From the shaking dirge cries of birth
To the desire for ease in the between,
Before the elemental breath rattles at death,
We are lost in cacophonous sighs of daily life,
Choosing to turn away
From moments appearing as iridescent sun rays
As if God's fingers reached
Between the clouds
To touch the earth.
Yes, we turn away,
Pick up kids,
A trip to Wal-Mart,
And to work,
The mundane of every day,
Yes, it must be done,
To hurry toward the waiting,
While living holding sand,
the elemental breath before death.
Here, under a Ruidoso sky,
You remind me:
An extraordinarily warm spring day
Spent in a field somewhere
In Lancaster County, PA.
Where exactly? Well, now,
I could not really say.
I’d never find it again,
Even after taking the memory
Down off the shelf
And dusting the cobwebs away.
I remember the day in snapshots
Before we trampled, stomped, burned
The drive from Baltimore
In your little black sports car.
The top down. The wind
Running its fingers through
Your copper hair.
The glitter of your crystalline eyes
In the morning sunshine.
The softness of 501 jeans washed
A thousand times.
Your artist’s soul looking for the
Perfect spot, rejecting several
Before perfection found,
A sun-drenched meadow amid
Pine trees. No Amish around, you said.
The care you took with blankets
And picnic basket and, of course,
Your ever-present sketchbook.
Cheeses, bread, fruits, and wine
We ate and drank.
Then, I posed for you,
The first time.
No one was around.
No one could see,
You said and so
You shucked me
Of clothing and
And my long black curls.
You sketched me
And said you wished you
Had your paints.
Copper and black hair
And the sun low
In the sky. We
Packed the basket
And folded the blanket.
Some 40, 41 years ago.
Snapshots of that day.
Why remind me now?
We trampled, stomped, burned our
Youth down. Oh, yes. we could tease
"Here come and sit, where never
serpent hisses, And being set,
I'll smother thee with kisses."
We’d do nothing better in the
Here and the now were we to tangle
Silver and white together.
Lies were told, I know.
For once, I wanted to believe.
Your truth telling services,
I do not need…
And the tangling of silver and white now, just--
The braiding of loneliness and longing
Leaves us soulless.
This was written after I completed a five mile hike and then picked up a volume of Elizabeth Bishop's poetry to enjoy once again on a sunnyafternoon. My answer to Bishop's poem, One Art.
In this thing called losing,
Bishop said we become masters
And that losing isn’t a disaster.
No, Not a disaster.
Losing socks and such stuff.
I’ve lost earrings, bracelets,
Expensive ones too, didn’t care
Beyond maybe a minute or two.
And no pain beyond a stab of nostalgia
Did I have upon saying goodbye
To three houses and two cities.
And yes, it was no disaster
To bury my mother,
A father who really wasn’t,
The man who really was,
First one brother, then the other,
Then lastly, a wife.
With each, my body and soul
Savaged by a hurricane, catastrophic, yes.
But no, no disaster.
Except perhaps, yes, I’ll admit,
A tiny bit of soul eroded
From the waves of each hurricane
Breaking over me as I buried each.
And nothing, nothing did I master.
Except, maybe this—
I did not look for them
Since they were gone,
Emptied of this earth.
Now, there is you and
I look for you
In everything I do--
Every in between time.
I look for you in strangers,
In cars I pass along the street.
I look for you at festivals,
In films I see.
I look for you in places,
In the sky of Ruidoso,
In the eyes of strangers,
I look for you.
I look for you in all this.
And in this thing
In which I am well-schooled,
As are we all,
I have tried to make an art,
To make an art of all this loss.
Yes, this may be no real disaster,
But Bishop lied.
There is no art in losing,
No art at all,
That I can find to master.
The wind and rain stopped by last night,
Had a few minor temper tantrums outside
As I stood watching from the door.
They slapped the trees limbs around a bit
And kicked at bits of loose trash in the street.
Nothing more violent than that.
No pushing down trees.
No pummeling hail.
Rather calm for a storm.
Yet it killed the heat of summer,
Murdering it without a hint of passion
And ushering in a cold windy day
To begin the fall to winter.
I stand here,
With this cup of coffee,
Mourning a summer
That passed without passion.
The requiem played
So softly in the background.
Our words stuttered to a halt,
And we listened to this--
The breath between words
Not said in the silence
All the while the strains of the requiem
Filled the ever widening space
Between the words of lies and truths
In the deafening silence.
To relieve the pressure in our ears
We talked of all the daily banalities
Of work, of dinner, of lunches,
Of the silly things the dogs have done
That made us laugh.
We talked over each other
Stumbling in a strange vocal dance
Until finally tripping into silence
Before a final goodbye is said
With your lies and my truth unclaimed.
But the requiem played still--
And then silence.
What we know of words upon a page
Read, learned over again until sated
In the richness found.
Then turn to the electronic blue haze
Where even words resonate, echoing fade.
For the sweetest lies, a believer craves.
Then scrolling over plastic flowers dancing,
The words of a lover’s refrain found
Written once too often
In wooing others
On the same blank cards
With pictures of bears.
The words like
Cheap plated jewelry’s shine
Turn black in the bitterness
On the day some thought
Something pure, pristine was born.
Then, finally, is it known the words
Of the poetic, the romantic
Are but rhetoric and lies
Written and said
More than once
The gravity, the gravity
A black hole.
While watching a mother and her child at play
Wrapped in the delight of each other
She gives her boy a gentle toss
His tiny arms wide, wing-like
As if in flight
She’s a safety net
As he lands lightly in her hands
Their eyes lock, sparkling
Wrapped in the miracle of each other
His arms wind about her neck
His glistening golden head rests upon her shoulder
And this hole, this longing inside remembers
The rapture between a mother and child
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