by W. Mahlon Purdin
LIKE THERE'S NO TOMORROW.
If you ask someone, "Will next year be a better year?"
They will most likely say, "I hope so." But, then,
Ask them, "Was this such a horrible, no good, very bad year,
That you're hoping next year will not be a repeat?" They may say,
"Well, it wasn't that bad but it could have been better. That's what I want."
And the amazing thing is that this little conversation can be repeated
In high-falootin' parties and in the coffee shop down the street,
In Indiana, and in India and wherever people are.
One's status, so-called, in life has no bearing on looking ahead
To the coming year. We all want it to be a better year.
Is it part of humanity to never really be happy?
Is it part of humanity to always, always want more?
Or is it part of us to just hope even when we really don't need to?
Are we all built for hoping like there's no tomorrow?
Is there a restlessness in our soul that knows how great is our gift,
And how great are the alternatives, how much there is to learn,
How much there is to see, and even though we accept the gifts we are given,
And choose alternatives to just standing still, we all learn, learn, learn,
Still there is next year: another 365 days or 31,536,000 seconds in which to
Think, act, speak, blink, taste, run, hide, take, give, talk, know, care, go, stay,
Open, close, ask, look, listen, touch, bluff, take risks, make things, study, learn,
Joke, be sorry, laugh, smile, cry, smell, lose, find, win, tie, have children,
Be adults, parents, be children, swim, lift, bite, uncover, serve, play, stack, kiss,
Share, think, try, and do, do, do, do, do, do, and do some more.
A new year? It's a whole new world.
--Bill Purdin, 12/30/06
It's the way it is. The world.
You may wish it were something else,
And sometimes who wouldn't with
It's wanton disregard for almost everything
We love. It rips up homes, it kills children,
It cripples the old, and drags us all
Slowly, so slowly, to the grave.
It perverts the beauty, it takes God's gifts
And wraps them in plastic and
Ships them to parties where they are wasted
Like rubbish piling up in putrifying heaps
Stinking up the world. And then, there's
Relationships; has there ever been an honest one?
Everyone lies, oh, it's those little lies,
To be sure. Sometimes you have to lie, right?
Tell that to God who only knows the Truth.
Does He lie with a sunrise or a goldfish?
Never. But here we are in our "gift to Him,"
The world so full of lies and deceit, and
Just watch TV and see how bad we really are.
And then there's something that comes along,
A kind smile, and "how ya doin'," that somehow
Seems genuine and then the world
Opens up, the sun is shining and
We feel better like wisps on the waft
Of a warming gentle breeze over a summer
Lawn with rich smells of earth and times
When all was well. When were those times?
The times we looked for good things, not bad things;
When we saw the best in ourselves and in others, too.
When were those times? Was it our thinking
Or was it the world: back in the day when
Things were better. Is it us or is it the world?
Is it us or is it the world.
-- Bill Purdin, 12/23/06
A MILE AWAY, NONETHELESS
She said that she had too much to drink
Last night, and that, as
A flight attendant, she
Can pick out idiots a mile away.
She said, in a party, she works the crowd
Looking for something
Interesting on the radar.
She dresses neatly (and tightly)
And she works out every day.
She eats only natural foods
And sometimes critiques her husband
Starkly, but with commitment
She was talking in front of the machine
I was using, I saw her a mile away,
Talking, talking, talking as I
Aproached. "Oh, no you don't,"
She said jumping on the iron cross machine.
"I was here first."
I went to another machine, not too different,
Did my fifteen repeats and continued
But my mind was a mile away.
Bill Purdin: 12/15/06
WANT A PEN?
Writing is like loving.
You softly woo.
Start with a hand hold.
Tell stories of life.
Make jokes and laughter.
Whisper in the ear.
Reveal feelings, sometime deep feelings.
Wait for a response.
Proceed with caution.
At first it's cheek-to-cheek.
Then kissing, then
Then kissing like there's no tomorrow.
Then the clothes come off,
All truths are laid bare.
It's now or never ..
The drumbeats are louder,
The whole band is playing,
The chorus comes in with
Twelve part harmonies,
And reader and writer are one.
There's a breathless calmdown.
Want a pen?
