A Splendid Voyage Print this poem only
Sometimes I have the good fortune
of tripping and falling into the lake
of your big brown eyes
and sinking into
their shimmering life,
There is nothing like having my arms around you
my face close to yours
looking into your eyes
knowing the dance
and this closeness
is only with me.
It is a moment of submission
a brief flight into the void
where I leave my self
and take wings
into the bright air
How could this prosperous miracle
happen to me?
What angel splashed into heaven
and dropped you into my life?
What fitful moment of grace
in the eternal now
sparked this fire?
It has been a splendid voyage
exploring the mystery of you, my love.
How precious this time
in the glow
of your soul.
Happy Birthday Helen
Diamond Print this poem only
The little girl, clean and proud of her hair,
carefully braided the night before by her old aunt,
stands near the wall of the large room
as if she were a small rickety table
that did not deserve to be in plain sight
with the other useful polished furniture.
Her outsized threadbare dress,
passed down to her from an older cousin,
hangs loosely on her slender frame.
She is lost here, an afterthought,
a question mark,
separated from her older brother
who is off exploring,
doing what little boys do.
Finally she drifts quietly to a computer
where she sits hoping to remain unnoticed,
trying to type like her brother had taught her.
She is relieved the keys are not loud
as she types a note to her mother
knowing it will never be sent
because her mom is no longer around.
Tears stream down her face
mixing with faint memories
Then a shadow crosses the keyboard.
She feels a looming presence
and anxiety squirts into her stomach.
A stern low-pitched voice pierces her silent reverie:
“Little girl, what are you doing here?
Don’t you know the rule about kids on computers?”
“No mam, I didn’t, I’m sorry,” she says.
And in a voice reverberating in the large room,
several adults turning around to see,
In a near shout, the woman says,
“Don’t lie to me. I’ve seen you in here before!”
The child cowers, her shoulders stooped,
trying to be as insignificant as she fels.
I wonder how long the tears,
sprung from tenderness for her mother,
will stay dry
blocked by this dark invasion
and how long it will haunt her.
I still remember the fifth grade
when standing with the others,
I was jumping around my desk,
thrilled we were going home for the day.
And suddenly I heard a loud swat
and then felt the sting of the board
on my little butt.
In school I had been a well-behaved child
and this was a first for me.
I still recall the total shock
yes--the horror--that a teacher would do this.
The disillusionment of that moment
would stay with me for a long time.
My own exuberance, it seemed, had betrayed me.
But more poignant
was the loss of trust.
What diamonds have we crushed
what bright metal tarnished
when we adults raise our voices,
speak down to children
or even to each other
with that edge that says:
“I do not cherish you.”
Would we speak with the same inflection
the same tone and volume
if the other were a mayor
or a Nobel Prize winner?
It is so easy to forget
that respect and compassion
should always trump power and ego,
that every other person
however jagged their edges
however rough their exterior,
with care and proper handling,
can be revealed
The File Cabinet Print this poem only
I sit before the dusty file cabinet
papered with the past:
the eighties and nineties -
me full bore into my career.
What energy I had, what enthusiasm,
steady in my resolve to be somebody.
of death and marriage,
admiration and celebration.
of records like investments in my future
a future now present.
Into the recycle bin
I cast reams of what once was,
saving only the pieces that tear apart
the deeper creases in my heart.
And what about the cassettes?
Would I feel pangs of regrets
discarding songs and words
recorded with care by Pop
of blues, booze, trains and truck stops?
This winnowing this sifting
finds me shifting
from the valleys of memories
to present practicalities.
But still It feels like blood-letting.
I wonder if I fear forgetting
the remnants of the past
the highs and the lows
the victories and the woes
the awakenings amassed?
I remind myself that these are just things.
The memory of Mom and Dad still brings
visions of trips and celebrations that die hard
with feelings of fondness, affection and regard.
All these particles of past years
do not comprise the I that appears
at this moment in time.
I don’t think there was ever a self
that I could put on a shelf
permanently me once and for all.
I hope I can still answer the call
to my ultimate glorious fate
to always become to always create.
Written in 2014
Fledged Print this poem only
The eaglet tests its wings
again and again in its nest
and finally, perched on the edge,
now fully fledged
it surveys the space
its wings have yet to know
and takes that first leap.
