by W. Mahlon Purdin
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Effortlessly | Merry Christmas | If Anyone Knew | Dad's Handwriting | Christmas Poem (1975)
Food For The Soul | Open The Door | The Sun Cam Up Like Death | Seven Days (1 to 7)
Working Out | That Pen | Mornings | "We were boys, really." | "Birds have a great gift"
Peace | Judge By Appearance | Faith | For You. | Prime Time | Finding You | Precious
Too Young | Hoping | Breakfast | The Details of Desire | Phases of Disaster | We Are The World
But, That Said | "Peering into the future" | Remnants | "The heart can ache like no other muscle."
Hiding in the Known | Recovery | Creativity | Fantansies in Freefall | Cleaning the Pool
Good Rules | Following Paths | Working For Them | Memorial Day: One To Remember
When I Came Home | The Waking Dream | New England May | Power | Pony Island
Long Story Short | Priorites | Quiescence and Consequence | Some Things Cannot
Pains and Tears | Worn Out | Dread | Watching You | Pain, Every Step of The Way
You and Me | Coming To Theaters Everywhere | Don't Give Up Without A Fight
The Spirit In Seventy-Six | The Fabulous | The Passionate Wafer | The Aroma
"You never know" | XXVI | Blythe | Just So Many Tears | "Let's face it," | Yet Tom Come?
Exploring | "Poetry is not personal" | "Watching her struggle" | A Heady Wine | No Lights
I'm So Sorry | Keep The Faith | "There is nothing so encouraging as a morning."
She walked like an angel
And she breathed as though
She tossed her hair as
She turned the corner
She brought a feeling of calmness
She brought a feeling of peace
She smiled and her eyes
Poured into me her
That memory lingers
In my thoughts even now,
It's only one day,
But it causes a lot
Of work and
People rush to the
Stores and pour
Out their cash
For a smile?
You can have
One of those
So easily, just give
A little of you.
It's all we want, really.
A look of understanding
A voice that soothes
A gentle touch.
Fly like a sleigh in the sky
With just one special
Take me in your arms
And tell me that
You love me and
Everything is good.
Then it's not just one day
Of work and wasted trouble:
We see the morning's rays
And it's a day of days.
-- December 25, 2005
IF ANYONE KNEW
Never right, never perfect;
Fuss with everything.
If anyone knew
How I fret over every
Line, rhyme and mark
Breaks and the rhythm,
The words and the ways:
My troubled days.
Never an end to it,
Just send them out:
Birds that sort of fly
Only in circles and
Not very high.
I watch them go and wonder
What kind of a person
Would do that?
Others have been
Far better in
Giving flight to work,
So neat and complete.
I grovel at their feet.
Housman, Yeats, and some
I can't even put in this:
So confused, disheveled
Tortured and bedevilled.
-- December 20, 2005
He used to sit at a folding card table
In a little alcove off the old dining room
In the house he had dreamed of
All his life.
He always sat in the matching folding chair
That came with the table, vinyl covered.
He spent so many, many hours writing in a little
Black six-ring notebook.
He was creating an index of his 78s
All the original jazz muscians from the 30s
And 40s, he had tons of them in the attic.
He was transferring everything to reel-to-reel.
He would sit out there listening, and writing.
He would watch the odometer on the tape machine
And note the beginning and the end of each song.
His mechanical pencil softly pressing along.
Each page was padded by the ones around it.
He wrote on both sides, his writing embossing each sheet.
Sometimes I would sit there with him, watching;
His eyes and his hands and the tip of that pencil.
He had tiny handwriting with sharp ups and downs.
It was barely legible. He formed the letters
As if they were numbers and the numbers
Looked just like the letters.
He filled many notebooks and when he finally
Completed the years and years of listening
And writing he seemed a little disappointed
Like the journey was more important than arriving.
He always thought that reel-to-reel would be
The final format. He was so struck by how much
Better it was than the old records. He loved
How much would fit on just one tape.
How wrong he was. Born in 1910, how could he know?
To him a miracle was immutable, forever.
I stare sometimes at the little six ringed notebooks
And push the dust aside from their covers.
Inside, there is his handwriting on page after page.
The sharp little letters, the numbers trying to be letters.
Hundred of pages, so much listening and determination
In a project he never wanted to finish.
I wonder sometimes why he chose to spend so much time
With those notebooks and his mechanical pencil.
We could have done so many things together.
So many years dead, I still have no answer.
Writing in my checkbook today with a mechanical pencil
I noticed my handwriting has changed over the years.
It used to be dramatic with flamboyant.
Now it's smaller and the letters are sharpening.
-- December 15, 2005
CHRISTMAS POEM (1975)
I would really like to write about
Christmas and what seems to have come
Of that holiday, once pastoral and quiet,
Now boisterous and commercialized;
Now full of phony Santas that
Get arrested, get drunk,
Carry revolvers and paper bags with
Wet tops from thirsty lips.
What happened to all those families
That came from everywhere
With poinsettias and presents from the heart,
Gifts that didn't enslave but enraptured
The heart with humanism and hope
And a feeling of thanks for small reprieves
From the brutal clarity of life and living?
What changed those young eyes
Filled with wonder of mysterious things
To greedy eyes, comparing eyes,
Eyes that twitch and dodge and search?
What happened to change the spirit
Of parties from camaraderie to carousals
Of drunkenness and avarice,
To where bosses say, No parties,"
And people just seethe with anger and disquiet?
I remember a sense of Christmas,
And the searching of my behavior
In the light of love.
Did I mistreat you sometime?
The love that welled up
Made me feel inadequate
Made me promise not to take for granted
My family and those around me.
Now it's been speeded up and
Everybody rushes to shopping centers
Spends, spends, spends like crazy
Just finishing in time to bestow
And to be bestowed upon.
And everybody's nervous.
Everybody's edgy with the pressure.
What pressure? If Jesus did exist,
Let alone was the Son of God,
He never meant that his birthday
Be a crossfire exchange of material
From everyone to everyone else.
What was to be exchanged
Were emotions felt by human beings,
Lost and wandering on a small planet
Drifting through the void, the abyss,
For each other.
It's not a time to forget all the problems
We've caused for each other and have a drink.
It's a time to say what's
On our minds
And then build on that.
