Sunday, May 22, 2022

poem

 Island

Every island is a mountain in the middle of the ocean

And every mountain is an island stranded in a dry sea


I imagine you’re the warm tropical surf

Lapping against my wind lashed stone 


It’s the perfect combination:

A damaging wisdom mixed with lust 


Some stars become someone’s honored Sun

But all Suns are just someone else’s star 


Will we stay here long enough

To see our home become a ruins?


Can we bear to watch a raw weeping wound

Scab over and someday thicken into scar?


The opposite of love was never hate

For the loveless are simply the lonely. 


On this dry plain I prefer to call myself an island.

Storms are coming, I sense the waters rising 


5/22/22

Saturday, May 21, 2022

poem

 Op Note XXI


I remembered the patient from clinic.  When I came into the room the first thing she said was can you please wash your hands.  I’m like whatever.  I always use that foamy stuff in the hall but it isn’t a big deal.  So I start washing them, soap and water, a good old scouring.  The other side please, she says. Huh? I look at her.  The OTHER side, she pleads.   Oh the back of my hands I realize.  So I do the full enchilada, churning the flesh of my hands into a froth of disinfecting soap.  I rinse them off.  Praying that she finds the tongue of paper towel peeking down from its dispenser acceptable.  Show me your nails, she says.  Ugh.  They’re due for a trim, I recall.  Horrifyingly, I notice a couple of them have some sort of black crud packed under the tips in tiny black crescents. This morning, before leaving the house, I'd noticed a few weeds in the front flower bed.  Dug them up and must have forgotten.  Goddam. Found some sterile fine tipped scissors and scooped out the crud. Washed my hands again.  OK? I said.  She said ok. Just please don't touch me. She was up for surgery regardless of anything I said.  It needed to come out.  But with her prepped belly glistening there all sterile and germless I paused.  I had scrubbed and gloved and gowned.  I had done this a thousand times. Her skin quivered when I brought the scalpel closer, as if squirming to escape.  I aborted the procedure on the spot.  We broke scrub.  Whisked her back to the recovery room.  What happened, she asked.  I told her I didn’t feel clean. Not clean enough. Show me your hands, she said.  I shoved them in my pockets. Show me yours first, I said.


5/22/22

poem

 Poem #41

Sometimes I wake 

Up and there’s no poetry anywhere

Which is another way of feeling 

Everything devoid of meaning.

The coffee is just the coffee

A hot liquid in a Dad mug 

The birdsong a noise on the other

Side of the window

My body just my body

Same as it always is 

Define window

Define world

Define body

I have the answers but none of them is poetry

I don't like it like this 

Life as a series of minutes and seconds

A space where objects are arrayed.

It pinches the heart.


Without a poem

There’s no thread

With which to weave 

Together the world of things 

But now the coffee is gone

Work beckons, tasks await.

I must become again the proper noun

Who acts as he is defined.

Under the circumstances

It doesn’t seem right to leave 


5/21/22

Thursday, May 19, 2022

poem

 Bad Ankle

Rolled my bad ankle again

Chasing after a ball in high-soled

Shoes at a kid soccer game.


Such a dummy 

So stupid but 

I was just trying to help


The same way I keep 

Breaking your heart

Over and over again


In all the same old ways


It used to just get better 

With the passage of time

Now, a dull ache always  lingers


I don’t believe in the healing

Powers of time anymore

Too much damage has been done


There’s always surgery.

Clean it out, get it fixed or fused

But then I’d be someone else


Patched but no longer young.

I might be able to jog again

But I’ll never just 


Run 


5/19/22

Sunday, May 15, 2022

poem

 A Better World

We’re always trying to make the world a little better.

Anytime we find ourselves someplace that seems

Just a little off, the faintest whiff of a sad vibe,

I do this thing where I get down on a knee

And propose to you 

Right there in front of everyone.

Nobody knows the truth

But it always seems to lift the mood,

Softens some faces the way

Spontaneous gestures and actions

Remind that love is not an abstraction.


Lately it seems I’m always on my knees.

So much sadness everywhere. But it loses its charm after a while

People stop paying attention.

It even stopped working on you—

I notice you're no longer there.

It’s just me offering a ring.