Oh what a sight
to see its magnificent flight
answering with its wings
each current of air
feeling the freedom there.
What is it keeping me here
inert in the known
in the shadows of light
in the familiar peace
choosing the ground
over the glory of flight?
Adjective (of a young bird) having wing feathers that are large enough for flight; able to fly.
Marriage of Gold Print this poem only
He is a father he is a man
a provider doing all he can
to teach his children right from wrong
help them grow straight and strong.
Like his dad he has the gift of tears
through the traumas and pain of years
he has kept a soft but sturdy heart -
compassion his fine and delicate art.
I ‘ve heard of many a female saint
but this one has so little constraint
in service to family and profession
extending herself without question.
A pioneer woman comes to mind
standing, her back and head inclined
viewing the plants and rocky ground
saying a prayer without a sound.
Always faithful, loving her with ease
except for his long affair with trees
when he looked out over the earth
he fell for this emerald of great worth.
A dedicated mother and wife
she’s lived a blessed and holy life
with folded hands on bended knee
she found her faith to be the key.
Hiked and skied mountains together
through drought and stormy weather
they are for us a matrimonial sign
a choice, aged and priceless wine.
Horizons and sunsets of great splendor
too many birthdays to remember
they’ve trekked and roamed the land
seen the Kingdom hand in hand.
Even with unfavorable winds
they’ve made good and loyal friends
and in line with their friendship ideals
opened their home for countless meals.
What a delight it has been to see
two persons individual and free
make such a rich and fruitful union
made angels wish they were human.
It is easy to feel humbled and awed
by these two wondrous children of God
behold the awakening soul:
this priceless, precious marriage of gold.
Author’s Note: Dedicated to Dal and Ernestine Currier on their 50th wedding anniversary.
Ode to the Zebra Print this poem only
For the zebra it’s all black and white
but for me it’s mostly gray
in the darkness and in the day
catching a little light in my night.
Zebras are so honest in their contrast
But I’m loathe to be so bold
caught between hot and cold
preferring softness to bombast.
The social Zebra views its group with care
yet the stripes of each are unique
we humans have our own mystique
both hateful and loving without compare.
Zebras balance the yang and the yin
and they run at lightning speed
I move slowly as I proceed
First I pray and then my amen.
Maybe my task is to find my way back
like the massive migrating zebra herds
to an oasis where I gather my words
between the bounds of white and black.
Priceless Print this poem only
There are websites and apps
to show you perhaps
the lowest price in town
the cheapest all around.
You know there is some stuff
of which you can’t get enough
but when you are device-less
find someone who is priceless.
Remembering Tomorrow Print this poem only
Today I heard a physicist say
we might remember yesterday
but as far as we know right now
the milk of the old brown cow
that has not yet hit the can
is beyond the knowing of man.
Einstein says it quite brilliantly
stating his general relativity
space and time are distorted
in black holes sometimes reported
by astronomers with their clever eyes
directed out from our earthly skies.
Besides - have you ever awakened
from a dream of a journey taken
with you hurling, tripping, and running
from a man you were swiftly shunning?
Now… that dream’s not about the past
about actions you’ve already massed.
Awake and alert, the dream is not there
in your present… that you are aware
but… you wonder if your present sorrow
is because you’re remembering tomorrow.
Reunion Print this poem only
Here’s to the Pantels, the Morgans, and Creeks!
To tell all the names would simply take weeks.
Here’s to the mamas and papas who brought us here
for the times together in sadness and in cheer.
Here’s to the love of husbands and wives
the kids and grandkids they’ve put in our lives
we are grateful for the songs that we’ve made
for the laughter and all the games that we’ve played.
May we recall in good times and in bad
the special moments together we’ve had.
Just as did each father and mother
may we always choose to love each other.
Reunions are time regardless of weather
to remember and renew our bonds together,
these are times we stand up and insist
we’re a family and by God, we’ll make that persist.
Shutters Print this poem only
From the road I can see the details of aging
on the old abandoned house,
its rickety closed shutters,
its boards bare and its shingles torn
by too many storms.
