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Monday, December 31, 2012

Second anniversary Song



Raina and Art,
sitting in a tree,
two years down,
now on to three.
Raina and Art,
looking fine as can be,
no lovelier couple,
none better to see.
Raina and Art,
may your union breathe free,0
here’s a toast from the coast,
just for you two, from me.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Be it Resolved

Mr. Bradbury’s Advice


What’s the secret, he was asked,
to being a successful writer?

Write it down,
write it down,
write it down,
for they’re soon forgotten,
those thoughts, ideas, words.

Do it early,
do it early
do it early,
in the morning if it fits you,
feel satisfied and smug by noon.

And remember,
yes remember,
please remember,
never watch
the eleven o’clock news.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Apologies and Happy Holidays to All

To my faithful followers and readers, I am not retired, but just incredubly busy. We have sold a home and the moving process is nearly all-consuming. It has also been crunch time for screening the final round of the the 170 films I saw this year for the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which is shaping up to be one of the best ever, with a special focus this time on Nordic creations, from Iceland, Greenland, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. There will also be screenings of the 42 best out of 71 Oscar submissions for best foreign language film. My little household has begun its own mini-festival, seeing "Lincoln", "Argo", and "Life of Pi" (in 3-D) this week. A lengthy list awaits before the New Year arrives:

The Hobbitt
Anna Karenina
Flight
LooperZero Dark Thirty
Les Misaerables
Hyde Park on the Hudson
Django Unchained
Silver Linings Playbook
Rust and Bone
The Impossible
The Sessions
Quartet
Arbitrage
Amour
A Royal Affair
Kon-Tiki

I have a preliminary list of the films we have enjoyed the most so far this year. Not claiming that they are "The Best" films of the year, but simply the ones we are glad we saw:

The Intouchables
The Master
Cloud Atlas (now reading the book, so I can see it again)
Lincoln
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Argo
Life of Pi
Skyfall
Moonrise Kingdom

Sunday, November 11, 2012

O-Dark-Thirty


It is o-dark-thirty and I am flying,
death surely on its way,
how quickly nothing else matters.
It‘s 0230, and I’ve been blown up,
thinking, this is what it is to die,
that’s all that’s left to matter.
There’s no fear, only sadness,
but not even one thought for me,
just for the tears of the ones who matter.
I meet my mother,
dead for nine-plus years,
and I am no longer matter.
She says, go back, you can not stay,
there’s still work for you,
you must attend to matters.
It’s easy now, to understand,
the work is peace, the goal is peace,
that’s all that really matters.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gone Too Soon


Just to the left of love and longing,
that’s where you’ll find
the path to the rainbow bridge,
and, if you cross over,
cast an oblique glance to your right,
you might catch a glimpse of
kitty heaven.
I’ve been given that direction
in a dream,
perhaps better than any map,
though I have yet to spy our Roxie,
who left us all too soon.
I plan to keep looking,
accepting sadness for little while,
holding fast to hope.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Texting Poem

EZ


Hearing from you,
no matter the item,
way better for me
than LQTM.
Whatever your thoughts,
share them with me,
in person, by text,
2G2BT.
Can’t say it in person,
I beg you, be mine,
too hard to say it
out loud, but 459.
We’ll share our plans,
see what we’ll see,
maybe some fun,
perhaps BTD.
I’m signing off now,
lest I get sappy,
but keep it in mind,
DWBH.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Just Beneath

Just Beneath Our Busy Lives


wondrous things await,
lesser ones as well,
visible to the open eye, the willing heart,
not hiding at all, if we choose.
Just beneath that stop for groceries,
a chance to make someone’s day,
to thank that clerk, mention their name,
grateful for their work, letting them know.
Just beneath that amber light,
a chance to slow, to pause,
making it a smile moment,
letting go the held breath, the tension,
every moment a choice.
Just beneath that daily chore,
a chance to notice large small things,
that shining plate, sparkling floor,
the dust-free shelf, your happy child.
Just beneath that illness,
a chance to heal, to rest,
to think about what’s coming,
in this life and the next,
a chance to choose to be here now,
present moment, wonderful moment.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Moonshine


There are no elm trees
on Elm Avenue anymore,
but so many grew
to the sky’s lower shelf
when I was a boy, yet new,
in awe of everything.
The lake was a wonder,
a playground without toys,
and, oh, the hours we spent,
and, oh, the heartfelt joys.
The farms were near,
their barns inviting,
the smells as intoxicating
as moonshine.
The woods called out,
come roam and hide,
treasures to be found,
meandering trails to follow,
no clue to the other side.
The sky was like a book,
its pictures ever-changing,
and we, the authors, the ones
whose visions made the tales,
endings ever rearranging.
The nights were filled with sounds,
owls and crickets and kids,
the elm tree canopy along our road
a full moon peeking through,
but mostly we were hid,
free to be, free to be.
What’s it like now, I wonder,
for the children in that home
my family built along the shore?
There are no elm trees
on Elm Avenue anymore.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Matchbooks


Gathered together,
like our family at Thanksgiving,
recalling memories, telling stories,
each a moment in our shared lives.
There must be more than a thousand,
too many really to count,
pretending to be snowflakes,
every one distinct from the other.
The shiny ones call for attention,
their embossed lettering leaping out,
not dimming the significance of
their plainer cousins, but screaming
mightily for attention.
The calmer models,
with no special filigree,
just the facts, ma’am,
of no less significance to us.
We kept them for a reason,
some times simply for an address,
a telephone number,
a note written on the inside cover,
almost never for their created purpose,
seldom to provide fire.
We’ll keep them for awhile,
even play with them, spread on
the dining room table,
remembering the times, the places,
a bit wistful, a little laughter, feeling older.
Eventually, probably when we move,
we’ll toss them, not without an argument,
but a box of matchbooks
just makes no sense in
a moving van, moving on.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mother

If my mother had lived,
she’d be 92 today,
and who could know how
she’d see the world..
If my mother had lived,
would she be in awe,
or, like the most of us,
take what we have for granted?
If my mother had lived,
she’d have seen so many
wondrous things, like
trips to the moon and
a vaccine for polio, like
electric cars and
a black man as president, like
Dick Tracy fantasies become
Steve Jobs realities, like
Valium and artificial hearts,
both of which might have
helped her live.
But my mother did not live,
and she missed so many
other things, like
her son in Marine dress blues, and
her son beneath a college mortar board , and
her son so beautifully married, and
her son at peace in a lovely life.
Of course, she also missed
too many needless wars, and
too many hungry souls, and
too much thoughtless avarice, and
too much not being done about it all.
I am sorry that she missed it all,
even the bad, even the worst.
I am sorry, Dr, Seuss, but
I can’t smile because it happened.
It did not happen long enough.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Chores of Childhood

It was a small town, a village really,
and everybody had their special roles.
There were six churches and with them,
six types of leaders, one called priest,
another two were pastors, three more
by name and function, ministers.
Not large enough for multiple choice,
but populated aplenty to require each service,
we had one drug counter, one hardware store,
a small post office, an eight-lane bowling alley,
Sal the barber, and the IGA grocery,
owned and run by my family.
There were also tradesmen scattered about,
working from their homes and trucks,
plumbers and electricians and such.
Also scattered throughout the streets,
most of which ended at the lake shore,
were thirty or more taverns, but
that’s a story unto itself.