Bill Purdin: 12/12/06
There are so many things we don't know.
We've been told time and time again
Over and over and over and then.
The mysteries of life are written in the lines
Of our faces, lessons learned.
The truths we've felt and the truths we've earned.
Take the world in your arms today
Pray for peace, pray for love
Ours and God's above.
There are so many who long and wait
They are the world in your arms.
They are the world in your arms.
Think of the moments passing
Think of what you can do
Think of that's been given to you.
So many things we don't know
We've been told time and time again
Over and over and over and then ...
Bill Purdin: 12/9/06
There is nothing like a Saturday morning all alone.
No money work to do,
No unwanted obligations to fulfill,
No art for pay, no writing for others.
I woke up this morning and rewired a thermostat,
Fishing the new wire through the walls
And years of paid-worker bogus patch jobs,
And wires over wires, awkward staples over staples
Through other wires, and dust everywhere
From three families who have lived here.
I fixed everything, vacuumed the joices and rafters,
Took out all the old wires, put in nice new wires,
Removed the old wallpaper over which someone
Had just slapped on the old thermostat,
Repainted the area and affixed
The new digital, progammable one.
Will come along and replace it again
With something really new and amazing.
Perhaps he or she will say,
"The guy who did this old themostat
Must have really liked living here.
He did such a good job."
But more likely they'll just slap
Up the new one, never noticing that for a time
Someone lived here who knew the house
And loved every board, every nail,
Every nook and cranny of it.
Someone once lived here who thought
Of this house and land as his favorite
Place in of all the world ...
Bill Purdin: 12/10/06
Music: In The Tall Grass by Bruce Becvar
Beautiful dreamer, you beckon to me.
The soft eyes that search my face
And look at how I look at you.
You make me wander, too.
Time goes by, the years drifting me
To a stiller place where things are quiet and nice.
I look at you and see a future coming in;
Where will I go, days growing thin?
Beautiful dreamer, so young and gazing.
You see everything as anything.
You are agape ready to take and give.
I relish each moment's riches: a passing sieve.
Beautful dreamer, it's all for you.
Like a gift, wrapped and carded, your name inscribed.
Your time is about opening and diving deep.
Mine is about timing and wading in knee-deep.
Bill Purdin: 12/6/06
(about 1.5 minutes)
There was this soldier in Afghanistan
Who was on American radio discussing
The packs of vicious, feral dogs in the streets of Kabul.
He said that there were so many of these dogs
That the packs fearlessly defended their territory
More fiercely than the dreaded Taliban.
He went on to say that sometimes,
In order to pass safely, and maintain patrol protocols
The dogs had to be dealt with, with deadly force.
Dogs were killed in the action, but they were
Gunned down snarling and attacking, running
Towards the fusilade.
The soldier went on to discuss the Taliban
And how re-emergent and aggressive they were.
With the support of local people they too, were often
Chased, gunned down and killed. Some escaped into
The dust of the multitudes of people, scraping,
Living out lives in the mist of bloody pursuing combat.
He said that this was his second interview
On American radio about his odyssey in this war.
He said that after the first interview was broadcast he heard
From animal protection societies, dog lovers
From all over the world, all in outrage and aghast.
But not one word, from anyone, about the others.