Christmas is not a truce in the fighting.
Oh, no. It's a celebration
Of a beginning.
And then you come to the moment
That everyone is rushing towards
And when they get there, are scared
To look, to feel, to care, and to love.
What in the world is this anyway?
If we are all brothers --
All love one another --
Why all the fuss?
Why don't we just break down the barriers,
Join hands and sing a while?
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Oh, jingle all the way..."
"The last Christmas I believed in Santa Claus,"
She said, "was two years ago, and I know
I heard bells!" That a chained tire,
When it hits hard pavement
Sounds like bells to a little girl
Half asleep in her room
Two stories up, is simply wonderful.
Too bad it's two years now
That tire chains sound no bells.
"Since we're not having dinner,
No Christmas diner, can you imagine that!
Well, since there's no dinner
We can't open presents tonight.
We have to open them on Christmas
Morning or Christmas will be nothing,
What else is there than
Presents and food, after all?
Is there hope? Is there charity?
Will there be peace on Earth?
Let's hope so.
But, on the other hand,
I've also seen a turning away
In the non-celebration of Christmas.
When it's as if in the heart
None who have ever loved Christmas
Can ever forget or wish not to be a part,
Give freely of yourself.
And then it's over. Who is Santa Claus anyway?
Who brings all these turtle-neck sweaters,
Ski-boots, radios, books, cooking gear,
Lunch boxes, peanuts, chap-sticks, rings,
Perfume, spice racks, shavers, cameras,
Crock-pots, exercise devices and albums
For pictures taken during all the hustle
With people smiling, some worried,
Children with their eyes flitting and flattering.
I saw eighty-four-year-old tears today
From the eyes of a woman filled with inadequacies
And doubts of her own worthiness ....
I was fighting greedy thoughts before the tree
As presents came to everyone and to me.
Now, the sounds of wrapping paper filling
Waste baskets beautifully, and boxes
Being collapsed and stacked:
Waiting in closets like skeletons
For next year. "Next year," she said,
"We'll start earlier."
Nearly out of breath we recede
Like melting snow on a wild evergreen
Back to earth, back to work,
Back to troubles, back to bosses,
Back to doubts and back to ourselves,
Our lives, our lies.
Back to normal, the post-Christmas world
Seems to spin, still twenty-three degrees off,
Seems to be as full of life and life's trials
As ever, as always, as before.
The politicians are as tricky,
Society is as sporadic,
Friends are as steady ....
I wonder if anything has changed,
I wonder if it should be changed.
Perhaps this is the best world possible,
Perhaps it is not.
But in writing this for the past three days
I see that nothing shakes my premise
That life is still mysterious and whatever
We make of it. Whether God sends
Armageddon, or Mars sends missiles,
Life goes on 'til it's over;
It's not what happens that matters,
It's how we think about it.
Christmas is an attitude, an act of faith,
And nothing less.
-- December 25, 1975
FOOD FOR THE SOUL
The only reason to sit at the table
Is out of gratitude. To bring
Your thanks and give, so others
Can see that you love them.
The only reason to offer grace
Is to acknowledge your gratitude
For all that you see
Everywhere around you.
The only sensible act
Is to bow your head in gratitude
For the things you understand and
For everything you never will.
When you take another's hand
Take it in gratitude, not control;
And remember, we are all
Wondering, "what next?"
-- November 24, 2005
OPEN THE DOOR
Loneliness is sitting at the table
Fear and awful worry's din.
But joy's there too, pounding
A heart trying to get in.
The day is for thanksgiving:
And that's courage really living,
Patience beyond and above
With a big appetite for love.
It all comes and goes
Here today and what tomorrow
More of those dark, dark foes
Or the cornucopia we borrowed ?
It's easy to put away the dishes
And wonder what's leftover.
But don't throw me out
With the trash of your doubt.
I love that day and wish it were longer
Like 10,000 years is a day with God.
Wish we could all walk away much stronger
Not glad it's over, where's my freakin' iPod?
The day is for thanksgiving:
And that's courage really living,
Patience beyond and above
With a big appetite for love.
-- November 23, 2005
THE SUN CAME UP LIKE DEATH
It was a struggle last night
Sleep filled with dreams
Dark dreams of a world that seems
But really isn't. Does that ever happen to you?
My pillows were like rocks
That my mind couldn't eddy around.
The blankets were like those plastic
Bands they use on prisoners.
The clock was always bad news
As if something were happening
Something I should know.
The sun came up like death
Insidious, and seeping in
As though a conspiracy to steal
Night's last breath.
An auger hangs over me
Its sharp spirals pausing for effect
I stand deep in a hole-to-be
And I'm the architect.
-- November 21, 2005
SEVEN DAYS (7)
All those other things.
Of perfection and popularity
Are paths to nowhere
Or neverland and to
We should really be thinking
Any time wasted on grooming
Our misconceptions and misdirections:
Any time spent trying to snare
Others' regard is living those myths
Out as though they were really
Our history. When history
Is never past, but coming
At us like temptations or like
Promises made, or like prayers
We've been meaning to answer.
A million a minute.
We pick and choose:
Confining or sharing,
Diminishing or declaring.
We write our own lives with pens
Of our own making on paper that never ends.
We fight battles without enemies
And we win wars without victory.
In the quietude of the middle world
As we fall asleep, our conscience guides.
And we know myths from wild rides,
And truly living from all those
-- November 13, 2005
SEVEN DAYS (6)
Sitting with restless legs
And head switching
All the time, smiling
And so full of life
She made us all happy
With the pleasure
Of seeing her and
With thinking of
All she can do:
A little girl unknowing.
On the brink
Of every thing,
To sit still
Is just impossible.
-- November 12, 2005
SEVEN DAYS (5)
Thirty-six years ago, a soldier when;
But, I've never touched a gun since then.
-- November 11, 2005
SEVEN DAYS (4)
You say that you're a failure
At everything you do or say.
You say it just gets worse and worse
Every saddening day.
You say you've got to learn
To hide your fright and fear
Everyone can't see your heart's
Thrust through with that awful spear.
If you hide what you're feeling
And act as if you're on a stage
Truth is just a treadmill wheeling
You're imprisoned in a cage,
Then what you do just doesn't matter,
No confidence in pure things true.
