisdom that inspired this poem and kneel in awe and thanksgiving to all the fish I have caught over the years, for the excitement and nourishment – the life they gave me.
Wilderness Dreams Print this poem only
I awaken in darkness
still terrified and running
from the mountain lion.
But what if I’m the prey
of my own judging
captive of my comparisons?
At times I feel those verdicts in my gut
like when I can’t concentrate on a task
I SHOULD be doing.
When I notice my tight gut
and my mind wanting to flee
I can stop trying
and lying to myself
set my imagination free
roam a wilderness I choose
like right here on the flat and fertile plains
of this poem’s lines.
Forsaking Regret Print this poem only
As she lay there, her face pale, almost ashen
in her gravelly voice
she said how horrible she felt
about a life so full of mistakes and selfishness
for giving her sister a hard time
being crabby and so critical to her boss
who was also her friend.
She looked into my eyes
regret dripping in every wrinkle
of her rugged face
and she began sobbing.
I cried with her
squeezed her left hand
felt the burden of my own regrets
for the ruts and rocks I had left
in the path of my past.
And I told her she was a different person now
I reminded her that the amends made to me and so many
later in her life were a testament
to a soul redeemed
and now in glory.
She smiled wistfully,
closed her eyes,
and drifted on her tears
Blossom Print this poem only
A man wants to make his mark on the world
to leave something of himself that will endure.
It is the human thing to do.
For some it is children
for some a book
a dare-devil act
or other feat
that will interrupt the routines
of a father, mother, farmer, pipefitter, or pastor
make them pause and notice
for a moment
or even learn a thing or two.
But I wonder if these small interruptions
in the lives of other mortals
the sweat, angst, hours, gut wrenching
and immense energy of a life.
The sage’s magenta petals fall in the heat of the afternoon
and no man, woman or child notices
but bees lit there and sucked a little life
from the blossoms’ hearts.
Maybe I should be content to bloom
for a few days in summer
then fall away
to the earth
from whence I came.
Author’s Note: A friend of mine just published a book of his poems: Apothecary, by James Kenneth Blaylock. I opened it this morning as I lay in bed trying to wake up. It is a nice little volume of his poems written over many years. It felt good holding it in my hands and remembering James and our little poetry group in our town, remembering him in his wheelchair struggling with his strong arms to propel himself into our lives - which he did. Now he has kids and three books. His gentle voice has been heard. His sad smile has been seen. He has made his mark. Reading his poems, James caused me to reflect for a moment on my own life.
In This Now Print this poem only
It is good to be in this place
in this time
the plants awakening to the light
the soft music
easing into my soul
the candle flickering
the air and me
cool and still
in this now.
Final Judge Print this poem only
Talent shows have judges
who measure the gifts of the contestants
and proclaim who is the best
based on their performance.
We all have gifts given to us
by parents, friends, loved ones, and other teachers,
each of us also being a teacher or gift-giver of sorts
for others and ourselves.
When I judge myself
may I be merciful, wise, and accurate
taking into account
how I became me.
So, now and in the end
may I be the true me
and not a me conjured in my imagination
or a me who became me
by comparing myself to other mes
for in the final analysis
it is all a gift.
It's too late… Print this poem only
It’s just too late
foes on the verge of a trounce
fate is surely defeat.
Is there one more ounce
of hope, of effort
one more cup of fire
to eek out a victory?
It’s too late
to turn back now
you’re too far gone
your past hangs on your ankles
like rusty chains
the ruts in your road too deep
off and out onto smooth.
Besides, you’re too old,
too set in your ways
to change now.
It’s too late baby
It’s too late.
When you were two
it happened to you
the stage was set
too bad my boy.
But I take a deep breath
and smile at the voices describing my supposed fate
but I say to those voices:
because now is my moment
to step into brilliance.
Author’s Note: It is too easy to tell myself there is no chance for a future at my age and to give up. I don’t know what it is but I’m just not ready… to give up on the possibilities.
Hidden Canyon Print this poem only
Vines and their tributaries
climb the wall overtake
and name of our neighborhood:
Four decades ago
we explored the woods
and found the rocky canyon
etched into the landscape by Ten Mile Creek.
Our limbs were limber
muscles young and strong
adventure coursed in our veins.