Bill Purdin: 11/29/06
(under two minutes)
THE PEOPLE IN A DAY
She asked if contacting people after years of silence
would by okay at Christmastime. He said that he had not stopped eating pie for four days. She was working out with a hat pulled down over her eyes. She did the dishes at a party as therapy. He drapped himself on the elipical machine like a limp wash on the line. Her snake tattoo wound up her arm, under her shirt and disappeared. She talked about running and buying running things and she looked at me like I might be a good fitting shoe. She made change so quickly her mind must be fast or she's been there too long at that cash register. He said, "Iraq? Who cares about Iraq, what about your rack?" And everyone laughed, me included. Don't ask me why. She looked down at the white plate on the floor. "The cat has a plate and why?" "Is it empty?" I asked. As she picked it up and spilled the cream all over the polished wood floor she said, "Yes, now it is." He called from Texas, with a California accent. He was leaving for Arizona. "Have you seen your wife lately" I asked. "No, not lately." He called me back about a printing project he had bid on a while ago and acted as if he had no idea what it was. "Tell me about it," he said. "You called me," I said. She had been trying to video chat me all day, finally I let her in. "What's up," she said. "What's up with you," I asked. "Nothing," she said. "You know something," she said. It was not a question. "Yes," I said. He ran by, jogging, but in a golfing outfit. She was carrying packages, too many, and they started to fall. She reached up to grab one on the descend and two others fell. She dropped the whole pile and kicked one. It went high in air and landed with a crunching sound. "Oh shit," she said. He said, "Now when I want to give someone the finger, I give them a thumbs up. He shot his thumb up aggressively like it was his middle finger. "It still feels like the finger, but it gets much different reactions." He was leaving for New York. "I won't be on video chat until Wednesday," he said. I said, "You could call me." There was a silent second or two. "Oh, yeah. I could do that." He said, "He's a good boy, really. But grounding doesn't seem to be getting the job done anymore. I'll have to think of something else." She said, "My husband's gone a lot." She was looking at me and didn't seem to want to add anything after that comment. "Do you miss him?" "Sometimes." He said, "I saw you were busy so I did something else." I said, "You are always welcome." He said, "I know but you seemed to be in a deep conversation." "Have you ever had Gravad lax? she asked. "No." "It's raw salmon in a delicious marinade." "Give me the recipe," I said, "when you can."
She was walking with a very peppy pace. From a distance I thought, "What a happy person." As she passed me, she was crying, talking on the phone. He started to honk his horn in anger and just held it down for about 90 seconds. People in the cars around had started to laugh by the time he finally stopped. She emailed me a poem about running and it was really nice. I emailed her back my thoughts. She said it wasn't hers, she forgot to credit the author. I asked him how school was today and he said, "Good." I asked, "Did you ask any good questions today?" He said, "I hate school." She said, "Dinner's almost ready, Bill." I said, "I'm on my way."
-- Bill Purdin: 11/27/06 (My 26th anniiversary)
I don't know anything about that. I just got here.
Born in the forties, everything was fine then.
An airplane broke the sound barrier.
Thor Heyerdahl sailed the seas.
Yankes won in the first series on TV.
A Streetcar Named Desire won a Pulitzer.
Over a million GIs were enrolled in college on the GI bill.
And, we started to see flying saucers for the first time.
It was a good year, 1947.
In geologic time it doesn't even register.
No impact on the Richter scale either.
But to me it seems like something has happend.
Like a mouse in a hole, it feels important looking out.
The only things that really matter, though,
Are the hands I held, the breaths on my face,
The tears, the laughter, and the love given.
The rest of it is either dissappeared or disappearing.
The rest of it was a schema dreama.
All of that time I always thought there was a reason.
All of that time I always thought there was a rhyme.
All of that time there was just season after season
And all that time the world was really mine.
I could have done, and did to, whatever I wanted.
It was a stage for me to strut and fret upon
And to try to signify, dignify, something.
Everyone says it will all work out in the end.
So, if it hasn't worked out yet, it's not over, friend.
Bill Purdin: 11/25/06
IN A DARK MACHINE
Searching back and forth through my old poems
Is like trying to catch my breath. In and out,
In and out, but still there's this desperate need.
Those poems I wrote five decades ago
Are so passionate, yet somehow shallow.
Like a beginning, a baby, a cast off seed.
Eighteen books, thousand of poems
All chronologicallly arranged, so carefully
Like some derranged apostle's creed.
At first, I was just a boy, gazing at the world
Over the barrel of a gun, dangerous,
And then I was a student, a pupil,
A lover, addicted to living fast and furious,
Desperate, desperate to succeed.
And then I became more poetic actually
Carefully arranging things, taking time,
Building love, slowing down the speed.
Today, again I am beginning, passionate,
Like a rebel watching events, waiting, watching
Expecting to bleed.
Poets are like filters in a dark machine.
We take what comes and then think of other ways
That the world might, perhaps, proceed.
Bill Purdin: 11/24/06
It's a feeling that begins with knowing
You are not alone. That, in itself
Is a reason.
It's a thought that makes you see
You are part of something.