You're Alice to the world's Mad Hatter:
Down the deep, dark hole with you.
But if you stand before all to see
And let the chips fly and fall
Then truth will ascend from its apogee
Sunshine bursts the prison wall.
-- November 10, 2005
SEVEN DAYS (3)
The Mere Facts At Hand
It was a soft conversation, really.
About marriage and happiness and, well,
Understanding: Taking another person's
Feelings into higher account than just
The mere facts at hand.
Sometimes (more than sometimes probably)
There is a pathway to the heart
That moves through emotions like a
Traveller gently parting leafy branches
And into a clearing, and there
Seeing a vast gorge, butterfly-like
Drifts over for a soft landing
Where the sun shines so warmly.
Our eyes glisten with happiness.
It's one of the mysteries that that place
Is always at hand, facts put aside,
When together we travel inside.
-- November 9, 2005
SEVEN DAYS (2)
What we think cannot be what we know.
What we know cannot be all there is to know.
Our eyes see whatever we look at,
But there is more to see than through our eyes.
We think we know our people, but we know a little,
And there is always more to know about everyone.
We think we know ourselves as the years shrivel
Our horizons and our dreams, but there is
Always the unknown within each of us.
We think we are safe when all is really so tenuous.
Like a balding tire we don't know about, or
An extension cord under the bed getting hot.
Each day brings its adventure and temptations.
We struggle within and look all around.
Hoping that what we know and what we see
Will get us through.
When it's what we don't know and don't see
That always, always gets us through.
The discovery of that defines.
-- November 8, 2005
SEVEN DAYS (1)
Turning to better things
Better views of the world unfolding
Around, is the challenge
Of history, not the building of
Great cities, great philosophies
Or the plight of so-called
The war within is where it's at.
You seem upset, it's you not them.
You seem hurt, it's you not them.
You seem pleased, it's you not them.
It's just not them, ever.
It's just you, always.
That insult that flew, it came from you.
The one that hit home, you too.
The world is not about you, but
It's within you: for good or ill.
Always has been and is still.
-- November 7, 2005
(Beginning to think about Thanksgiving.)
There was a time in all my writing when
All my writing was by a special pen
That I always kept with me, no matter
How many times it leaked in my pocket
Or on my hands, or ran out in mid-verse.
I remember days -- entire days -- spent
Looking for it, unable to begin a poem or
Even a sentence, or even the day itself
Without that pen in hand.
It was a thin gold fountain pen with
My name on it. Words just seemed
To flow when it was between my fingers.
I loved the way it felt, and the way
The words looked on the white paper.
In fact, I used to buy special writing paper
From a friend who dealt with paper companies:
"Bay Path Bond," I would say. He would say,
"You are the only one who ever wants it."
And then it just didn't matter any more.
I started using felt-tips, special ones to be sure,
But my special pen fell by the wayside.
It might have been the day I lost it
When I was a judge in something. In the
Excitment I dropped it. Two weeks later
Almost as though God wanted me to have it back,
A young boy, not the winner, came up to me
And said, holding it gleaming in the sun, "Is this yours?"
For whatever reason, almost 12 years have passed now.
I probably write 200 or 300 poems a year, plus a lot
Of other stuff, and all without that pen. Oh, I knew
Where it was all the time, for sure. Like some
Savings account I was keeping for a rainy day,
It was where I knew it was, waiting or hiding,
I'm not sure. Yesterday I got it out again. It
Wouldn't write, I got new ink, cleaned it out, rinsed it,
And spent the day (some of the day) tuning it up.
Now it's right here on my desk. I haven't written
A poem with it yet, but I'm thinking about it.
A handwritten poem has to be keystroked in now.
That takes an effort, it's sort of clerical, not conceptual,
A step now unneeded with computers and spell-check
And posting to the Internet, all things my pen superseded
In its heyday of feeling and texture and directness.
It's almost like a object of antiquity now.
The first thing I thought of this morning was that pen.
-- November 2, 2005
But then it's always late
And it's been a good day.
Nights're always hard
But the mornings're
Easy and promising
And ... well
-- October 28, 2005
We were boys, really.
Not the great men depicted in history at all.
We talked about girls and sex,
We talked about parties and high school,
We laughed like fools as we roared
Down the rivers in powerful boats
Bristling with guns.
It wasn't ours to question, really.
We were told to go there, go here:
I remember the finger pointing to a spot
On the map and thinking, "OK, we'll go there."
That it became a corner of hell,
With wild things flying at us out of the night,
Was not our doing.
In combat you learn to duck, really.
And think quickly. It's not so much about
Glory and courage, it's more like
Maximizing the chances for survival
For everyone. After 36 years of thinking
About it, what I remember most?
We were boys. Really.
-- October 27, 2005
Birds have a great gift
Of flight anytime.
Even though perhaps
They don't ever think about it.
Yesterday I saw a flight of geese
Heading south and there must
Have been three thousand of
Them strung out in a long
Trailing formation unlike
The usual highly organized
"V" we see every fall.
It looked a little ragged up there,
Like a migration just getting
Like string in the sky
Not one bird asks why.
Imagine gifts given so freely
That no thought or thanks
Is required; only that we
Use them as freely as
They were given.
-- October 23, 2005
Like a spider's web
Built slowly unnoticed
With intelligence and design
Small in the beginning
And then amazing in its reach.
There are no steps overlooked
No short cuts to completion
Everything must be done right
Or then undone and done right
Until the structure is stable.
Even strangers venturing
Will not destroy it
And never the determination
That built it and rebuilds it
Over and over.
-- October 16, 2005
JUDGE BY APPEARANCE
It's counter-instinctual really.
The drums are beating
It's so exciting, everything's happening
We look too quickly and
Judge by appearance.
And something dies.
It's a quiet place, light is low,
The hearts are beating
It's so exciting, everything's happening
We reach too quickly and
Judge by appearance.
And something dies.
All around us there are quiet things
And quiet people waiting as
We go racing by. There are riches
And there are moments that never happen,
For no good reason.
Worlds are wasted.
People are plundered.
Hearts are broken.
History goes aside.
And something dies.
It's not just something,
It's something important
Something really really important
Something in you.
Something dies in you.