I walk up the fractured sidewalk
weeds sprouting from every crack.
I open the door
by the heavy gray scent of old dust and mold.
In the quiet, a muddle of motes float
in a shaft of sunlight.
I wonder how many stories and memories
are hidden here
how many babies crawled its floors
how many meals were cooked and served
how many nights of making love
or caring for sick children.
In the silence I listen
for the sounds trapped in the timbers:
the arguments, the lullabies,
the children’s laughter.
And on the far wall
thanks to that beam of light
I see a single frame hanging cockeyed.
I approach, and there in the middle of a scraggly wall
a green meadow, deer grazing,
birds in flight,
and in the foreground
a bumblebee on a bright purple thistle.
I turn and look toward the windows.
Outside the sun is shining
but inside it is cold and mostly dark.
I walk over and push open the shutters.
And only then, as I turn, I see
the children’s heights marked on a side wall
the floor worn bare by decades of coming and going
the abrasion and dent on the wall
made by the back of a rocking chair.
. . . . . .
I wonder how I shutter my house,
block out the light
keep people from seeing what’s inside:
the worn places
the cracks in the walls
the dark corners where I hide the unacceptable.
How do others shutter their houses
houses with rough exteriors
but hiding so much richness inside?
Maybe the next time I see an unappealing someone
I can take the trouble
to walk up the fractured path,
open the door,
a shaft of sunlight
through the shutters.
Sleep Print this poem only
What a pleasure
to savor the juicy flavor
of a lean filet
and pinot noir
lit by candles
and the bright eyes
of my lover.
But of equal measure
is the simple pleasure
of the soft, easy rhythm
and quiet peace
of a good night’s
Splendor Print this poem only
I notice myself being obsessed with fixing,
absorbed in what I am doing
with this device or that.
Not a bad thing surely -
to be productive.
The nation thrives on it
so proud when we are compared
on a line chart,
ours being the green line above
the other economies.
But am I so obsessed
that I can no longer
stop to notice the splendor
of a moss-hung cypress
silhouetted in the swamp
except in my memory?
Stinky Muse Print this poem only
Spraying them with the hose
dripping sweat from head to toes
the cat boxes lay on the grass
I hope this work will quickly pass
but there I am over the boxes bowed
and my neighbor shouts out loud
“Didn’t think poets did those things!”
I said, “This is where we get our wings
filthy disgusting moments like this
are inspirations we don’t miss
now is when we get our best cues
from the dirty clever stinky muse.”
The Grub Print this poem only
I wonder what it is doing there
making its way across the sidewalk
just ahead of me
me on my walk,
the sun on my arms and face.
I wonder if I should have worn sunscreen
and if I will get skin cancer.
I am thinking about all those years in the sun
years that have already caught up with my face
peppered with scars from surgeries.
But there is the grub inching along.
It cares not what will happen to it
nor does it worry over the mistakes of its past.
Does it know it is not even a worm but a larvae
whose destiny was to become a beetle
if it had stayed in the ground where it belonged?
I wonder if I have long enough
if transformation will come before I die
if I have what it takes to surrender
to my destiny
or if I will continue to muddle along
adjusting this, changing that
with whatever effort and determination I can muster.
The Zen teacher says:
"Transformation arises from a willingness
that develops very slowly over time
to be what life asks of us."
I ask God if I will have long enough to really surrender to his will
to give in to the processes that will make me.. what?
A new man? A saint?
In my teens I wanted to be a saint like my aunt Madeline.
But testosterone ruined that dream.
What is it then that I want to become?
And God says "Why worry?
Maybe I should just follow that grub.
Stop thinking about tomorrow.
One day, no, one second at a time.
The only present I have
is the present.
Maybe my true destiny is to be a larvae
and like that grub ahead of me
just keep crawling.
The Poetry in Us Print this poem only
They came into the field
a multiplicity drifting, walking slowly
shoes at home in the dirt
shoes shined, stylish, but squeamish in the soil
clothes tattered, stained with grease and sweat from labor
clothes well creased and pressed, ready for a magazine.
black, brown, yellow,
red, white, and blue
speaking softly with respect
speaking strongly in rhymed cadence from the soul.