I worked in that grocery, performing
most tasks, like checking and bagging,
stocking and delivery, sweeping and dusting,
marking prices on cans with black grease pencils.
I steered clear of the meat counter, though,
never trusting those knife-wielding butchers,
unable to stomach the blood, the smells.
When the summer folks arrived, mostly
rich people who did not cook,
I learned to make potato salads and cole slaw
and baked beans, a vegetarian in the making.
The wealthy did not shop, calling in their orders,
and it was for me to take them their bags of goods.
Sometimes, I broke an egg or twelve along the way,
but they never tipped, so it did not bother me much.
It always amazed me that these people
with so much gave so little.

My work did not end at that store.
A sickly mother, an often absent father,
a large yard, and the usual requirements of living
all gave me chores in slew-size.
I can’t recall if I complained back then,
but I’m grateful for it now, that work experience.
It taught how to cook, to clean, to care.
It taught me the silliness of “someone oughta”.
It gave me strength when my mother’s
sickness turned to death.
It gave me order when my father stayed absent.
It provided the way to responsibility.
It provided me with broad shoulders.
It gave meaning to that lesson about
Saint Francis of Assisi, where he was asked
while raking the garden what he would do
if he knew he would die that afternoon, and
he said he would finish raking the garden.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dear World

Dear world - or at least the U.S.A. part of it - please stop calling me. I have cast my ballot, and do not need to be reminded to vote, nor urged to select your candidate, and no, I will not disclose my preferences. You need not ask my opinion of the victor of any made-for-television debates, since I will not watch them, nor will I listen to any post-partum analysis. I will be spending my time doing something enlightening and/or entertaining, like reading or thinking. There's a concept - thinking...thinking for myself. I might just find the means to unleash my genius and create a solution or two. Thank you, world. I appreciate your kindness in this matter.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

For My Friend Tom

Can you believe it’s here once more,
time again for that annual chore.
People will sing, you’ll have to smile,
wishing to flee all the while.
There’s no use fighting now that it’s here,
this day you enter your 69th year.
I love you, man, but what can I say.
You’ll just have to suffer another birthday.
So be a good lad, a most charming boy,
be of good cheer, sit back and enjoy.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

While I work on eight new, connected poems, I am having many scattershot head farts. This morning's:

"There's a difference between what's right and what's tolerable."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I am perplexed and bemused by the rage and indignation of the well-to-do, who have more than they need and more than they can utilize and enjoy, yet fear that they might lose something which they have had forever but never really wanted or used 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Refuse normalcy, it is not even an ideal goal, merely an illusion, an overrated one at that…then again, tuna salad on white bread tastes pretty good when you’re hungry

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

To the tune of Ol' Man River...


Ol’ man Romney,
That ol’ man Romney,
He must know somethin’
But he just says nothin’,
He keeps on pushin’,
Shoulder to the wheel,
But he don’t say nothin’,
No, nothin’ at all.

He don’t cook taters,
he don’t sew cotton,
and the women that do
are soon forgotten.
The average person
sweats and strains,
trickle-down’s a lie
that results in pain.

Tote them tea bags,
lift that bale,
the rich avoid taxes,
never go to jail.
I gets weary,
and sick of tryin’,
so much delusion,
so much lyin’.



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Inspiration from the words of others

From the very first Poetic Bloomings prompt, and from the sensitive work of Marie Elena Good, entitled “Of Dandelions and Manicures””



"One scatters dandelion seeds,
Who understands a daydream’s needs."

MEG

I think of her often,
living in a smallish place,
a friend to so many,
living vastly flung.
I choose to think of her
with a broad smile,
sometimes a loud laugh,
at all times huggable.
I never consider
the possibility of frowns
or headaches,
or any other form of discontent.
It’s my daydream,
and I’ll have in it what I want.

Also from the initial Poetic Bloomings prompt, and from the passionate work of Walt Wojtanik,
entitled “A Touch”:



"It is desire of the highest power.
It has been left to burn unattended"

Maestro

There can be no turning back,
bridges blown asunder,
boats all sunk,
there is only forward in our plans.
It is not that we are brave,
simply that there is no choice,
courage not at issue,
as the fire rages at our backs.
We can cure the ills of the world.
We can. We will. We must.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Natalie Calls

Natalie woke just as she had every day. She sat up and smiled at Alex, her friend and
husband of 25 years. Then her breath caught in her throat and she died.

Natalie’s son was to graduate from Duke in a few months, and she had so wanted to attend the ceremony. She knew she had a heart valve in need of repair, but feared post-surgical recuperation would prevent a trip from Marin County, California to North Carolina. Besides, her doctors felt it wasn’t an emergency. It was. This is not a story about maladroit medical professionals, however, even though it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that the doctors should have advised Natalie to schedule herself earlier. But, she was still in her 40’s. There was no reason for her – or us – to fear or suspect sudden death. She had plenty of time. That we were all wrong is the real lesson to be learned. A few weeks shy of AARP qualification, Natalie always seemed to be smiling. Unusual for a real estate agent in a cutthroat market, she was loved by her colleagues. At her funeral services, many mourners stood outside in the late December rain, for lack of room in the pews. Natalie and Alex had purchased an identical, adjoining house, 18 months before she died. My wife and I had lived in ours for 7 years, and the renovations were long completed. Barbara worked as a real estate appraiser, and the two of them hit it off immediately. Both of them viewed several houses each week, and their remodeling urges were constantly stimulated. While our makeover budget was mostly spent, Natalie was just tapping into hers. Frequently she’d call to report a new idea, or she came calling with her contractor in tow.  Although my interest in remodeling had disappeared when the two-week upgrade of our master bedroom turned into a two-month disaster, I loved it when Natalie called. She was so energetic and enthusiastic and optimistic. More importantly, it wasn’t our money at work, and both of us enjoyed her company. We saw a lot of Natalie and Alex. Only once, however, did we actually sit down in a semi-formal situation. Early on, we simultaneously extended dinner invitations, and we settled on a movable feast, including some other neighbors as well. In the succeeding year, we attempted many times to get together again. It never worked out. We were both always too busy with other things. We never sat down again for an evening devoted to just being friends. Of course, we would see each other and chat. It was always a pleasure to see them, especially Natalie, with her smiles and effervescence. We always left those encounters with the promise to “get together soon.” Well, “soon” never happened. And then she died. On the morning of Natalie’s death, I’d said to Barbara, “That’s it. We’re getting together with Alex and Natalie tonight. No excuses. If they’re busy, we’ll take the wine next door.” I even wrote myself a note - ALEX & NATALIE!!!! – and taped it to my computer monitor, so I’d remember to call them as soon as I got home from work. I didn’t see any reason to call at 6:00 AM, so I let it go for later. I learned that “later” wouldn’t be soon enough. Our neighborhood gossip ran across the street when I pulled into the driveway to yell that “Natalie died this morning”, before I could get out of the car. My first reaction was disbelief. He told me what little he knew. I walked away without excusing myself. Sadness and emptiness overcame my sense of manners. By the time I was in the house, I recalled my morning plans. In case I’d forgotten, the note on the monitor shouted out a reminder. Sadness gave way to anger and regret. We’d waited too long. We’d wasted our opportunities. We’d thought we had all the time in the world, and we didn’t even have tonight. I promised myself to never let this happen again. I’ve memorialized Natalie in a very personal manner. I vowed to never let friendship slide, to never let love go unspoken, not for a day, not even for an hour. Life today is filled with means of instant communication – cell phones, the Internet, faxes – excuses need not apply. Soon after Natalie’s death, I found the perfect way to act on my promise to myself. Talking to a friend about a cousin in Wisconsin who’d made a huge difference in my life, I realized I was telling the wrong person. I immediately called my cousin and told her how important she was to me, how much I loved her and how she’d contributed to my happiness. It was wonderful on both ends of the call. She had things to tell me as well. Had it not been for Natalie, the call might never have been made.
Since, I have made hundreds of such connections. Sometimes it’s to old friends. Often, it’s to people currently in my life, living at a distance. Occasionally, it’s a famous person I want to acknowledge.
I’ve written sports heroes and actors. I’ve connected with high school classmates. A few years ago, I contacted Ken, my algebra teacher and basketball coach at age 14. “I’m a better person for knowing you”, I said. He was thrilled to hear from me. That’s the best part of what I’ve come to refer to as my “Natalie Calls.” The people that I’ve connected with are all happy I did so. Many times, they’ve been in distress. The contact with someone who appreciates them is the perfect medicine. Often, the person I’ve called tells me they were just thinking about me. Funny how that works. Nearly every celebrity I’ve written has responded with humility and gratitude.
Ken and I have maintained our initial re-connection, and we were recently able to spend time together, after nearly 40 years of separation. It was a simple day, just lunch and conversation. It was also an extraordinary day, one of the best in my experience. We are in regular communication now. We share our lives. What a gift. My most important Natalie Calls are the ones I make every day, to friends and relatives. Maybe I saw them only yesterday, or spoke to them last week. But, if I miss someone, I tell them. If I love someone, I let them know. Now.