-- October 9, 2005
It's just about having it,
Not about yelling it
Or sharing it.
Just have it.
It's not about talking it,
Not about acting it
Or wishing it.
Just have it.
There's no reason not to,
So many things prove it
And show it
Beyond all doubt.
So be reasonable,
Be circumspect and cautious
Doubt all false comers
Keep it to yourself.
There's no secret formula
Owned by some to give
In great halls.
It comes alone.
No special rituals or litanies
Light its coming
Eyes do sparkle.
It's not about flaunting
It's not about judging
Just have it.
-- October 5, 2005
I will give my life to you
In gratitude for you
Giving it to me.
I will give up all my
Ill dreams and misdirections
Just to be with you.
I will let my heart beat 100,000
Times a day just
I will find a way to prove
A love so pure
In gratitude I will
Give up my life
-- October 3, 2005
The expectations that we plug
Into each day are inspiring,
As they should be.
The end of the day brings
Something like a message
To us on the pillow.
I drink there of the moments
That made me come to rest
For more tomorrow.
And think there of things
That were, that could have
And will someday be.
It's prime time for prayer
And for gratitude and for
Deep everlasting forgiveness.
Never go to sleep with some
Thought that won't out, or
Some prayer unanswered.
-- September 29, 2005
It's a hard grope.
Digging around in the rich soil
Stubbing fingers on sharp things
Missing those smooth things
That pass over and under my
Fingers like small breezes
The touch and brush and go
And then something makes
Me stop and feel and look
More closely and just look
Trying to hard focus my eyes on
Something so small that it's
Huge and enormous and
Why didn't I notice it before.
Well, that's why I keep exploring
Examining very detail
Hunting for that one something
That I know I must have missed.
Finding you is like breathing:
I do it all the time.
-- September 23, 2005
There is nothing like sitting
In a waiting room with
No idea of how long you'll be there.
At any moment you
Could be freed but
There's no way to know.
Something is happening
(They're working on my car)
I know, but how long,
How much, that's
All of the key punching
And computer efforting is
Amusing really. He typed
And typed and typed
And typed and then
He looked up and said,
"OK, what's the name?"
If every moment of life is precious
Then what of these?
Eight people reading worn-out
Magazines, shifting in chairs
As the day slowly progresses
-- September 17, 2005
When I watch television
Shows where parents die
And little kids have
To deal with this situation,
I always start to cry.
Because it happened to me
And a lifetime of dealing
With things I didn't understand
Created a void that hides
In me and only reveals
Itself in those moments
When something reminds me
That there are so many things
I don't understand, never
Will understand, don't
want to understand
And really don't have the
Tools to understand, because
When it happened to me
I was way, way too young.
-- September 18, 2005
Could you ever
Have a moment
So full of meaning
That it changes
Or are you so
All set that there's
No time for such
A complete alteration
Of your plan?
-- September, 18, 2005
A rainy morning
The air was fresh but uncertain
Somewhere between hot and chilly
But the oatmeal was warm.
Quiet in the house
Just us at the table
Each with a day to do
A moment together, away.
There was nothing fancy
In those few minutes
Just people at a table
Sharing a rainy morning.
-- September 15, 2005
THE DETAILS OF DESIRE
Love is all little things
Coming together in a jet stream
That determines the weather
Of our hapisphere.
It's strictness to truth
In thinking and saying,
But thinking first 'cause
We can say just about anything.
When I watch you and you don't know
I see the person I love;
When I watch you and you know
I see someone else.
It's that world where no one sees
It's that world of touching and feeling
Things just the two us can
Surrounded by all the details of desire.
-- September 12, 2005
PHASES OF DISASTER
That's when we could have helped ahead.
That's when we could have gotten out.
That's when we see it coming.
That's over before we know it.
That's when we build our confidence
That's when we look into the dark abyss
That's when paper up
That's when we assume invincibility.
That's when we keystone cop it,
That's when forewarning's rarity is clarity
That's when things go out the window
That's when our plans collapse.
That's when all hell breaks lose
That's when all bets are off
That's when we're on our own
That's when reality really kicks in.
That's when we truly shine
That's picking up the pieces
That's redirecting responsibility
That's putting the best face on.
That's when worlds collapse.
That's when we're caught flatfooted.
That's when our worst fear appears.
That's when our hope stretches.
-- September 9, 2005
WE ARE THE WORLD
When you are tired
And beyond your limits
When your back's to the wall
And the rubble is all around
And you can see so clearly
Then you are
We live in webs of delusion
That everything is exactly
As we planned it.
When we really had nothing
To do with it, except
That we are the meaning
We are the world.
It's not about being right
It's about being good.
It's not about being rich
It's about being wise.
It's not about being beautiful
It's about acting with grace.
It's not about fighting;
It's about thinking.
-- September 8, 2005
BUT, THAT SAID
Even in a life spent staring at shoreless horizons,
There are times it's great to wake up
In one's own bed.
Oh, the joy of discovering new landscapes of mind
And time and place and outcomes,
Still fills the head,
And, planning the next thing thumps the heart
And sweats the palms, and dilates the eyes;
But, that said,
There's nothing like the softness of pillows
Long enjoyed, snuggled into, and too lightly
-- August 28, 2005
Peering into the future
There is a blinding light
Is it glorious adventure
Or a door closing tight?
-- August 22, 2005
The words increase as I think about them
In their heat and meaning
In their callous disregard
In their amazing brevity and impact
In the way they burned into me
Like a branding iron searing
Through soft flesh, happy flesh
Burning it to a crisp
To a disfigured remnant
Of a better day.
And then something happens
Like a gauzy smearing of fixation
And it blurs up a little
A broken wiper on the highway
I'm squinting and trying to see
That tiny little fuse that burned
That heat and fire and anger
And tore me up like voided check
Or unwanted junk mail
And sent me headfirst into the trash bin.
Then comes the missing emptiness
Where something's not right
I keep trying to think, but nothing happens
In terms of clearing things out
There's always that nothing there
Sort of a weird little pause in memory
Like a moved nick nack that
I just notice in an absent minded way
Until one day I really notice it.
How did that get there?
-- August 19, 2005
The heart can ache like no other muscle.
The pain is startling and agonizingly deep.