But now no woods
just houses and streets
our jaunts into the wild
with woodsy small creatures and critters
The mystery we found there
now supplanted by novels, poems and stories
of children, young explorers and writers
and I traverse the thicket
of my small universe
searching the hidden canyons of
mystics, dreamers and poets,
combing a terrain deeply inscribed
by the hand of the divine.
A Crossing Print this poem only
As she crossed the bayou
the dark lily-padded strip of water
seemed a gateway to a wider world.
The train departed
leaving her family and church behind
anxious but excited as the locomotive
slowly picked up steam headed for a world
she had only seen in pictures.
I am on the road
with infinite possibilities ahead
wrapped in a small universe I accept
but with freedom
always moving toward
a home with no limits.
Author’s note: Inspired by Melanie Durand’s memoire, ”Crossing Bayou Teche.” Poem three of my Teche series.
It’s so easy to leave you Print this poem only
It is so easy to leave you
to get lost
in the garbage
fix the sink
watch the cowboys and chiefs
cut the grass, rake the leaves
shop for milk and eggs
exercise my arms and legs
take out the trash
pick up the mail
and a thousand other details.
It’s so easy to leave you
to get lost in the garbage
and before I’m through
we’ve drifted apart
and all I had to do
was sit down and start
to look into your eyes
speak from my heart
listen to you
and hang on your words.
Together take a walk
forget the clock
listen and talk
laugh a bit
maybe even cry
just you and I.
And before long
there we are again
we made it
that’s all we had to do
me and you.
Getting to know you Print this poem only
Isn’t it strange
how in this brief exchange
of the creative impulse
a certain kind of intimacy
with each other
yet we never
smell each other
breathe the same air
put up with personal idiosyncrasies
and off-putting voice inflections –
all the things our friends and loved ones have to.
Yet here we occupy hearts and minds
many of our friends and loves do not know
with such closeness, interiority, and connectedness.
What a strange and magnificent gift!
Author's Note: This poem refers to a poetry community of which I am a part, HelloPoetry.com.
Facing Light Print this poem only
I love to hang out here with you
in this room
where your green bodies
point to the sky
face the light.
In your soil
my life is renewed
my spirit takes root each day
in your silence
being here a prayer without words.
May I re-learn each morning
to move from my darkness
and face the light with you.
Author’s Note: Each morning I come into what we call our garden room where a multiplicity of plants face outward toward a wall of windows. In this solitude I join my fellow poets on a website in our fertile creating, where we take time to lift our eyes from our sorrows and let our hearts take flight. It is good to be here together [on HelloPoetry.com], each of us sitting down and standing up in our vibrant garden rooms.
Gray Day Print this poem only
I was hoping for sun
to brighten my mood
and wake me up this day.
But shades of gray
hang heavy on the horizon
ground wet from last night’s rain.
I remember my days of black and white
easy answers cut and dry, clear and bright
lines dark and sure
with me of refined mind
up on ground moral and high.
But I have become fond of gray
where friends with their faults
and me with mine stay
in love anyway.
Give me lowly, mushy earth
where seeds break open
with verdant birth.
Yes, please give me a day
with shades of gray.
Brother Bees Print this poem only
In these first days of fall
the trees prepare for their journey into winter
Honeybees buzz the sage
enter its majestic green body
through the sweet portal
of its magenta blossoms
for one last deep drink
My winter approaches
may I imitate my brother bees
maximize what sweetness
there is in my small world
and spark a little life
where I can.
Learning to Drive Print this poem only
She was never that close to her mama
who wished her kids independent
but there was the day mama taught her to drive
out in the field where the only thing to hit
was the single large oak in the middle of the pasture.
The old stick shift was a challenge
requiring all the coordination of legs and arms
the teenager could muster.
Then mama left her alone there to practice
and she was glad being by herself,
the intimacy of learning to drive with mama made her uneasy.
Being sixteen and able to drive
a turning point for her
able now to get away from home
to find boys with her friend gave them a thrill -
adulthood’s first stirrings.
They searched for dance halls
where Cajun musicians played
fiddles, accordions and washboards
and she danced the two-step
and boys showed off their moves.
Her mama gave her a rite of passage
with those driving lessons
cut her loose into a wider world
where she would go to India
have her first baby
and practice loving her children
into their own adulthood.