Natalie taught me we only have this moment. We don’t even have tonight.

Thank you, Natalie.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Conscious

One may rest easy, knowing that this moment is perfect,
just like the one before it,
and the one before that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

She Is My World


I would have liked
to give her the world,
and, believe me,
she would have liked that too,
but I owned so little of it,
so all she’d receive
was a homemade valentine,
not even capitalized,
and, one year, some patchouli oil,
another, some seeds
from a Burpee catalog.

Those seeds were for Cosmos,
and I really don’t like them much,
but she does, and
that’s enough,
like those $3.99 Driscoll strawberries,
the ones she prefers,
when all I eat are
the $1.50 baskets,
with unmemorable names,
the loss leaders from the chains.

I own more of the world now,
but I’m older and wiser too,
know that it’s not mine to give,
and what’s it matter, anyhow?
In the way of men and women
of a certain age, of
husbands and wives
of all ages,
if I need a new tee shirt, I buy one,
while she has the world
in her catalogs.
Then there’s Ebay,
but don’t get me started.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fire O'Clock

The desert’s not really on fire,
it just feels like it,
July paying a visit in June and all.
Then there’s that smoke
coming from Chino Canyon
reminding us it’s a long, long way till fall.

Habits are changing already,
probably due to that warm May,
biorhythms shifting to a lower gear,
awake at three, up at four,
two cups of coffee by five,
it’s the pattern this time of year.

The stores open earlier now,
allowing errands
to be run before ten.
Chores get done quickly,
exercise done before dawn,
hikes over by seven.

The air kicks in at random,
pretty much twenty four-seven now,
it’s a truly critical tool.
Life’s all shades and fans
and ice cubed drinks,
with an occasional dip in the pool.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Caroline

It’s a stretch to call it a reunion, she having been five months
in her mother’s belly
the last time we saw her.
Still, she had her mother’s smile,
her father’s soul,
the father she never met,
my good friend, our Best Man.
Thanks to a Facebook-driven
connection with her mom’s best friend,
we’d found them all after
more than thirty years, learned
we’d driven right by their home,
once a month for years,
headed to Sedona.
Almost a Doctor Zhivago moment,
but the gods were kind,
her mother Gretchen happy to see us,
“aunt” Carol the messenger of joy,
So, when we met, again,
or for the first time,
as if it mattered,
bittersweet happiness all around,
she eager for my memories of
the dad she never knew,
me thrilled to see what he had given,
before he died too soon.
She lives now in the town we left,
her boss my friend,
her staff colleagues my pals,
working where I would have been,
had we not moved.
Married, she has an unfamiliar name,
so would we have figured it out
if I had stayed?
Hard to say.
It’s a funny old world that way.

Okauchee Lake

That lake was everything to us,
bathtub in the summer,
a shortcut to town during winter,
source of food and fun.
There are bigger lakes, deeper too,
but none more important in my
Huck Finn childhood.
It was glacier-carved,
darkly deep and huge at one end,
bluegill small and shallow at the other,
a squiggly channel in the middle,
looking like a misshaped dumbbell.

We were all poor, but,
with nothing to compare it to,
we didn’t know it.
We might have been needy,
yet we all had a boat of some kind.
Mostly, they were rowboats,
aluminum if your dad had a job,
an Evinrude motor on the back if
there was a rich uncle somewhere.

That lake had its mysteries,
and it ate a human or two every year,
sucked them down into the weeds,
next to the cars it swallowed every spring,
the ones driven on to the ice in March,
at the American Legion jamboree.
In late spring, early summer,
before vacationers’ traffic clouded the surface,
you could drift idly,
see the ancient tree stumps below,
wonder what the land was like before the floe.

If you had a motor,
or a young person’s energy,
you could get out to Stumpy Bay,
or to Stone Bank,
where the best fishing was.
You’d see birds of every type,
small crabs near the shore,
piers and docks of all shapes and lengths.
You could stare at the sky,
see where it joined the water,
watch that lake swallow the sun if
you stayed out late enough,
waiting for the star show,
catching a night bonfire up the hill.

That lake was everything to us,
and I bet, on still days,
it served as a mirror
for God’s morning primp.
They say that there are 10,000 lakes
in the state next door,
even more up north, near Canada,
but we only needed one,
and it made us richer than we knew.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Just Passing Through


It is me and me alone,
the one who erects the blockades
which impede the path to happiness,
to contentment.
I am my own guide,
divine my personal maps,
and place each step upon
the routes I choose.
They are my barriers and,
if I choose,
I am free to strike the match
which will remove them.

There was a me that went to war,
all thrumming energy,
rising above the cacophony,
struggling beneath the fear,
wishing mightily to be invisible,
yet finding myself in front,
the place called Point,
from another view, Target.
I put myself there,
the trace elements of ego
so visible in God’s microscope.

There was the me who lived to serve,
fulfilling plans long dreamed,
work a pleasure,
doubt an infrequent visitor,
leadership a requirement
if one would be the
hope of the world.
I mean, if you start out asking
how you can help,
you might as well dream big,
small thoughts only
blemishes on the experience.

Now there’s a more contemplative me,
striving still,
hating war as only a warrior will,
old from every viewpoint
except my 92-year old neighbor’s,
and I am yet unable to hide,
work which is wanted and needed
always seeming to find me,
and even though the monks say
it is all just chopping wood
and carrying water,
it feels bigger, somehow,
more urgent.