It reaches past our bodies into our souls
And stays there thrashing around, relentless
In its power.
Like an internal hurricane feeding off
The hot waters of our discontent
It storms into everything and blackens
Our horizon with only more and more
There is no cure.
-- August 8, 2005
HIDING IN THE KNOWN
They cloak themselves in intentional
Invisibility and mirth;
It seems like not to go along is just
Being a bad sport.
In the world of funny things there are two kinds:
Amusing and abusing -- remember that.
Both cause raucous laughter, but in one
Somewhere in the room there is a silence
In the laughter spread
There's a little spot somewhere
It's that flaw in human nature
That lets us secretly enjoy other people's
Problems; outwardly we empathize but
Inwardly we are jumping up and down
High-fiving ourselves, thumping ourselves
On our backs for always knowing that they
Were never as perfect as we always thought
It goes too far though. Not everyone
Rebounds, and some shrink in and in
And in and in, until they are lost in
The room of all people. They sort of
Go off line. Instead of looking for new
They are sorting through the old,
Living days over and over and over,
Hiding in the known.
The bully me and the bully you
Should watch what we say and do.
Not every one believes that each day
The world begins anew.
-- August 1, 2005
There has to be long periods of peace.
Time to just wait and wait and wait.
Talking takes all the time there is,
Conversation's like taking the bait.
The barbs of involvement are sweet going in
But coming out are dreams taken away.
So in the quiet of the morning
In the anew of the poet's every day
There is a softness that forgives all things
That cleans our hands and outs those youknows
And there we are once more clear and free
Our self-abandon and good intent finally shows.
-- July 19, 2005
It takes time.
Time to live.
Time to learn.
Time to crash and burn.
It takes patience.
Patience with your thoughts.
Patience with your ways
Patience with the disappearing days.
You have to suffer the tediousness
Of working at all the details, the little things,
And attaching all the little strings.
Then you have to hear it from them
Who see it for the first glance
And think it happened just by chance.
It's like the death of a thousand cuts;
Each nick and slice
Like whittles to the ground falling:
The drumbeat of the shadow calling.
-- July 9, 2005
FANTASIES IN FREEFALL
Just walking along the curbs of life
I drift in winds of wandering glances
And sudden worlds that flash open
And I go right in.
Pressing a water bottle to my lips
On a hot June Saturday I dream back to
A kiss I remember and redream it
As though she were still in my arms
Young and gay.
Waking in the night I feel the rush of tracers
Screaming past, touching others as they go.
I bend to help them with bloody hands
Eyes look up and say
"Am I all right?"
At a red light I remember my Mom's picture
I am wondering what it would be like to say,
"Mommy, are we there yet?" But then
The light turns and now I'm in New York
Rushing to a meeting that changed everything.
Day after day, always and always
Dreaming those fantasies of things
That may have happened, that
May not have happened, and
Could have happened.
Like a knife that cuts, I try to sort it out.
But it's not easy knowing what I know.
Choosing thoughts and picking memories
Takes a lifetime to do it right
To do it well.
-- July 1, 2005
CLEANING THE POOL
It's only about eight feet deep
It has about 210,000 gallons of water
But I clean it by hand in
My Scuba gear.
This morning I took all the gear off
Swam to the surface, emptied the scupper
Dove back in, put on all the gear
Underwater, purged my goggles and
For some people, cleaning the pool
Is a chore, but for me
It's an adventure. And, I clean the pool
Rubbing my hand over the bottom
Inch by inch as I vacuum.
There is nothing either good nor bad
In this world but (to paraphrase the bard himself)
Our thinking makes it so. So,
Today, really watch what you think.
-- June 20, 2005
Are not meant to be broken
Are not meant to control
Are not meant to frustrate
Are not meant to rule
-- June 15, 2005
It starts every morning:
A new path, even though it looks
Just like yesterday.
It's a maze, maybe,
But it's also a clear path
To a whole new world.
If you look with dark thoughts
It looks back at you
If you just start down it
With an eye for little things
Rays of light come in.
Every thought, every blink
Of your mind's eye
As you see the hope
In your thoughts
More hope appears.
Soon the paths will
Beckon you to
And then ...
Well now, finally, you're
On the right path.
-- June 15, 2005
WORKING FOR THEM
She was only eighteen, but drunk
And then she was gone, even though
Her friends dropped her off and
Watched her stumble and fall
Into hell, apparently.
She was sentenced to be gang-raped
Because of a supposed "infraction"
By her brother in Pakistan.
The sentence was carried out in
Front of a crowd of three hundred.
He's a subdued tyrant in prison
Awaiting a day in court for
Crimes and atrocities against the people
He was supposed to serve.
He sits there day after day waiting.
After fourteen weeks of agonizingly public
Trial he was found innocent of all charges.
"Not guilty. Not guilty..." the voice said.
Now in Neverland again, he is alone
With a song of his past.
When will we learn to work for them all;
Not just these but also those who are in the way
Of trouble and pain and decline?
When you think about it, we are
All in this together.
Killing, imprisoning, punishing, and forgetting
Does nothing at all, except make way
For more of the same.
Unselfishly: your only way
To spend today
Put others first, set an example.
Turn the other cheek and forgive.
Expect little indeed, give more and more.
Watch for ways to help, guide and soar:
Work for us all.
-- June 14, 2005
MEMORIAL DAY: ONE TO REMEMBER
The smell of war was unsettling
Burning things, wasted things,
Things just laying there
Or things rotting unattended to.
The sights of war were startling
Sudden death, explosions,
Rooms in flames, people swimming
For their lives
And not winning.
The touch of war was warm
With blood, and gritty with dirt
And mud, and things that
No soap could wash away.
The sound of war was loud
The staccato of machine guns
The pop pop pop of grenade launchers,
The thump thump of impacts
The thump thump thump of impacts.
The taste of war is with me still
Like a breath I can't forget
Like the fear stinking
And cordite in my mouth;
Like never wanting to be too close.
We honor all the soldiers
And it's right to do it. But soldiers
Who march and smooth fresh uniforms
On Memorial Day know that those
Who don't march are the heroes.
Those who lie still
Those who still lie,
Those who never knew
Those stopped dead
Those forever young, but never young.
I have dead friends, living and buried.