It's a reaching out, away from selfish things
To want to give to another
It's what changes the day, the year,
The world from my bad to our good
And there's more.
In giving, we give what we love most;
Our sense of worth, and a little bit of
What we are.
Suddenly there's more where it seemed
There was less and less. The secret
Is in giving freely.
When we cling to what we have
We lose little by little
When we give what we cherish most
We launch into the sky and like birds
We soar and sing.
Bill Purdin: 11/23/06
Want to hear it?
Want to hear it?
SLIPPED THROUGH CRACKS
He wanted attention
But how to get it
That's the question.
Do we throw bombs and go naked
Or wait for every dog's day?
The world is a cruel place
Laying in wait with restraints
And pop up cops
Some with the badges
And some with the eyes
The looks that stop us dead.
Then we are left with our thoughts
To record events. Did I go too far?
Did I leave too early?
Should I have just closed my eyes
And kissed more deeply
Let moments run free?
So we send out a thank you note
Hoping to patch up those little
Slipped through cracks
With supplied second thoughts that
Spread the honey a little thicker
And sweeten things up.
Bill Purdin: 11/21/06
She says one thing and does another.
She thinks she's the world's best mother.
She tells us to love one and other
But she presses our faces, makes us smother.
It's confusion where she reigns.
With affection direction, she feigns.
Her actions and words leave deep stains;
We limp off with our sprains and chains.
Far aside from self, love is forgiving.
Love is not for getting, it's all giving.
The more you give the more you're living,
Full of hope and faith, not misgiving.
Bill Purdin: 11/17/06
For my brother
There is nothing special about Veterans Day.
It's actually not a special day at all.
Birthdays are special.
Anniversaries are special.
Mother's Day is special.
Father's Day is special.
The day we met is special
And the first time we kissed
And that day we talked about
Having a baby. That was special.
But remembering war and the sacrifices
It demands, in all of its other vices,
That is not special at all.
It's just bravura, manipulative gall.
I have friends listed on that Wall.
Bill Purdin: 11/12/06
Fitting wood around rock
Is not as easy as it may sound.
Wood goes straight and rock
It's like finding the truth in love
When all is changing,
One is finely focused, the other
I saw and chisel, back and forth.
It starts to fit, then wrong.
Wood is weak, but rock ...
Rock is strong.
Small wonders sometimes
Go straight to voice mail
And often ideas
Watching the morning rise
Looking into the rain,
Something in my eye:
There, a bird.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Some days you turn it off
And some you forget to.
Roses are red
Violets are blue.
Some days you say, "Hi,"
And some you say, "Boo!"
Sometimes in the night
Things fall apart for me:
My plans go out the window,
Up in smoke, something's broke.
It's not a lack of faith
But still it is sort of that:
Searching the wrong things,
Over and over; a four-leaf clover.
Looking for thrills
Like diversion and relax:
Grasping at straws all around,
By myself; life from a shelf.
Sometimes in the morning
Things fall together:
New plans come to mind,
Now things work, not beserk.
The modern world is like
A debit card you've lost.
For a moment you imagine
All the things that could go wrong:
All accounts empties, endless hassle,
Loss of credit, embarassment,
Even divorce is possible with
Just the loss of a debit card.
She could become upset over
Your casual carelessness and begin
To think about your snoring
And your distant outoftown way
Of being a husband and then she
Could think of someone who fnds
Things, doesn't lose them, someone
Who's home not flying off in
Private jets to whothehellknows.
She might just disappear like
The card and nevertobefound.
You can call the bank and get
A new card but what about
Everythingelse? Feeling stupid
In a very smart world is a
Lonely way to go.
We carry our lives around
In our pockets. You know?
Is sponsored by your attitude and
Brought to you by your conduct.
It's a 24/7 thing that you've got
To feel with every all-in breath
And with those little gasps of
It comes with a start
And stops with a word.
It can be seen, felt, touched,
Tasted and easily heard.
It's an elegant evening out
And a quiet morning drenched
In the sunrise of everyday life.
It reaches out and melts the ice
And it turns bitter into nice.
It comes with a start
And stops with a word.
It can be seen, felt, touched,
Tasted and easily heard.