I think sometimes of a future me,
dwell occasionally on an un-me.
Once I saw that tunnel of light,
the one spoken by the near-dead.
I can’t recall if there’s a leader
in that picture, or if it could be me.
Some things simply remain a mystery.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Source Material

Some writers
find their words,
buried in the compost of bitterness,
in a field of anger and resentment,
sown by sorrow, raked with regret,
fertilized by vengeance for abandoned love,
ironically giving birth
to beautiful blooms

Other writers
find beauty in everything,
in their children, of course,
and family, friends, and lovers,
but also in the catalog of daily living,
in the exotic rose,
the mundane marigold,
the common fern,
predictably giving birth
to beautiful blooms.
Most writers
have a sadness muse,
prompting great works
of love and loss,
replete in their integrity,
they open their veins,
water their seedlings with blood,
painfully giving birth
to beautiful blooms.

All writers
know, regardless the source,
no matter the topic,
the truth will come out,
honesty triumphs,
love trumps cuteness,
every time,
each wonder-filled heart
generously giving birth
to beautiful blooms.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Can Dream


The older I get, the more I think,
about reincarnation,
for one thing.
So much of the world believes,
perhaps there’s something to it.
I don’t know, and, actually,
no one really knows, but
I’ll tell you this:
there is no way I’m coming back
as a cockroach, or some such.
If I have to have another
spin of the wheel,
and it’s not as homo sapien,
I’m trusting that I’ve done enough work
to deserve a rest for awhile.
And that means only one thing:
I’m coming back as a cat,
preferably one of my wife’s cats.
They eat good, play well, sleep a lot.
Easily occupied with objects
both dull and shiny,
and pretty much indifferent to
the ills of the world.
Of course, I’d have to be careful
to not get wrapped up
in the window blind cords,
or to lock myself in a cabinet,
and then there’s that whole hairball mess.
But, hey, all of that pales when compared
To multi-flavor treats and tuna….ahhh, tuna.
And brushing, can anything be better,
and don’t try to compare it
to your paltry back rubs.
Did I mention the tuna?
Yes!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

If ESPN Aired Poetry

If this was a prize fight, they’d stop it, right now.
We came out punching
in rounds 1-7,
400, 500, 600 shots,
haymakers all.
Then, around rounds 8 or 9,
the ring card girls
started getting more attention
than the writers,
more comments than poems,
still weighing in
with 300-400 left hooks and right crosses.
Maybe, like those heavyweights of old,
we’re simply taking a round or two off,
saving up for the final five,
hoping to impress the judges
with a flurry at the end.
Still, it was pretty defensive here
in round 25, with less than 170 jabs,
the occasional uppercut.
Hopefully, the ref won’t think
we’re out on our feet, and
even though it’s been a long battle,
will let us go the distance.

Take Me Out


I ‘m not too crazy
about most sports these days,
except college football,
fans, parties, thrilling plays.
Even there, so much corruption
and cheating to see,
college - or pro - no matter,
too many cases of me, me, me.

Baseball’s an exception,
still warm to the touch.
not the results,
or the players so much.
An easy game to watch,
Mr. Doubleday’s invention,
long lazy afternoons,
not requiring much attention.

The season itself,
is too long to matter,
but a singular game,
ah, the smells, sights and chatter.
There’s a lot going on,
regardless the score,
the peanuts alone
bring me back for one more.

Night games don’t thrill me,
they just seem out of touch
with the soul of the game,
the drive home is too much
Take me out to a day game,
I’m always up for that.
We’ll swap lies of our prowess,
when we held a bat

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Friend Dan

It was natural and easy
to tell him how I felt
while he lay dying.
It’ll be harder now,
but not impossible.
Still,
it’s only been a day
and already I am losing
the truth of his gaze,
the wonder of his face.



Monday, April 23, 2012

It is Shakespeare's 448th Birthday


Morning 23, Upon Reading Sonnet 116

Let me then to this morning of darkness
Admit there are others, those who I love.
Attend to their words, though reading harks less,
They hie to their tasks with thoughts which will move.
O, no! I must write, find the breath, the mark
Of instant perfection ere I reprove;
Is it a dream, or a goal, elusive lark?
My worth is in measure, so I must move.
Time is no fool, regardless its pallor,
Its unbending urgency o’er me looms,
The hour ticks by, proceeding with valor
I yield to no one, so near to doom.
          If this be joy, then upon me shower
          No doubts of my words reaching full flower.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lifeaholic





In the weave of eternity,
with the work before us,
short-term judgements don’t
seem to matter much,
not the praise, nor the blame,
not the credits, nor the sins,
self-imposed or outer-given.
Most of my awards have long been tossed,
every plaque, every trophy,
all the ribbons, certificates and letters.
In the end, just stuff, and
the stories and smiling lies about them are better.
But then, there’s that plastic Club Med medal
with the red, white and blue lanyard
that was given for finding buried wine bottles
off the sandy shore of Martinique -
that one lives on.
And the disability rating letter,
the V.A.’s judgement call – that one
will stay awhile, at least for my forever.
Recently, I got a Beautiful Bloom,
truly treasured,
kept in cyberspace.
Then there are the Purple Hearts,
once headed for a protest toss
over the White House fence, but no.
Those are about things and people,
some still kicking, others, well,
others valued fondly in my heart.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Let's Not

Let’s not and say we did.
Write that e-mail but not hit send,
forgo the mail, go to a friend.
Let’s not and say we did.
Stop resisting, choose to bend,
say you’re sorry, make amends.
Let’s not and say we did,
 forgiveness the mark of thoughtful men.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

One

I’m nearly sixty-eight,
and he wants an event?
One event?
I know, I know,
what would our friend Walt do?
He’d write and write and write,
and they’d all be great,
and they’d all be interesting,
and we’d all read them
and we’d all have ink envy…again.

I mean, I have lots of stories, so
that’s no problem, and
it’s too late now to worry about
too much exposure.
I could write about going through
A windshield…twice.
Not the same windshield, but still.
I could go on about the day my
mother died, or about when I met
her on the night I died, nine years later,
the day she sent me back.
I could ruminate on the choice to
move to a foreign country,
when we settled in California.
Then there’s the first real job that became
the only job, a career you’d say.
If homage was the goal,
it would have to be the creative writing class
in the desert.

