Every Thing

Changed, evolved.

Everything

Used to be a verdant green

Of fresh, newborn spring.

Evolved into a chilly thing,

Brown, dried husks,

A few barely clinging

To a tree in late autumn,

Early winter.

Seems something, someone

Sucked the hope out,

Fed on it as if it were life’s blood,

And everything is drained, a leftover hull

Of what once was.  But everything goes on.

As if all is the same and nothing

Is gone.

Elemental Breath

 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,
 Notice nothing,
 Pick up kids,
 Fix dinner,
 Do laundry,
 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,
 Until expelling 
 the elemental breath before death. 
   

Silver and White Under a Ruidoso Sky

 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
 our youth:
 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
 You packed.
 I read.
 You sketched.
 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
 Arranged me
 And my long black curls.
 You sketched me
 And said you wished you
 Had your paints.
 Copper and black hair
 Tangled together.
 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. 

No Art

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 sunny afternoon.  
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 sunset
 Every sunrise
 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 bars,
 In restaurants,
 In the eyes of strangers, 
 I look for you.
  
 I look for you in all this.
 And in this thing
 Called losing, 
 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 Passing of Summer

 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.
  
 At dawn,
 I stand here,
 Warming myself 
 With this cup of coffee,
 Mourning a summer
 That passed without passion.
   

13 Years

 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
 Between us.
 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. 

Words in the Electronic Ages

  
 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
 But promised
 For one.
 
 The gravity, the gravity
 A black hole. 

SMOKE THE CRAVING

I debate:

Should I buy

That pack of cigarettes?

God knows I want too.

The store clerk

Stares at me

As if I’ve lost my mind.

I nearly answer—

Yes, I have and other things too.

Please, God.

I just want to feel the smoke

Rush through my lungs.

Skimming, skipping, speeding

The way pictures crash the dam of my heart.

I am flooded.

I’d rather be flooded with waves of nicotine.

Yes, it’d be a blessing to drown in nicotine.

Reveling in the stench of smoke

Would help dull this taste of bitterness,

Would dull this craving for a sweetness

I can no longer have.

And why not?

What’s it all matter now?

A slow roll kind of Catholic suicide.

How long could it take?

I mean, really, at this stage?

“Ma’am, can I help you with somethin’ else?”

Says the clerk behind the counter.

I am still standing there,

The crazy lady,

Trying to wring the water out

Of the water bottle I just bought.

“No, thank you,” as I walk away.

So, no slow roll Catholic suicide.

At least, starting not today.

But this patch of bitter taste,

This patch of craving for a sweetness,

Are sewn with double stitched seams

On the underside

Of my skin.

The Other Day

mother child

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
They laugh
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