Author’s Note: Another poem in my Teche Series exploring the writings of my cousin Melanie Durand Grossman, a fellow Louisiana native. Her memoir, Crossing Bayou Teche, reconnects me with the roots of my family and grand oaks with hanging moss, marshes, levees, waters and music teeming with new life.
Young Discovery Print this poem only
I followed her into the field across the street,
our parents inside gossiping,
she sat down in the high dry hay
that was the very first day
of a special innocent discovery
“You show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”
I can still remember the aroma of that hay.
When I was tramping through a field
thirty years later
I felt strangely excited and alive
I knew not why.
And today I recalled that day
I followed her across the street
to sit in the hay.
A Different Kind of Kingdom Print this poem only
It is an error
to think that I am my work
my paycheck is my worth
bosses are the ones
who define who I am
based on what I’ve done
or the profit I’ve won.
I may not be a prince
or a splendid knight
with shield and sword shining bright
in the moneyed corporate kingdom.
But I can use my eyes to see
tell the pulsing heart of tree
convey the glittery waters of the sea
listen, laugh, and cry with you
hold you when your life seems through
emerge from a hideous mucky dark
still sparkling with a dazzling beguiling
Author’s Note: It seems men and women often devalue themselves and their worth because they are retired and are no longer called or sought after, or maybe someone has lost a job, or has a job that pays poorly or devalues them as human beings of worth, or have to take lower-paying jobs when their good jobs have gone overseas or have been replaced by robots. I think we have to start finding our worth in other places and ways that lift and ennoble our spirits.
cloud before waking Print this poem only
the cloud was gathering
and i could tell that it was filling up
with enough grace
to rain on and erode
self-will and hubris
the dark, jagged, and silly monolith
which is ego and pride
so wide in our species.
as the cloud completely filled and spread across the expanse
a feeling of serenity and strength
spread out within me.
it occurred to me
that the membrane between imagination and soul
is so thin they burst out on one another
and when they do
something marvelous happens.
i think it happens more often
in artists, mystics, seekers, believers,
poets and children.
The Narrow Road Print this poem only
I was reluctant to take this road
afraid it would be one way,
scared it would lead to a dead end,
a prison from which there was no exit.
But I had come to an end
of the road I was on
and made the decision
to turn onto this tree-lined route.
It was true there were fewer
exits, outlets, and divergences -
good for me who easily got lost
on disjointed paths, and floated in crazy canals.
But off of this new narrow road
were trails I could take -
if I but slowed down -
paths through lush woodlands,
clearings where I could look up
and see the sky and clouds
and breathe fresh air,
a lake of sparkling clear waters
where I could swim and dive as deep as I wanted.
This narrow road was just what I needed
and it has led to great mysteries,
rich stories full of people like me
who sometimes dip into darkness.
This narrow road led to mountains, valleys and flatlands,
and flights into heights.
I found fellow travelers, sidekicks, and guides
who had taken this road too
and had found the treasures
flowers and miracles along the way.
Still I travel this narrow road
rich with guides, saints
and sinners like me
who have tripped and fell
and gotten up
with a Spirit who gave us stength
to stand and walk
and find the Way
to a Kingdom here and beyond.
Coffee in the Morning Print this poem only
It is cold outside
as winter overtakes fall
the room has a chill
but then sipping my coffee
the rich brown liquid takes hold of me
and the fields of a foreign land
gather in my mouth
I hear the shouts and laughter
of the workers harvesting the beans
I poke my finger into the soil
and Earth fills me with gratitude
for its fruits
and its glorious life.
Ah! Nothing like hot coffee in the morning.
I sigh. I smile. Life is good here now.
The State of Inertia Print this poem only
“Inertia: (physics) the tendency of a body to maintain in its state of rest or uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force, a disposition to remain inactive or inert”
I seem to have a mindless patriotism to this state
as if I must salute its flag
and devote myself to it,
volunteer for service.
Dare I rebel against the state?
Dare I become a traitor?
What if I join the rebel forces of action
join the anarchy of activity?
It is all to easy to stay put
where it is warm and comfortable,
to lay back and just watch.
Oh how I love to watch!
I seem to like being a voyeur.
I don’t believe that.
I still believe there is a spark in me
urging me onward
spurring me to leap into the stream
to grow and learn and become,
to either eat the pie
or step out of its sticky sugary mass.
I choose to rebel
against the state of inertia.