Ultimately, there is no choice, not really.
Well, maybe a choice - between weddings -
the big, emotional first one at halftime of
the Packer game, in front of family,
in the family home, with Alice the Springer mix
as flower girl, or
the second one, fifteen years later, making her
a June Bride at last.
I think it has to be number two.
After all, we knew what we were getting,
after fourteen wonderful years of marriage.
(no, my math’s ok, and that’s a pretty good percentage)

Our wedding redux was due to
A very orthodox Orthodox priest,
who refused to acknowledge
our matrimony as legitimate, leaving us
in not good standing in the church.
Our monthly membership dues, however,
were always in good stead, all checks cashed.
So be it.
I won’t bore you with the details,
nor about the counseling sessions,
(after fifteen years!),
or about how he said we’d have a child
even though I was fixed, and then we did,
in an odd manner.
I’ll save that for another prompt.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wisconsin Weekend

They still do fish fry in every corner tap on Friday
nights, and all the restaurants have an overpriced
family style offering, but it’s not all fried, and it’s
mostly frozen cod, and there’s too many potato choices
and, my god, they even serve salads instead of cole slaw
if you ask. Really. Growing up in a country village,
there were only a few choices, Magowan’s and Roundy’s
and my family’s favorite, Stitch & Mary’s on the lake.
Friday was fish, always perch, always fried, and fries and
cole slaw and little rye rounds. Saturday was chicken,
always fried, and mashed potatoes and overcooked
squash. The men all smoked, the woman danced, we kids
played pinball and drank some deliciously sweet lemon
drink that I am sure led to type two diabetes. No wine that
I remember, but lots of beer for the old folks, and usually
an Old Fashioned. Sunday was church and a picnic, but
not in the winter, and sometimes not the church part either.
I’m pretty sure none of this was healthy, but living where
we do now, with lots of specialties but no traditions,
the memories are savory, the recollections sweet.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One Can Hope

Hard to imagine, really,
those twin sisters in Oslo,
working in separate labs
and coming up with cures
for the common cold,
both on the same day,
the same sisters who earlier
found the AIDS vaccine
and the silver bullet cure
for all those types of cancer.
Incredibly, their cousins
in Somalia and Syria
were the ones who discovered
the peace pill,
the same cousins who
snuck it into the world’s
water supplies in 2012.
Awesomely, their mother,
the Nobel laureate for
All Good Things
is the one who drew up the plans
for food distribution, worldwide.
Hard to imagine, really,
a world before that time,
where people were starving,
even though there was
an abundance of food.
Their father is only a carpenter,
but, oh what a carpenter.
He’s the guy who designed
those inexpensive, off-the-grid houses,
taking the homeless off the streets .
What a family, the Mann’s.
Hard to imagine, really.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Unity

On Sunday’s, I strap on
my go-to-meetin’ best,
(which is not much, really),
and head off to the Unity Center,
my spiritual sanctuary,
where struggle and strife
get left at the door, and
all social masks are deposited
in the bin next to the umbrella stand.
I seek a non-anxious presence
in an anxious world , which
can be work of a sort, but
not if the trying is removed,
silently slashed away by
that still, small voice.
Unity is not a bumper sticker type
of place, and we don’t wear buttons
with witty sayings of positive thinking.
We do wear name tags, however,
and “effortless effort” is present in
invisible ink on each.
On Sunday, when we gather,
it is clear that it is love and light and good
that are real in the world,
not evil, that nonsubstantive thought balloon
that goes “poof”, as we sit like
the lilies of the field.
We sing and pray and meditate,
rejoicing in the effect that community brings.
I don’t know what name to give that effect,
but it is tangible, and even though,
like the wind, it is invisible,
we experience it.
Unlike the wind, it reaches inside,
warming and shaping, often healing.
By the time Reverend Wendy speaks,
it is almost unnecessary.
Wanted, always interesting,
definitely challenging,
but unneeded.
Really, she could just stand there and
smile at us.
It would do.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

After the Apocalypse

After the Apocalypse,
the skinny people will die first,
the Nutrasystem people,
the Weight Watchers and joggers.
After Armageddon,
it won’t be all bad.
There’ll be no more ads
for breast augmentation,
e-mails for penis enlargement,
no calls for dental implants, or
teeth whitening.
Cataclysm will chase away
the need to get your belly
toned, tucked and tightened,
the desire for skin resurfacing,
the non-surgical solutions! to
thinning hair and poor eyesight.
The Day of Reckoning means
an end to rhinoplasty – creating
beauty one face at a time!
No sales taxes, no drowning in debt,
no DUI’s, no parking meters and no
meter maids. No more Craigslist,
and, after the Last Day, no need
for Suzy’s Coupons.
Depression? Normal.
Migraines? Everyone gets a few.
Smokers? Go ahead.
High blood pressure? You kidding?
Of course there’s the little matter of
Judgement.
But, hey, it’s the End of Times,
Not Eden.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I Can Hear Clearly Now

Fresh from a fitting
of expensive ear plugs,
a trainee of twenty
put a pause to my huh?’s,
My wonderful wife
beamed broadly to see
the microphoned mini's
of total technology.
The nice news is every
wise word I now hear,
the lousy luck is it includes
trite talk, oh dear.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Something Stupid

I love it
when we kiss
and
our noses bump,
and
we laugh.

:>)

There is something about a smile
that is truly hard to resist,
have a little, it seems to say,
or a lot, really, I insist.

There is something about a smile,
that demands of you a reply,
spontaneous, unplanned, your own
bright grin for every passerby.

There is something about a smile,
truly infectious, so it seems,
a gift of joy and happiness,
unselfish sharing of your dreams.

There is something about a smile,
as though it’s always meant to be,
it costs you nothing, means so much,
give one to everyone, you’ll see

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Back-n-Forth Rag

Just one hundred miles between our two homes,
yet a change of the seasons readily comes,
two hours after the dry desert air
savoring moisture, our Bernardo lair.
We love our two homes, both seasoned with love,
Spirit surrounds us, within us, above.
The cats like it too, their joy adds a spice,
three parts of playful, one jigger of vice.
Our lives are perfect as any fine thing,
no matter the season, always our spring.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Sappy Tale

Elm Avenue, Okauchee, WI
has no elm trees,
only the brittle twigs of our memories,
much like, I suppose,
Orange Tree Estates, Orange County, CA
has no orange trees,
only the faintly remembered aromas from youth,
the sweet citrus dreams of SoCal hipsters.
Many pines remain in Pine Top, AZ,
and you can still find birches in Birch Tree, AR,
but, for most of us,
it’s scrapbooks and photo albums,
taking us back to our roots.

The elms might be gone,
but those firs we planted are thriving,
the ones my drunken Swedish carpenter
of a grandfather helped me plant.
The one that was struck by lightning
on its very first day,
bam, like a spank on a newborn’s bottom,
that one is the tallest, no sign of early scars.
There’s a lesson there, I’m sure,
and maybe I’ll get it one day.

The elms might be gone,
but there’s still a plank swing,
dangling from a rope,
tied way up high,
around a thick oak branch,
down by the lake.
It’s been 50 years since I last saw it,
so surely it’s been changed a few times.
I wonder who does that,
and I wonder how they get up there,
and I wonder if their mom knows about it.

The elms might be gone,
but the lilac bushes remain hearty.
Thank goodness there was no
Dutch Lilac malady,
although I’m pretty sure that
it wasn’t Dutch Orange Tree disease
that caused all those uprootings in SoCal.
If this global warming thing,
or some other planetary sickness
gets to the palm trees,
we’re in real trouble.
but that will be for
a different poet’s despair.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Resistance

There is this book which has been
following me around for weeks now.
Actually, not following so much as
accompanying, fitting nicely in
my hand, or atop my journal
in my man purse.
The book is important.
That’s why I bought it.
It is about hope, and also about
the mind, about laughing at, but
not making an enemy of
the latter.
I say that’s what it is about,
but I don’t know for sure,
only what the dust jacket blurb says.
I can’t seem to get by the introduction,
not in the den, nor poolside,
heck, not even at he library.
My core seems obdurate in
its resistance to change, or growth.
I will say that, pages unread,
that book seems still to be
having an impact.
I think about hope all the time.
A good thing, too, since
I have friends who will not see year’s end,
and a 50-year reunion requiring
a 50-pound weight loss,
and a home for sale.
Small things, really,
except for that part about my friends,
but in the greater scheme of things,
I’m a pretty small fish in
a very big pond, or, at most,
like one of those salmon,
returning to their place of creation,
encountering resistance at every turn.
I hope this hope thing is
not overrated. The book is heavy,
the thoughts too, sometimes.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lifelines

The man isn’t old by some measures,
quite ancient by others.
Mostly, it depends upon where he is,
who’s nearby.
Sometimes, it’s the weather, the rain,
His 68-year old body made 86,
war-torn nerve endings enflamed
by moist air.
Today it was the boy, Elijah,
grandson of a neighbor,
looking out her window.