To the rest of the world  


5/15/22

Saturday, May 14, 2022

poem

 A Kind of Adult

We spend an extraordinary amount of effort

Trying to become the kind of adult we think

We needed as a kid but never really had

Taking note of all the ways

We felt let down

By old mom and dad 


Meanwhile your own kid is watching, plotting,

Formulating ways of evolving into a future self

Who is better in all the ways you are not

Full of all the things you lack


You’re better off burning your notes

Not trying so hard

Letting go by staying put


When your boy starts talking

Stop what you’re doing,

Look him in the eye and listen.

Realize when he wants you 

To just say I don't know

Even when you have the answer


And when your daughter seems sad

Sitting on the edge of her bed

And you ask what’s wrong and she says nothing

Maybe instead of explaining it all

Just show her your latest dad dance

A celebration of sorrow

That ends with a move you call 

Love doesn’t always shine


It’s a lot simpler than we think.

Just being there.  Without all the heavy posturing

The long gone boy you once were

Appreciates all your earnest machinations

But it’s too late for him

He forgives you

He knows it’s not your fault


And so when your own kids

Sally forth into the arc of their lives

Don't be surprised when they start

To become people you’d never recognize 


I'm not you! they’ll say

Thinking the gaps and holes you left

Were tasks for them to fill


You can’t take it personally

Even a perfect day fades to black

Your only job is to be the face they see

Whenever they feel the need to look back 


5/14/22

Thursday, May 12, 2022

poem

 Op Note XX

The abdomen was opened and the target organs identified. The residents seemed competent, briskly moving hands, confident stances.  I felt the urge to take a leak so I scrubbed out for a while.  When I returned the nurses asked my glove size. Someone hissed, you’re supposed to get your own gloves.  I was positioned in a tiny nook under the patient’s arm pit and told to lift up.  The retractor kept slipping.  Like this, someone barked.  I leaned back and toed the hoe-like tool into the split flesh.  We all heard the cracking noises.  The ribs! Someone exclaimed.  I was quickly shimmied out of the way.  When I turned I was a busboy in a greasy spoon diner in Massillon, Ohio.  I must have been 16 that summer. There were 6 or 7 tables cluttered with syruped plates and sticky knives, glasses half full of milk or orange juice.  Get busy someone seemed to say. It was me inside my head. I had this down to a science. Half eaten pancakes and waffles scraped onto placemats with knives. Plates and bowls all stacked. Silverware in glasses.  All paper and food in the trash. Then a quick wipe down of the linoleum table with a wet rag. Place settings slapped down on paper mats.  One after the other.   People paused to watch. They didn’t realize human excellence happened even in places like this. They didn’t realize this is why they watched. Minutes later I was nearly done.  But then a sudden shattering crash, a single white coffee mug fragmenting across the greasy floor like a pat of butter spattering against a hot skillet pan.  Tom the perpetually hungover owner called me over. You gotta slow down, he growled.  Yes sir.  But I didn’t mean it.  I turned and carried the full bus tub back to the kitchen.  But the kitchen became my Grandma Izzy’s home office and there I was sitting in the corner underlining blocks of text in a stack of Redbook and Good Housekeeping magazines.  I was wearing her bifocals.  I was six.  I wrote in long squiggles like I knew cursive.  I could read just fine.  But I pretended I was studying philosophy and history and economics at college. That I had access to a secret world that would take me away from all this. That the words in front of my face meant something else. That my squiggles were the alphabetic forms of a sacred language I would someday know.  Now I'm in the OR again.  The residents are all gone.  It’s just me and an open chest.  I don’t even notice my hands moving. Everything is purposeful.  I know exactly where everything goes.  A nurse pushes my glasses back up on my nose. Good thing you’re so fast, she says.

5/12/22

Monday, May 9, 2022

poem

 Beautiful

Some people are beautiful 

Only when they smile

Others seem loveliest

When wracked with sorrow


We all let down our guard, at some point

Show the thing we think is sacred.

When this happens some of us

Let you take what you want.

Others only let you borrow 


I used to think

You had to be one or the other;

The one who looks at the camera

Or the one who turns away.


I don't know what I am

I refuse to inhabit a face

My smiles are subterfuge.

I look ridiculous when joyous

And wrecked when I cry


There are two rational responses to all this.