Leap with Me Print this poem only
Maybe if I take the leap of faith
that you will jump into the stream with me
I will enjoy the swim.
In Clouds of Gray Print this poem only
Here I am in clouds of gray
the curtain closing on the day
on the horizon the last light
softly lingers before the night
bright voices of day’s gladness
fade away, my heart veiled in sadness.
The blustery afternoon shook the wings
of elm, its leaves, flying golden things
I hear them sing as they fall
then whisper their farewell call
now in the gloaming of the day
the clouds invite rest or a moment to pray.
Ask surcease of sorrow ahead
but dwell not on shores of dread
believe the voice from inside
in each passing moment abide
let go the chains of control
find a piece of joy in your soul.
Author’s Note: Ahead in coming months are serious invasive treatments for back, shoulder and other issues for someone I love very much. This poem is my attempt to process it all.
Dreaming of Daddy Print this poem only
I am no Freud or native shaman,
experts in dream interpretation,
but the other night I had a dream
of my dear departed daddy.
We were lying on the bed together
and he told me how I had hurt him.
He almost whimpered his disappointment.
This man who was a paragon of strength in my life!
How precious it was to feel his warmth, vulnerability
and humanity in this close encounter.
Even now my eyes grow misty
as I remember the way he was in that dream.
I wonder if in my dreaming
I hugged the Father of the Universe
and felt the frailty of nature
the sadness of it for what we have done to it.
Maybe we need to feel this intimate connection,
this union of our humanness with a powerful love
to grasp the enormity of our responsibility
in this relationship.
Dad and my sister Genie
Three Threads Print this poem only
Two souls wrapped together
in seasons and all kinds of weather
here we are these precious three
you me and one we can’t see.
Making our path, finding our road,
through our hearts a river flowed
a torrent of love and wild romance.
We tripped, but we danced our dance.
Your big brown eyes held my gaze
we talked and tried in a thousand ways
to merge as we fought and sought a third one
we drifted and flew from planet to comet to sun.
Where we were going we did not know
we ran fast at first but now… we walk slow
our speed or height mattered less to us
than building together a bond of trust.
So we’ve yet another adventure ahead.
All those years ago when we wed
we didn’t know the privilege we’d share
from solid earth to now in mid air.
We’ve smelled frangipani and cactus flower
sung sadness and joy and hymns of power.
From three threads together we’ve spun
a beautiful, sturdy cord of one.
Author’s Note: To my beautiful wife, our marriage and journey of love with our higher power, as we embark of another adventure through challenges of health and spirit.
Poor Leopold Print this poem only
Listening to Leopold’s symphony
for two minutes,
I was bored.
My mind wondered.
I recalled the dramatic first chords
of Wolfgang’s symphony 41
how it awakened me
how I was hooked by his energy and zest.
Even though Leopold taught his son,
the fame of the impulsive and creative Amadeus spread
as he wrote and played
and captured the attention of the world.
I wonder what poor Leopold thought of his own work
in contrast to his prolific son
a son who seemingly created great music
who freed himself from tired conventions.
A creator makes something from nothing
and I wonder if being lost in nothingness
as we poets sometimes are,
if letting go of the familiar
makes it easier to create.
Drops from Heaven Print this poem only
“Look for the soul,
you become soul;
Hunt for the bread,
you become bread
Whatever you look for,
you are.” – Rumi
A glorious magenta thistle blossom
a humpback whale breaching
a haiku by my friend John
a kitten swatting at a bouncing string
a silent moment just sitting peacefully
Debussy’s La Mer
a giggling baby
a golden leaf falling from oak.
Author’s Note: This morning I had a moment meditating that brought tears to my eyes. It felt like drops from heaven. As I wrote the above piece, I thought of Rumi and looked over on my bookshelf spying a decorative box: “The Card and Rumi Book Pack.” I took it down and opened it. Inside the book cover was a well written affirming inscription from the one who had gifted me this beautiful volume in 2001 upon my reception of an “excellence in teaching” award. It was from Valerie, a former student who is Native American. She ended her remarks with “Aho!” a Kiowa word that means thank you. I opened the book and turned to a tabbed page and read this quote from Rumi: “ At every moment, Love’s voice talks to us from left and from right, all we have to do is to know how to listen.”