The boy is young by some measures.
wiser and older by others.
Mostly it depends upon the day,
how he slept,
if grandma’s nearby,
if he got a role in that new commercial,
if the pool is empty of adults.
Sometimes it’s his need for speed,
his 10-year old mind wishing for 18,
so he can drive something more than a dream.

They are long-distance buds,
the man and the boy,
the type of friends who most often
communicate by written word,
e-mails the penpalship of the day
Together, they are writing an epic poem,
starring, of course, Elijah,
his family and friends in supporting roles.
They seldom speak in person,
the man writing a page of Seussian rhyme,
the boy reading the electronic copy,
never editing, directing the next page.
.
Today is one of the rare days,
the boy visiting for Easter,
the man reading poolside.
There are other vacation kids around, so
the pool will soon be loaded, joy filled.
It is tempting to call on grandma,
“accidentally” bump into Elijah,

Nothing Covert About It

Happiness doesn’t hide
so much as it waits,
at the corner of bliss and peace,
just down the street from connectedness.
Anyone can find it,
with just a touch of boldness,
a dash of audacity.
No maps required,
but it is usually found
in the same neighborhood as kindness.
Never hidden,
but sometimes confused
with mirth and merriment,
or outright laughter,
yet true happiness can not be mistaken
for anything else,
not even when it is tucked inside
surprise and delight,
maybe even dismay.
It might seem elusive at times,
when we forget who we are,
when we look for it directly rather
than the byproduct it is,
like from the wagging tale on a puppy,
a smile from young Sophie,
a kind word from a friend or fan.
Happiness doesn’t hide.
It’s waiting for us all.
Hop on down and have some.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Treasures

I have a storage unit that costs a bundle,
monthly bills higher than the value of the stuff inside.
Who’s to judge, really?
Certainly not me.
One man’s version of “Hoarders”,
another’s treasure trove.
There’s that dining room table,
left over from the life of my granny-in-law.
No idea how old it is, but we’ve had it for forty years.
We’ll never use it, but who could part with it?
There’s stories etched into the legs, tales
and conversations absorbed by the top,
truths and lies told around lunch and supper.
There’s that cabinet, a commode I think it’s called,
doesn’t go with anything, but it’s not going anywhere soon.
It sat in someone’s hallway,
listening to stories, some of them excuses, others alibis.
Then there’s that big bag of black and white photos.
My mother took them all, high school friends and army pals,
And I don’t know a one of them.
I could regale you with my love for my mother,
tell you how she died too young, only thirty-eight in ‘58,
before your time, I’ll bet, most of you.
Maybe she planned to write on the backs of those photos.
Maybe she thought she had plenty of time.
She didn’t.
Still, I just can’t toss that bag, just look at it every so often.
No one to give it to, either, but the dumpster doesn’t seem a fit end.
I can imagine the stories behind those faces, the war and all.
If they could sing, we’d hear the Andrews Sisters, backed by Glenn Miller.
Someone besides me will throw all this stuff away,
Some future semi-star of some sort of reality show.
They’ll bitch and groan, wonder why anyone would keep such junk.
Of course they will.
This will all have been too early for them, before their time.

Penngrove

Standing almost at the top of Sonoma Mountain,
the Santa Rosa plain in white-out from the August fog,
it is easy to imagine the time before the Europeans came,
before a different type of white-out.

The peaceful Pomo people, basket makers,
made not just for function, but for art as well,
their work now in the Smithsonian,
amazingly, also in the Kremlin.

The quiet Miwoks, or simply The People,
who knew the truth of time and things,
who buried their artifacts, their “stuff”
with the dead who had made or found them.

With the rooftops below obscured by the mist,
One can imagine these hunter-gatherers,
bows and clubs in hand, snares at their waist,
bags of mussels and grasshoppers for a later meal.

The resilient Wappo, in their homes of leaves, branches, mud,
living in small groups, extended families, one for all,
their baskets so perfectly made they’d hold water,
all their work for community good.

Winters were mild, game was bountiful, fish plentiful,
survival not an issue. No mortgage, no outside noises,
time for family and friends, singing and dancing,
time to embrace their spirituality, enjoy nature, create art

As the sun peeks over the mountain, lifting the fog,
the houses appear, the roads, the cars.
One can imagine Drake, maybe Magellan,
the Spanish priests and Russian trappers,
later, the frightfully greedy immigrants and gold seekers.
One can grasp the meaning of paradise lost.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

All of Me

It’s 100% responsibility I’m taking
for the friendship we’ve been making,
so that when there’s zero percent in you,
I’ll have enough for two.

My God Loves A Little Humor

Spiritual souls
know miracles will have legs
this coming weekend.
From the rabbit holes we’ll see
and believe in colored eggs

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Coda

He’s actually dying now,
in ICU, wires and hoses his mechanical friends,
so what’s left to say.
All the clich├ęs were used up long ago,
first when the diagnosis came,
then after the chemo,
and, finally, the burning.

He was dying back then as well.
We meant well, his long-time, human friends,
saying what was right to say
All the bromides were well-intended,
First when the fear struck,
then when hope was treasured,
and, finally, reality.

He’ll die soon,
In a white room, surrounded by friends.
No one will say anything
which is not the truth.
First we’ll thank him for his friendship,
then tell him how much he’s loved,
and, finally, speak of our hope to see him soon.

Jihad

I am saving the world,
one starfish at a time,
and one flower, one tree, one human,
each precious to its kind.
I am saving the world,
transforming it with love,
with right action, too,
not white magic from above.
I am saving the world,
but it’ll take a miracle, they say.
Well, then, we’d best get started,
can’t think of a better day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Natalie Calls

Natalie woke just as she had every day. She sat up and smiled at Alex, her friend and
husband of 25 years. Then her breath caught in her throat and she died.

Natalie’s son was to graduate from Duke in a few months, and she had so wanted to
attend the ceremony. She knew she had a heart valve in need of repair, but feared post-surgical recuperation would prevent a trip from Marin County, California to North Carolina. Besides, her doctors felt it wasn’t an emergency. It was.

This is not a story about maladroit medical professionals, however, even though it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that the doctors should have advised Natalie to schedule herself earlier. But, she was still in her 40’s. There was no reason for her – or us – to fear or suspect sudden death. She had plenty of time. That we were all wrong is the real lesson to be learned.

A few weeks shy of AARP qualification, Natalie always seemed to be smiling. Unusual for a real estate agent in a cutthroat market, she was loved by her colleagues. At her funeral services, many mourners stood outside in the late December rain, for lack of room in the pews.