One is to say that everyone is always beautiful

But it takes a lifetime to know

Exactly where to look for it, and how 


The other is to say beauty is a fiction,

That nothing is ever beautiful or ugly,

That the so-called beautiful things you see

Are just the times when everything false

Falls away and a certain glance


Captured at a certain time of day

Becomes a tremulous dewdrop

Hanging from a bent 

Blade of grass,

Just before it falls.


5/9/22

poem

 The Immortals

In the palace of Borges’ Immortals

Nothing made any architectural sense.

Staircases narrowed to triangular points

Darkened corridors dead-ended

Into cinder block walls 

The basement was just a void

That fell to the center of the earth

Ceilings were on the floor

And the floors, well, they were

Just a certain kind of ceiling.

Tiny trap doors opened into cathedral-like

Dining halls. Arching gilded portals 

Led to monkish hovels barely

Large enough for a cot. But I never

Saw a soul. As I wandered

These grounds I came upon an idea,

A train of thought that seemed to make

Sense of it all. 


In the following lines I will attempt

To convey my secret understanding—

First I noticed the silence

Then I began to lose my words.


5/8/22

Saturday, May 7, 2022

poem

 Names, Numbers 

We chop up time into chunks

Either named or enumerated.

Seconds and minutes

Are simply numbered.

Hours are a little strange

Mostly a rotating set of integers

Except for noon and midnight

Dawn and dusk

Morning and evening

Twilight and half light.

The days get their own names

Honoring the pagan gods of yore

But weeks are just weeks

Sorting themselves into blocks of months

Which are kind of funny too—

A mashup of names and numerals

As if Caesar ran out of things to acclaim

More than half way through

And just finished it off at the end 

With a few Roman ordinals.

But then the years are back

To being just numbers

Stacking up one after another 

Hash marks scratched

Into concrete prison walls


But a lifetime is your own

A first, middle, and last name 

Bookended by four digit dates

Carved into a modest gravestone 

Marking the place you’ll abide 

For—choose a word to

Describe a Long Ass Time

Eons, epochs, millennia,

Forever.


But eternity is only for the living

Especially for the ones who

Trace your letters

With frozen finger tips

When they visit your

Final resting place.

For them words are necessary.

Time must be bracketed.


We, on the other hand,

Wait without waiting 

In this realm 

Beyond names or numbers

We even resist the urge 

To call it timeless

And when you arrive

You won't be too early

And you won’t be late.

Here, it’s not quite dark

Nor is it very bright 

When you see me

You won’t know 

Whether to say 

Good morning

        Or goodnight 


5/7/22

Sunday, May 1, 2022

poem

 Dancing

I just want to hold you again


We’ll put on some music 

And call it dancing


Turn off the furnace

And call it cuddling


Watch a sad movie together

And call it comforting


Trade in the king for a twin

And call it spooning


I’d love to spend a lifetime

Thinking of ways 

Of putting my arms around you 


Even when I’m leaving

We call it saying goodbye 


5/1/22

poem

 Birdsong

My favorite birdsong in the morning 

Goes fwipp, fwipp, fwipp, fwipp, fyooouu

You don't even know what I’m 

Talking about, do you?

You’re not here

In my frosted dawn.

If you heard it you’d probably 

Spell it differently, 

Maybe you’d hear an “r”

Between the “f” and the “w”.


That’s all we’re doing here

Writing poems

Chasing after winds 

Trying to stop time.

We listen, we pay attention

Then try to get some of it down


All the world is just birdsong,

Beautiful sounds happening

Inside our own heads.


Maybe I can get you to start listening too

Who knows what you’ll hear

Maybe something different

Altogether, maybe the bird 

That goes bee-yuuu, bee-yuuu, bee-youuuuu


5/1/22

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

poem

 Dead Spring

In my spring nothing grows

Leafless trees splay 

Across the sky 

As frazzle headed wicks 

Of burned down candles 

Too smoked to know they’re dead 


No grass needs mowed

No buds or blooms

It’s a season bereft of color—

At least of any that I can see.

I only know it’s spring

By the shift in the wind 


But no matter


Soon it will be sweltering summer

Everything moist and sticky

The drone of bees

And crabgrass and weeds

Everyone just gives up and sweats

Fanning themselves on screened porches 

Too languorous to utter a single word


I look forward to the fall,

A ferrous feuille morte explosion

Of amber saffron auburn—

I see every gash of gamboge 

I am awash again in vibrant color.



4/26/22