Predawn Peace Print this poem only
It is predawn and still dark outside
but I cannot sleep.
The cool of aching winter calls
but the oaks, still green,
soon their leaves will fall
like me who so easily slips away
from the grasp
of the universe
that always beckons me to join
the elements of its peace.
But too often
I choose the storms
and scattering properties.
How sweet it is to close the distance
to find each other
and dwell together
in moments of love, respect,
that seem so rare
to abide in sweet and precious harmony
for a while.
Author’s Note: The last three days I traveled south to visit with three of my relatives whom I have not seen and hugged for far too long. We shared meals, a few card games, a little music, and a movie. These have been times to cherish and remember in the long months we will again find ourselves apart, at a distance, all trying to avoid the loneliness that haunts humanity these days.
Dead Leaves Print this poem only
Dead leaves fly low
caress the surface of the back alley
autumn has hold of this earth
made it brown and gold
boldly proclaiming an end
of the things
once new now old,
things I have grasped - so dear, so tight -
things that no longer sing
now a mere whisper.
Transience embraces me
in this season of drifting.
Trees now stark
a million fingers
point me beyond
this precious space and time.
I hear your whisper, I know your name
Dear Lord it was not too long ago
when I ran about here and there
looking for what, I did not know
toward a place I knew not where.
You, a faceless formless force
some THING, an energy somehow,
a blurred unknowable source
not a person in the here and now.
I judged a man not knowing much
of what he loved and how he came
to be who he was or what he’d touched.
He was easy to judge and blame.
They said if I wanted to feel YOUR hand,
to see your greatness turned to me,
first I had to think of a good friend
who I knew well, who I really did see.
I thought of my buddy named Joe
his tears his laugh his sad and lonely past
how he loved in both his highs and lows,
the knowledge and history he’d amassed.
Knowing my sweet wife and our private names
I thought of how YOU know every little thing
about me how I grew and how I became.
I thought of how you and I talk and sing.
I recalled how I found you and got a new birth
how you and I speak in a most personal way
You are a person now, not a mere force of earth
I call you Papa in the morning and at midday.
I see you in grand canyons, in the starry night
hear you in music in the giggle of a child
I cannot get away from you or lose your light
you’re all around me in the cities, in the wild.
You are a person who whispers and talks
I know your names and you know mine
you are with me when I crawl and when I walk
we have a love and friendship rare, and fine.
Passion Print this poem only
Rumi urged jumping into the boiling sea of passion
and grief would run from you.
I have been in that sea.
Swimming in those waters
caught up in the currents
keeping my head above water
there was no time for grief.
Now, still, there is passion
but more like a vat of rich soup
about to a boil.
The tentacles of loss
reach out to wrap themselves
about my wrists and ankles.
Age, a slow moving barge,
moves up on me
but my arms and legs splash,
I inhale a rich tide of inspiration
from courageous friends.
I breathe love
in poems, whispers and music
and battle the sinking.
One Day of Light
What a day to see light and its colors
catch the human heart
in its glorious song of love.
For just one day may I see and say
joy and peace and signs of creation
signs of life on the dark landscape.
New beginnings that thumb their noses
at our old and aching bones
and every muscle memory of failure
every nodule of shame trying to grow inside.
For just one day let me glow inside
reaching with care everywhere
I dare to believe
there’s someone who deserves it -
or not – I give it anyway.
Stoop to look into sad, bleak eyes
that they might see the light
the passion and kindness
that stirs inside.
Let’s have one day of light.
These are the words of a fool Print this poem only
Thinking of my closest relationships
makes me marvel at what a fool I am.
A map of the streams of my loves
would show small settlements
tiny villages where I’ve rested
from my frantic search for meaning -
spaces made by nights of talking and sharing -
spaces of kisses, cries,
shouts and whispers that kept together
the threads we coiled into a chord
Memories of foolish leaps we both made
into a friendship, a kinship, a marriage
What faith abides in me that causes
me to abandon logic for love?
It is a mystery to me
how I can stay in this embrace
despite our divergencies?
But it is a splendid mystery
Author’s Note: I bow to my new friend ruqayyah I met on HelloPoetry.com. His poem, “keep your friends close” caused me to write this poem. It is about the trust necessary for close relationships of all kinds. I think of my relationship with my relatives, my friends, my church, my wife. All of these are based on some degree of trust.