I talk to them both as though they were here.
I sing to them, and this memeorial day
I spent all day with one of them
We never mentioned it once.
It was a day to remember.
-- Memorial Day, 2005
WHEN I CAME HOME
There was a line of protesters
In California throwing epithets and tomatoes,
"Murderers! Stop the war, stop the freeze,
"Victory to the Vietnamese!"
They shouted and gesticulated with their arms
And fingers and their deep perceptions.
My uniform was dirty with cordite and
Remnants of a firefight that day. So,
In the sparkling sunlight of Napa Valley
Everything seemed so clean and bright,
And me dirty with war and getting home.
My parents didn't recognize me.
I walked right up to them. To them
I was just another of the throng of soldiers
Walking past. I recognized them,
Of course. In the nearly two years,
They had not changed. "Mom?" "Dad?"
I said. They were still looking through me.
"It's me." They still thought it was
A case of mistaken identity.
We stood looking at each other in disbelief.
That discontinuity continued
With me and America for years and years.
A country that hadn't changed and should have;
And me who had changed in deep immutable ways,
And shouldn't have.
In 1972 the protests were so violent
I was tear gassed and chased up a tree by dogs,
Threatened with a night stick and
Thrown in RFK Stadium with so many others.
We threw medals on the White House lawn
And hung around the Lincoln Memorial the night
Nixon showed up. I made a speech
Behind Jane Fonda and just before
John Kerry. And then I went back
To college in Indiana and
Put it all away for 12 years
Of fog and denial, still blurry.
Sometimes I look back on
"Those memories I fired."
I still wince and still run from them.
Oh, I talk about those days now,
As therapy, perhaps,
Sometimes too much, too vividly.
But, now the U. S. government has proclaimed
Vietnam as a "priority"
Commerical and tourist destination.
It's the same government; the one they told us
Would, in a fall of dominoes, end the world
As we know it. But, as we know it,
The world is just the same.
111,000 Americans killed and wounded.
58,195 names on The Wall. For what?
-- May 26 2005 for Memorial Day, 2005
The Waking Dream
Dreaming last night
There were large insects
And tangled sheets
Slow back asleeps
But I awoke
Perhaps it was
But perhaps it
Was just a dream
And all the time
I slept and slept
-- May 25 2005
NEW ENGLAND MAY
The Marigolds are not growing
The Morning Glories are still hiding,
Sometimes the stove to warm
Is still needed.
The skies are cloudy often,
And the days seem full of pause.
There's something in the air
As though nothing competely thaws.
But, the weather's perfect
Of course, you know.
And all's right in the larger sense.
At least there's no snow.
-- May 18, 2005
The good you do.
The times you put others first.
The moment you forgive.
The moment you forget.
The moment your cheek turns.
When you blink first.
When your hand goes out first.
When hold on in a hug.
When you kiss warmly, lingering.
When you call back.
When you are patient.
When you are thoughtful.
When you are grateful.
When you are helping.
When you are listening.
When you would never use it.
When you give it to others.
When you don't know you have it.
When you really don't want it.
When you know you'll never have it.
-- May 3, 2005
It's one of those special places
That we've tried to leave alone:
Sort of as things once were,
If you know what I mean.
Off the coast of Maryland
There was a ship wreck
Years ago. Aboard, the horses
Were freed in the foaming waves.
They swam, as horses do,
Awkwardly always towards
The most accessible shore:
Heads up, ears aperk.
The people died in the storm
And the little horses were on their own.
They survive to this day
Roaming, grazing; wild as a dream.
They are free in a way that
Their brother and sister horses,
Corraled and besaddled, know not.
In fact even these know not, just living.
We took the ferry over there,
A metal behemoth, forcing its way
Mechanically where their sailer
Foundered and abandoned them.
We were walking on the soft sand
And they were there, heads down
Eating the marshy hay, swishing
Away flies and looking up sometimes.
And off we went to other things
A sunset together, sharing moments;
We saw many things, and laughed a lot;
But I keep thinking about Pony Island.
-- April 23, 2005
LONG STORY SHORT
-- April 12, 2005
We set them
Then we let them
We fret them
Then we regret them
The truth is
It's a slippery biz
Now just live
Now just give
-- April 3, 2005
QUIESCENCE AND CONSEQUENCE
Each morning I go outside and peer
Into the dark soil of my gardens.
Watching for those tulips to emerge.
Each morning I think of you,
Each morning I think of life,
Each morning I think of things
Rebuilding and rearming
For a new season of growth
And surprising beauty that emerges,
Not just with the bud, and flower,
But with time and things being
Not just becoming.
It isn't just the flower of spring,
And the flagrance of beauty on which
The eye feasts, it is also the time
That passes, the things that change,
The season of abscission and recharge,
The long winter of quiescence
And consequence when so many things
Are determined with little outward change;
And then there I am, back staring
Down into the dark soil,
My eyes searching for the little hopeful
Sprouts scratching up for the warmth
And root-filling nutrient
Of a new season, another year
Yesterday I saw one clawing its way
Through two inches of solid ice:
Its little green tip poking through
Just now touching its goal.
It was easy to imagine its
Relief after wondering how long,
How far do I have to go?
Can I do it?
In a few weeks, that little ice-covered
Fuse-splinter will explode
Into one of nature's
Greatest beauties, full of high
Red and green and amazing from
Its hardscrabble beginnings.
How little we know
Of what we truly are
-- March 27, 2005
(A birthday card)
SOME THINGS CANNOT
She was so happy to see me;
It was obvious in her eyes, her face.
She ran to the car as I pulled in.
Her excitement was sharing and showing
Me things that were happening,
Her life shadowed around us, looking,
Following sometimes, sometimes
Being in the conversation.
There were dark shadows here and there,
There were bursts of sunlight here and there.
When we went to a place apart to speak
Softly and look into each others' eyes:
What is that I see, tell me ...
What does that mean, let me hear ...
In your thoughts, I think I see ...
Others watched with respect almost
As though old friends' love
Has a place in the midst
Of even much more
As though some things cannot be
Or splashed with doubt,
No matter what.
-- March 23, 2005
PAIN AND TEARS
What can it matter, if
It robs you of a moment?
How do you give into one, when
There are so many attractions?