When I think of your eyes
Reading this I write cautiously
Like treading on forbidden lands
Where definitions are changing
And words concatenate with
Thrusting hyphenations that
I did not intend.
When I think of your mind digesting
These thoughts and verses
I slow down the pace of pen on paper
And inject more grace perhaps
More meaning hopefully as you
Consider what they mean,
Or could mean.
ON GUARD, AND GIDDY
There is always someone
Or something coming, so
Be on guard, and giddy.
Remember you are not alone
In all you do and wherever you go:
Zenith, nadir or apogee.
Life is a group effort.
Go forth grateful and, tally-ho,
For all you get to do and see.
DREAM OF GRANDEUR
As the years go by,
Things unpleasant and stressful
Have far less interest than
A day with a clear
To sit and ponder a day
With small chores and
Jobs to do, attracts
Much more than what
People often say.
The window that needs replacing
The verse that needs revision,
The chapter that needs conclusion,
These all trump ego thrills
The dream of grandeur
And of changing all
Has diminished like distilling
To a lingering moment's savor
Of love's sweet allure.
DESIGN AND DESIRE
She really hasn't been around lately
Though at one time she was everything.
Her smiles and up beat nature saved me
She's got a family and her life is extensive
And growing while mine is growing smaller
And smaller by my design and desire
We're going roller blading this morning
As we did so many times in the past
Though those were Tuesdays and this is Thursday
Tuesdays were the day when I had nothing
Ever planned really and neither did she.
We would play and lunch and wonder
I'm sitting here wondering now, what
Will it be like, years later to do it again.
We've tried before but cancelled. Both busy
I'll hug her and we'll skate for the beach.
We're both in great shape. What will she
Be thinking about. What will I? Mysteries
Taking life one thing at a time
Moment by moment, transitioning
With some sense of awe and willingness
With a feelng reverence for things unseen
But felt and seen in ways the eyes can't
And then absently bending over to pick up
A discarded plastic bag that mars a scene
Walking towards the trash can musing and
Wondering about beauty and process
And where is life leading me
What is it I am meant to do, where should I go
How can I do more than this,
What is there in all I have that could assist
What could I have done more carefully and
Then arriving and looking at the
WalMart bag in my hand and thinking
"How did that get there?"
TANDEM NUMBER THREE
They said she was the most beautiful student to ever appear.
They said I was lucky to have her.
But, skydiving is an intense activity
With sensory overload built into every second.
I am a serious instructor, so the process always comes first.
I had her put on a student jumpsuit, nothing special at all:
More like a garage mechanic than a super model.
Then I fitted her into the harness, and walked her through the skydive.
She was attentive and responsive, a good student, it was clear.
We walked to the plane and I spent the time
In a calming mode: how do you feel? Any questions?
Many students show up hung over and alcohol stinky,
She was clear-eyed and in the moment.
On the plane she was quiet, as am I usually, despite
The animal house atmosphere that the boys like to create
To calm themsleves. I always find it annoying and distracting.
We tightened up the attachments at about 8,000 feet.
We worked together on that, as I always do with students.
We went over the exit again, simply, and she was plainly ready to go.
Awkwardly, we squatted and toad-walked to the open door.
We looked down. She was wide-eyed and excited.
I said "Out, in, arch," exactly as planned, and out we went.
The exit was smooth and stable, I threw the drogue.
I tapped her shoulder to tell her to spread her arms, and I felt
Her legs between mine in the perfect position. We did a few
Freefall turns, she seemed to get it really, we
Flew as one for about forty seconds, then I waved off
And deployed the canopy. It opened with two line twists
After a 2000 foot snivel. I was a little worried, because
Tandem canopies are so big that the lines
Are like rebars in concrete, but the twists twisted out
On their own and threw us out in a centrifugal thrill
As they cleared. She was screaming in delight:
"Holy fuck! That's unbelievable .... I'm coming BACK."
And this is within two seconds of the opening.
Incidentally, this phraseology surprised me, because
It was not in her character as I had seen it to this point.
It did make me laugh with the thought that you just never
Know about people and what they will do next. Especially in freefall.
As I loosened the attachments to make her more comfortable
I asked her how she was doing. "Great! Great! Great! This is fantastic."