A man in a dress
a short-haired woman in pants, no bra,
faces full of sadness anchored deep in pain
faces bright with hope and joy
a babble of voices, alien, from crossed boundaries
voices familiar and colloquial.
Each one from the margins
from some place
from some space
outside or inside
unwilling to hide
or simply abide in the familiar and safe.
Each one arrived in this spacious field
to plant their seeds
to water their weeds
with their pens and their sins
their frauds and their gods
their trials and their smiles.
This variety of souls
these people walking
all together are witnesses.
They testify to the poetry that’s in us.
Happy Birthday Virginia Print this poem only
Virginia, how wondrous is she
trekked the world joyous and free
traveled our hearts to our delight
her eyes and her soul so bright
they make us glad we have a chance
to waltz with her in life’s dance.
We’re really so very glad
that God, her mom and her dad
made her into this fine creation
for this lovely life’s duration.
So happy happy birthday to you
peace and blessings the whole year through.
Listen: Humility is truth Print this poem only
I learned early to listen to be successful,
to win friends and influence people.
Then I learned to listen is to love,
to extend yourself for the spiritual growth of others.
I am learning how difficult it is for me,
even though I have practiced it for years.
I have this need to speak and be heard
as if that would make me me.
Even writing poetry is my speaking
my desire to be heard to be listened TO.
I am not a humble man.
Humility is not my manifest character.
I am not even sure I want to be humble.
Will people know my truth if I am silent?
They might know love
and that would be good.
Now it seems my challenge is to listen within
to my body and its truth.
This is a difficult truth for me as I age
and my body's stamina declines.
So again I am invited to humility
to accept the things I cannot change.
Pause and listen.
The Work of Healing Print this poem only
She knows this practice
to let life happen
to give in to the life force
the force of freedom
saying no to all those cells
She knows the habit
of living inside
the very moment
This is the work of healing.
She knows the gentle art
of being a good host
making a visitor at home.
She has practice with this work
this work of abiding
of staying with the troubled
the ones who feel alien in their own skin.
She has practice with this work of healing.
She is no stranger
to reaching into the hidden hearts of strangers
and welcoming them
as a friend.
She is at home
with the work of repair
the work of making whole
and work it is
but she knows it well
and does it well.
I’ve watched her cook
smelled the rich aromas of her work
seen her search for the right ingredients
to make another glorious meal or poem.
She knows how to make a home
to gather with that great life force
make her new guests
wholly at home inside
where they belong.
Witness Print this poem only
Gaza, Ukraine, Ebola in Africa.
It is hard being a witness these days
and yet even saying that I judge myself:
What a whimp! I say.
What about the poor people
there on the ground?
On the ground.
Are we not all witnesses
to a thousand crimes every day,
the cloud of media
The pain is spread liberally
into our souls
if we let it
and let it I should
sink in just enough to soften
enrich, remind me I’m human.
But still, it is hard being a witness.
Some people speak of witnessing.
That word is a sandpaper pill
I cannot swallow.
Yet, when I rethink it
am I not a missionary
every time I smile to you when I’m blue,
do the dishes, wash the clothes,
sand the peeling paint, fix the sagging door,
assemble the new shelves,
feed the cats,
Author’s note: Inspired by James Kenneth Blaylock and his poems, “Showbread” [July 29, 2014] and “Go Transcendental” [July 28, 2014].
Sightings Print this poem only
I am inching closer and closer to you
stumbling on my doubts
the rusty chains of my years
slung heavy on my shoulders
over my gray habits.
I want a more sudden path to you
I know… love at first sight no longer an option
I can't count the sightings
the unfoldings the gentle murmurings
mostly hidden hints
But this Damascus road fantasy
distracts me from seeing
the slow green growth
right there in my garden
perceptible in days
in the spring leafing of the Elm
not in hours
but in days
in the trunk of the Oak
not in months
but in years.
Is it my shortsightedness
or my placable memory
keeping me from sensing
the ebb of you
the tide encroaching
fearlessly into my soul?
But still as I sit and stand
and sing and listen to the strong beat of your music
your voice from the mouths of those you’ve sent
I feel stirrings – signs of life
in this old growth forest
whispers of hope
that I won’t give up on you.
Because you’ll never give up on me.