That ripping, grabbing, is it
Worth the look away from
All the wonders of today?
Can you resist?
They say, it's all in your head.
And what if that's true?
Are there thoughts of beauty
Calling even through?
It's awful what precedes our awe
And introduces to our minds
That thing that tears, and tears:
The waterfall of our fears.
-- March 16, 2005
Here is a place where wings
Can lift and free again.
Here is a place where thirst
Is slaked and faith renewed.
Here is a place where hope
Brightens the world.
If never so tired and spent
That you cannot go on,
Then your efforts are not full
Not worthy; half-hearted
With no heat, no collapse
In a heap of trying.
Way beyond comfort
There lies a secret place
Where stillness and peace
Surround you in a clench
And action leaves no doubt:
You are tenacious, worn out.
-- March 15, 2005
It tags along like a stain
And while you hope
It smears and smirches
A vision of things going good
Getting better here
Into useless fear.
It's a mark of pending ill
Something not right
An oops that will not out
Something slipping by
On the fly
A shiver chill.
Some things color our way
Brightening and warming
But those others, those sully
Little things that may,
That could, we ignor
The stigma we spill
Is nothing but a darkening hope
A losing faith, doubt
When all is really well
The fire of dawn
Looks like hell.
-- March 11, 2005
It's been a long study
In every motion of life
In all the nooks and crannies
Of diversion and look away
In happiness unbounded
And in those forgettories
Of vague emotions like
Wondering, and regretting
And doubt and fear.
There has never been a moment
When I looked with other than
Wonder at all you are, can be,
And in the infinite variety of
Your varieties. How can you
Sort them all out in the morning?
How can you remember to be sure
To bring back the ones
I love the most? Sometimes
I wonder if there is one somewhere
That thrilled me and racked me
With happy laughter that has
Never come back. You may find
Me sometime lost in thought
On this topic, and I know
You will interupt and burst in
With some shocking new you
That spins me and sends me
Chasing along after you
Like bee buzzing back
To the hive.
The sad part of watching you:
When I blink, I know,
-- March 7, 2005
PAIN, EVERY STEP OF
You cringe in fear,
But what is the remedy?
Is it a pill that masks
Or is it knowing
It will all pass?
Fear has many handmaidens:
Regret, dread, fright, worry,
Awe, veneration, reverence
And of course, pride.
They say, "Pride goeth
And how true it is.
Fear and loss of faith
In how things work,
How they must work,
Leads to a locked door
Leads to nowhere.
Our sense of pride
Is a piercingly bitter pill
That covers so much and
Reveals so much more still.
When in the light of things true
We should kneel and touch
Our foreheads to the
Quiet earth and ask for
Perhaps all pain comes from
Knowing what to do
But not doing it.
We see the light at the end
Of our burrow
And think we've found
Our way home.
It was always right there
All along, every step
Of the way.
-- March 2, 2005
YOU AND ME
People seemed baffled
By recurring events.
They struggle like
Drowning in a dark sea.
They reach out and grasp not.
They look out and look out
And see nothing.
They listen up and listen up
And walk away
Groggy, foggy and ill informed.
We want information,
But what we want
Is what we want,
Any variation from that,
Throws us for a loop,
It's a downfall of unhope,
Hoping for what we want,
Rather than what we have
And what we are.
How many happy rich
Do you know?
Yet everyone wants to be rich.
What is it in us
That makes us overlook the obvious
In our search for inner peace?
It's inner not outer.
It's within not without.
It's you and me,
It's not you or me.
-- February 25, 2005
COMING TO THEATERS EVERYWHERE
Power's what we seem to want.
Tsunami feelings sweep us up
In waves and graves of uncertainty
All in the face of vast eternity.
We want our piece of that,
Small though it may be.
We squeak it out in the little ways
Of needing each other so desperately.
Just as long as we know
When we wake up in the morning.
Our doubt and worry was a bad memory stick,
Just doesn't fit, just won't go in.
Stimulate the economy with presents
"For me?" and walk away from those who
Can't even imagine waiting for what's
Coming to theaters everywhere.
The feeling of control; illusory,
Lifts us to another one: security.
The storms pass, we survive;
We go on, we're still alive.
-- February 21, 2005
DON'T GIVE UP WITHOUT A FIGHT
That's why you got some education
That's why you got something to lose
That's why you take care of yourself
That's why you pick and choose.
You try to clear the air
To take on the tough ones
You try to make things work
And keep on happy smilin'.
But life packs a holy wallop
There's no free giveaways, not really.
There are deals but there're no bargains
And it ain't easy just keeping up.
Conspiracy and collusion are everywhere
Nothing really holds up in court
Civil liberty just comes and goes.
If they really wanted to take us down, they would.
When you hear the fall of the other shoe
(Everything's stacked against you)
Keep moving, keep thinking right
And don't give up without a fight.
Because in the dark and smoky places
Where the fright changes into must
In the shadows of the falling faces
That's where we all learn to trust.
-- February 18, 2005
THE SPIRIT IN SEVENTY-SIX
When young men
Look to old men
For leadership and find
Gray hair blowing in revolution’s wind;
When tired bones marching
With a quick-step gait
Stride past victims
Applauding their fate;
A blind man could sense
The Spirit in Seventy-Six
From the moving of the Earth
And the changes washing in
'Cause they were days when
Decisions were made
That, like wind ripples,
Have pushed us on
And the skies are restless again.
-- July 4, 1975
from "And Is Mine One?"
He came in on a dream
And carries in his arms
The blanket of great thrills
And chills that
Toss you up in a promise
Held by many hands
And eyes all around dazzle
You with attention as you
Flout and flow with
The grace of a
Tumbleweed across a
And then he tosses you again.
Until you understand the fable
And start looking for the facts.
-- January 12, 1979
From "Touch & Eddy"
THE PASSIONATE WAFER
There it is the new moon now
Settled in for a new cycle.
Craters shadowed in sunlight
Facing Earth like an eye
That never blinks but winks
Slowly half-shut, just a slit,
Then wide open again
Like a light at the end of things;
Another full moon,
Another lover's dream.