Natalie and Alex had purchased an identical, adjoining house, 18 months before she died. My wife and I had lived in ours for 7 years, and the renovations were long completed. Barbara worked as a real estate appraiser, and the two of them hit it off immediately. Both of them viewed several houses each week, and their remodeling urges were constantly stimulated. While our makeover budget was mostly spent, Natalie was just tapping into hers. Frequently she’d call to report a new idea, or she came calling with her contractor in tow.

Although my interest in remodeling had disappeared when the two-week upgrade of our master bedroom turned into a two-month disaster, I loved it when Natalie called. She was so energetic and enthusiastic and optimistic. More importantly, it wasn’t our money at work, and both of us enjoyed her company.

We saw a lot of Natalie and Alex. Only once, however, did we actually sit down in a semi-formal situation. Early on, we simultaneously extended dinner invitations, and we settled on a movable feast, including some other neighbors as well. In the succeeding year, we attempted many times to get together again. It never worked out. We were both always too busy with other things. We never sat down again for an evening devoted to just being friends. Of course, we would see each other and chat. It was always a pleasure to see them, especially Natalie, with her smiles and effervescence. We always left those encounters with the promise to “get together soon.” Well, “soon” never happened. And then she died.

On the morning of Natalie’s death, I’d said to Barbara, “That’s it. We’re getting together with Alex and Natalie tonight. No excuses. If they’re busy, we’ll take the wine next door.” I even wrote myself a note - ALEX & NATALIE!!!! – and taped it to my computer monitor, so I’d remember to call them as soon as I got home from work. I didn’t see any reason to call at 6:00 AM, so I let it go for later.

I learned that “later” wouldn’t be soon enough. Our neighborhood gossip ran across the street when I pulled into the driveway to yell that “Natalie died this morning”, before I could get out of the car. My first reaction was disbelief. He told me what little he knew. I walked away without excusing myself. Sadness and emptiness overcame my sense of manners.

By the time I was in the house, I recalled my morning plans. In case I’d forgotten, the note on the monitor shouted out a reminder. Sadness gave way to anger and regret. We’d waited too long. We’d wasted our opportunities. We’d thought we had all the time in the world, and we didn’t even have tonight.

I promised myself to never let this happen again.

I’ve memorialized Natalie in a very personal manner. I vowed to never let friendship slide, to never let love go unspoken, not for a day, not even for an hour. Life today is filled with means of instant communication – cell phones, the Internet, faxes – excuses need not apply.

Soon after Natalie’s death, I found the perfect way to act on my promise to myself. Talking to a friend about a cousin in Wisconsin who’d made a huge difference in my life, I realized I was telling the wrong person. I immediately called my cousin and told her how important she was to me, how much I loved her and how she’d contributed to my happiness. It was wonderful on both ends of the call. She had things to tell me as well. Had it not been for Natalie, the call might never have been made.

Since, I have made hundreds of such connections. Sometimes it’s to old friends. Often, it’s to people currently in my life, living at a distance. Occasionally, it’s a famous person I want to acknowledge.

I’ve written sports heroes and actors. I’ve connected with high school classmates. A few years ago, I contacted Ken, my algebra teacher and basketball coach at age 14. “I’m a better person for knowing you”, I said. He was thrilled to hear from me.

That’s the best part of what I’ve come to refer to as my “Natalie Calls.” The people that I’ve connected with are all happy I did so. Many times, they’ve been in distress. The contact with someone who appreciates them is the perfect medicine. Often, the person I’ve called tells me they were just thinking about me. Funny how that works. Nearly every celebrity I’ve written has responded with humility and gratitude.

Ken and I have maintained our initial re-connection, and we were recently able to spend time together, after nearly 40 years of separation. It was a simple day, just lunch and conversation. It was also an extraordinary day, one of the best in my experience. We are in regular communication now. We share our lives. What a gift.

My most important Natalie Calls are the ones I make every day, to friends and relatives. Maybe I saw them only yesterday, or spoke to them last week. But, if I miss someone, I tell them. If I love someone, I let them know. Now.

Natalie taught me we only have this moment. We don’t even have tonight.

Thank you, Natalie.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spectres

They’re older now,
really old,
no one to lean on,
sticks will have to do.
What might have been,
what they could have seen,
what they should have known.
All gone now,
wasted opportunities,
missed moments.
They might have dared,
they could have cared,
they should have known,
all gone now.
Friendship forsaken,
lost love lingering,
the scent of never was.
If only, if only,
but neither took that step,
each waiting for the other,
so alone they kept.
They’re older now,
really old,
so old they no longer see
who they used to be,
not even shadows come before,
simply ghosts who never were.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Preferences

I'd rather
be kind
than be right.

I'd rather
love peace
than hate war.

I'd rather
forgive
than hear regrets.

I'd rather
enjoy
tan need.

I'd rather
find good
than resist evil.

I'd rather
love
than need loving.

Things I Love About You

I love your laugh.
It's like a shot
of really fresh
orange juice.

I love hanging
around on
the edges of
your curiosity.

I love
that
you love
living things

I love you
sense of style.
It lifts me up
from blandness.

I love that
we can
be together
and not talk.

Small Kindnesses

Park your shopping cart
where it belongs,
and
someone else's as well.

Wait patiently
and laugh
at a
bad joke.

Say hello to clerks.
Ask after their day.
Use their name
if you know it.

Compliment parents
on
the beauty
of their children.

Write to authors
that you like.
It takes so little
and means so much.

Get on your knees
when
wou talk with
a child.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Writing to myself from the future

Future Perfect

Never really a conscious choice,
how nice it was to find a voice,
rough edges rounded, made more smooth
by words which heal, thoughts that sooth.
“This – or better” was my creed,
simple tools all I’d need,
writing of grief and love and joy,
like a child with a toy.
Who could know what lay before,
beyond the walls, the open door.
First one chapbook, then some others,
enjoyed by poets, sisters, brothers.
A blog which gained more fans, more eyes,
some laurels too, to my surprise.
What fun it was to turn each page,
as decades brought me to this age.
My heart against all pain defends,
grateful for poetic friends.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ekphrastic Poetry (using art as a prompt)

Bedroom In Arles

And what do people have?
Vincent, people have too much.
So you’d say, he spat,
possessor of so many things.
It would not, could not, occur
to one like me
to think like you,
your pitiful, plaintive pouting,
your wish for the simple.
Please.
Give me your fine, stuffed chairs,
I will gladly trade you mine.
Please.
Let me help.
I can assist with that gout as well.
Take my loaf of bread,
my tart wine, hard cheese.
Please.
I’ll try your elegant dishes,
perhaps sprawled across your bed.
Please.
The pictures on the wall?
Nothing.
Nothing at all.
Yours for a glass half full.
Please.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wonderful Day, Wonderfilled Life

What a wonderful day it had been.
I sat with Peter, Jayne’s husband,
lunching with Kate, Jayne’s friend,
and Aaron and his Richard,
Jayne’s son and son-in-law.
Jayne was somewhere, painting,
my Barbara, too.
An accidental meeting between us,
the non-painters on the tour,
way, way, way high up
in a small Tuscan village.
Bel canto music purred
In the outdoor speakers.
Their dishes looked like canvasses.
peasant food made fabulous
I wasn’t hungry, so I passed.
I wasn’t thirsty, either,
but I drank their wine.
We talked,
then we walked,
and talked some more,
about nothing, mostly.
Not even about Jayne.
Or Barbara.
I bought a small painting
from a small studio,
for a small number of Euros.
It hangs now in a small corner of our home,
and in a big part of my memory.
We rode down
to our Montecatini hotel
in a bright red funicular
and never once thought to
sing Volare.
What a wonderful day it had been.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Risk