-- December 23, 1975
From "The Ballad of Hayden Brown"
Lift the white petals
Like the breath of angels
Or the scent of peaceful intentions,
Reminds me of children
And promises I've kept
Amd people who helped
And the world of my dreams
Where together we all
Progress and tranquility --
Not as if asleep --
But with creativity,
Intelligence and an honesty
So deep that
And trust rises in the
Sun and the Moon
Across our faces
And the world.
-- September 3, 1987
From "Forty Days and Forty Nights"
You never know
When or where or
Some one who may
Who may seem
May just stagger up
At the moment
You from the
Long enough to
Change your course
You never know
When or where or
But you always know
-- August 28, 1987
From "Forty Days and Forty Nights"
A silver morning's misting rise
Infolds before my very eyes,
Like ice melting from a wintered lake,
Slowly, as if for the viewer's sake,
That he not miss a single phase
From ice to water of nature's ways.
-- February 6, 1974
From "First Poems"
I see you.
I hold you.
In my thoughts, securely.
I love you.
In my limited
And too-near vision
I never thought
Of something so clean,
You must have been
A silent wish, a prayer,
I never voiced,
But always held so
Close like a hope
So dear that it
Was way, way inside.
Now you're on solid ground.
We are waiting, and
I know you already,
In the many thoughts
And in faith for so
Many lonely years.
You are my daughter.
You are my blithe spirit
Coming home again.
-- January 16, 1982
Twenty days before she was born on February 5th.
From "Untitled Poems"
JUST SO MANY TEARS
That you cry seldom,
Because the subjects
We touch are tough
On you. And
Becuase we only have
Just so many tears
Before we go on
In spite of love
To those tearless times.
I'm grateful, too, because
-- September 30, 1989
(from "Untitled Poems")
Let's face it,
A poet's business
Is to observe
The world around,
If some of the things
I write seem mundane,
Or too heavy,
Well, that's the way it is.
-- January 1, 1976
(from "Go Forth Companionless")
YET TO COME?
What is the best thing
That ever happened to you?
Was it a special kiss
And a hand so right
That the world
Was rafting along on the
River and warmth
Of that moment?
Was it a moment of realization
That touched the trouble
And took time away?
Or was it a poem you wrote
In which you discovered
That the best is still
Yet to come?
Isn't it the sense of
That makes it
Fun to think about?
-- January 20, 1979
(from "Touch and Eddy")
There are people who will
And there are people who won't
Give of themselves as a
Those who don't, have a set
Of multiple defenses and
Make you feel inadequate.
"Which way is the wind blowing?"
"Depends on which way you are facing."
"Isn't it a great day?"
"Not in east Timur."
And on and on.
Some people let you in with
Every word and every breath.
To them exploring you means
Letting you explore them.
Openness is a treasure of
Self-worth. Be open.
You are worth exploring.
-- October 20, 2003
Poetry is not personal
In the sense of sneezing;
It's far more personal
It's personal in a way
That spans personality
Or a flash of insight,
Like a last breath.
A poet looks at a moment
And sees eternal infinity,
Others read the words,
And see themselves.
-- January 15, 2005
Watching her struggle
And stretch and limp
And try everything to feel better
Is not fun.
Seeing her retreat into sleep
To finally find relief
To finally have some peace
Is lonely and unsettling.
I have seen her run freely
And laugh with abandon
Growing more beautiful
As her mirth extends.
I have watched her soft
Hair blow as she leans
Out the window to
Get a fuller view.
I have seen her eyes
Full of love
Fastened on me
Now her eyes seem misted
And distracted, never
But looking around.
Each day, every way
She is searching and
Today she seemed rested
It's like watching
A ticker tape message
One blink at a time.
On the next tick
And the one
-- January 14, 2005
A HEADY WINE
In our solitude we drink too deeply
Of our own thoughts and in the quiet
There sometimes comes an intoxication
Of free thinking that overwhelms.
Sometimes it's a drink that baffles
And poisons, too. The near-narcotic
Euphoria of always being in agreement
Can leave a bitter reality hangover.
And then there's the loss of control
The mounting frustration of things
As we have them and things as they are.
That's the shaking head-in-hands syndrome.
The willingness to take things
As they come: as they say they are
As they seem to be without eyes shifting
Looking for hidden motives, saves.
To let go of our thoughts
Let them be lifted and shifted
On all the passing breezes
Tests us, proves us, and frees us.
Be alone sometimes
But never awash in only your dreams.
Today is an inspiration, a raptured ecstasy:
A heady wine.
-- January 13, 2005
Last night there was a power failure.
No lights, no electricity, dark.
Candle light leaves a lot to be desired
And yet when you can't see everything
So clearly, there's something to be said.
We played penny poker in the softness
And dozed on the couch by a fire.
The snow and ice and sleet fell anyway
Piling up outside, probably pulling down more wires,
Somewhere, but we were quiet and restful.
Around midnight the lights came on.
We got up and turned them all off.
Nestling back into bed, warm and sleepy,
We felt like things were back to normal.
Lights off, eyes closing, minds free, together.
-- January 7, 2005
I'M SO SORRY
Even as I said them
I knew I didn't mean them.
Even as I saw them in you
I knew they were in me.
Even as I thought to say them
Something said, don't do it.
As I watched them hit you
I felt sorrow and shame.
In your eyes there was a hurting
That sabered through my heart.
I saw the tears forming in your mind
I watched your heart turn inward.
As your chin drooped
My life began to swirl and drain
You looked at me
I'm so sorry you said
Through eyes awash
I knew what you meant
Nothing else mattered
Right and wrong
Is a political concept
In love what matters
Is only what matters.
There is no wrong or right
Cheek to cheek, eyes shut tight.
-- January 5, 2005
KEEP THE FAITH
Did you ever have a nightmare
That didn't go away?
Did you ever answer the question:
"Get it?" With "Got it,"
And knew you were exaggerating?
Did you ever make a promise
You knew was way beyond
Did you ever plan a makeover
And then emerge unchanged?
Happy New Year.
-- January 2, 2005
There is nothing so encouraging as a morning.
The sun's not quite up, but it's coming.
The day is unwritten, waiting.
Nothing has been done that needs to be undone.
It is a lifetime coming like a newborn
No history, no baggage, just brand new
It can be whatever we make it.
It can be whatever we make it.
-- January 1, 2005
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