The world might end
by lunchtime, so
leave this moment alone.
Let it breathe.
Grief will come in time,
in all its untidy dress,
complicated and deep,
feeling a lot like fear.
Lifelong friends may think enough
of each other
to lie once in awhile,
even as we traverse oceans and
mountains and valleys of emotion,
preparing to die,
with certainty that there’s another way
to be in the world,
even without a remedy for death.
Uncomfortable as it is,
afraid as we are,
we can only listen to our breath,
find a calm corner inside,
engage with the world as it is right now,
and live with an open heart.
Dawn breaks for me
as my friends live in twilight.
Night will come soon enough.
In the end,
our lives are simply stories, and
the world will proceed
with its plan.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Please Give

Please Give

– after Kay Ryan

If it please God,
let it be less about me
and more about them,
the ones without.

If it please God,
let my wishes go,
except the dreams of peace,
the ones with hope.

If it please God,
let my goals not matter,
but for the sharing with
the ones who need.

If it please God,
let me be smaller
but have the gifts be great,
the ones from the heart.

If it please God,
let my days run no longer
than I am useful and caring,
the ones filled with kindness.

Elm Avenue

There are no elm trees on Elm Avenue, anymore.
There used to be, back when Dale and Mary Alice
and all the rest of us were growing up,
in the so-called good old days in Okauchee, WI.

We were worried about the Russkies,
building shelters underground, stocking them
with Spam and water and some kind of hard bread,
lots of Anacin and Band-aids.
We should have been worried about the Dutch,
those tulip-growing, windmill-loving ice skaters,.
We’d blame them later for what happened to our trees.

We were worried about polio, too.
We all knew about iron lungs and braces, and
we all had a classmate or relative on crutches.
We weren’t worried when the doctor made his house call,
cigarette in his mouth.
We should have been, worried that is,
and we should have wondered why no lady doctors came around.

Our parents bought a new car every year.
They worried about losing face,
about keeping up with the neighbors.
The neighbors, of course, were all white.
We weren’t worried about what was happening with negroes.
We didn’t know any, didn’t know anything about them.
We didn’t know anything about brown and red and yellow races, as well.
That didn’t worry us either.

We all knew gay men and women.
None of us knew that we knew them.
Nothing to worry about there.
We were occupied with the things that really mattered,
like acne and masturbation and girdles and bras.
We weren’t worried about STD’s,
but owning a condom was still a big deal for boys with no clue.

We were all poor, at least against
the rich folks across the lake,
the Pabst’s and Miller’s and Johnson Cookies people,
the ones always last to pay their grocery bills.
In it together,
being poor didn’t worry us, and
we took pleasure in simple things,
like swimming and tag and the free movies
in the park on Saturday night.

Our heroes were athletes and actors,
local folks like Johnny Logan and Tony Curtis.
We didn’t worry about scandal then,
our heroes too true to make the
tarnished footprints of the future.
We might have worried about that,
propping them up,
only to knock them down,
but we didn’t.

There are no elm trees on Elm Avenue, anymore.
But, there are pine trees and firs and maples, even birches,
the ones we planted before we knew the elms would go.
We were not worried about the future when we did that.
We just put them in the ground, bought hammocks,
and waited.
Nothing to worry about.
Nothing at all.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Valentine, 2012

At 10 and 31,
we’ve only just begun.

Not really birds of a feather,
but, truly, always together.

There’s good in what we’ve been,
in our 31 and 10.

There’s great in what we’ll be,
just you wait and see.

The best is yet to come,
with you, on Planet Awesome.

There’ll be no need to worry,
not in our love story.

With you as queen, I’m king.
Next stop…everything!

What Dying Friends Think

Life is too short.
Period.
It might be too short for
a lot of things, like
worry and jealousy and regrets.
Could be.
So people say.
The ones who are not dying.
Not yet.
My friends who are dying now know.
Life is too short.
Period.

Money doesn’t matter.
Period.
It might matter if you’re short
of food and meds and rent.
Could be.
So people say.
The ones who are not dying.
Not yet.
My friends who are dying now know.
Money doesn’t matter.
Period.

Man plans, God laughs.
Period.
It might help to have a strategy,
with wills and trusts and next of kin.
Could be.
So people say.
The ones who are not dying.
Not yet.
My friends who are dying now know.
Man plans, God laughs.
Period.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Best of PSIFF fest 2012

Glad to Have Seen Them:

Apartment in Athens - 9
Shakespeare High -10
Pariah - 8.5
A Separation -10
Salmon Fishing... - 9
Unfinished Spaces - 8.5
Headhunters - 8.5
Sacrifice - 8.5
Love in the Medina - 8.5
super-secret sneak screening - 8.5
Jose and Pilar - 9.5
The Sound of My Voice - 8.0
Perfect Sense - 8.0
Postcard - 8.0
Le Havre - 8.5
Rose - 9.0
Asma’a - 8.5
The Kid With A Bike - 8.0
Blood of My Blood – 9.0
Abu, Son of Adam - 8.5
Three Quarter Moon - 8.5
Haywire - 8.5
Las Acacias - 8.0
The Girls In the band - 9.5
Simon and the Oaks -9.0
Almanya-Welcome to Germany - 8.5
Starbuck - 9.0

So-so:

Flowers of War ... overblown & I hate Christian Bale, but loved the women and the action scenes - 7
Declaration of War ... over wrought, over acted, over narrated - 7
Elite Squad ... "Headhunters" was better, if you want a body count - 7
Man Without A Cell Phone…ho hum - 7.5
Thin Ice…predictable, tv fare - 7


Yikes!

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia - 6.0 (but, maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for such an existential piece)

Sorry to have missed them:

Superclassico
The Story of Film
Rumble of the Stones
Sonny Boy
The Snows of Kilamanjaro
Diana Vreeland
Wunderkinder
Cracks in the Shell
If I Were You
When the Night
In Darkness
Chronicle of My Mother
Monsieur Lazhar
In Darkness
Pina
Beyond
Happy, Happy
The Turin Horse
Elena
MichaelPetrucciani
Bullhead
Mulberry Child
Bert Stern: Original Madman
Bitter Seeds

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Most enjoyed Films of 2011 (so far)

with a large number of films yet to see, here are the films I most enjoyed this year:

Midnight In Paris
Drive
The Artist
My Week with Marilyn
Harry Potter 7
Louder Than A Bomb
Moneyball
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Debt
The Help
Bridesmaids
A Separation
Le Havre
Apartment In Athens
Shakespeare High
Pariah
Jose and Pilar
Rose
Asma'a
The Guard
The Iron Lady
Beginners

Honorable mention, close but no cigar:

Ides of March (ho hum)
Margin Call (ho hum, ho hum)
The Descendants (didn't move me)
The Tree Of Life (self-indulgent)
Hugo (loved the 3-D effects)
J. Edgar (a one-trick pony)
War Horse (epic, but manipulative...My Friend Flicka does trench warfare)

Yet to see:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Shame
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
City of Life and Death