I could feel her heart beating (tandem instructors and students
Are attached tightly together chest to the student's back)
Her breathing was like panting and it was clear to me
This was the most exciting moment of her nineteen years of life,
Which she confirmed ... "This is my first BIG thing."
"Would you like to try a hard turn?" "YES!!!"
I had offered the steering toggles to her earlier and she already
Had her hands in them. "Okay, pull down hard on the right toggle."
And away we went. Two full revolutions, G-forces in the two-to-three range,
I was enjoying it. "OK, let up." "That was great," she said. I said,
"Let's do it again, the other way." And away we went. Two more
360 degree revolutions. She was laughing and repeating her
Comment that she would HAVE to do this again soon. We followed
The other tandem canopies down. She started to admire the view.
"This is beautiful. Just beautiful." I told her that she had
"The best seat in the house." She released the toggles at 1,000
Feet as planned and we landed softly right on the target.
As I took off the attachments and set her free, she didn't move for a moment.
She looked over her shoulder and said, "I don't know how to thank you."
She hugged me and I said, "Courtney, go see your friends, I'll take
Care of the equipment." And off she went.
She came back a little later in the hanger and hugged me again.
I gave her a T-shirt and a first jump certificate. She said,
"What an unbelievable experience, Bill. I will never forget it."
Some of the other instructors commented later how lucky I was
To have such a "hot" young woman as a tandem student, but
For the life of me, I don't really remember that part of jumping with her.
To me, she was fun; she was excellent at the exit; and courageous
Under canopy. I will always remember her smile on the ground.
I like to think that, these days, I see people for what they really are.
Surface things no longer interest me as deeply as the deeper things.
I admire openness and faith. I admire selfless enjoyment and
Willingness to share ourselves with each other. Another tandem
Instructor might have focused on her physical beauty,
But if they did they would have missed the real person.
People relax when you join with them and accept them
Without prejudice for how they look. But to do that
Takes a lifetime of learning that what you see
Is almost never
What you get.
Working with one's hands
Is actually hand-to-hand combat
With the elements in our life.
Building takes a certain destructiveness
And creation requires a sort
Of carpet bombing of existing conditions.
When I walked those rice paddies
I placed my boots carefully, as though
The minefields were precious, and I was an
Interloper treading on sacred ground.
Years have wisped by, to be sure, but still
Each thing I do tints with a faint gossamer web
And tendrils that lead back there.
I remember the smear of the wet mud, like grease,
That wouldn't come off, and then dried to dust
That blew away. I remember the dirty faces
And yellow, sometimes red, teeth of the people
And then their smiles that evaporated the war
And brought to earth a beauty that has endured
In my memory. I remember the gore and horror:
But like other dusty things, most of that
Has now blown away.
Building cabinets and setting screws,
Digging around in my yard,
All of the hand-to-hand work I do
With such relish and enjoyment
Brings with it thoughts of torporous days when
My hands were busy with other things.
Time is running past like a precious child
Who seems to change with each blink of my eye.
She's small and close and we speak so softly,
And then she's super busy and I can't keep up.
I watch her and a saddness sweeps over me
Did I know her well enough when she was so little
That I could pick her up and bounce her on my knee?
Did I waste those moments with distractions?
Sometimes she smiles on me and my heart lifts
With a gladness so genuine that my world seems
Smoother and brighter and in those times
Time stands still as though lost in deep thoughts.
And then there are those days after days that spin
Past swirling together until so many are gone
That she is growing old and catching up with me.
Today she said, "Don't worry, there's still plenty of time."
It seems that everything falls into cracks
And is always too far to reach when needed
And no matter how careful I am
Everything needs to be done at least twice.
Every word is so easily misunderstood
And each look can be misconstrued
We communicate on eggshells and balance it all
With faltering footsteps across very thin ice.
The weeds seem to be inexorable
And adamant in a charismatic sort of way.
They demand admiration; truly.
At times they simply take over
And kill everything in their thirst for endless animation.
At times they create havoc: unruly.
The worms seem happy with it all, weeds included.
The undisturbed soil, weedy, allows them to grow thick and long.
Possibly, we diminish and belittle the weeds unduly.
LET'S GO BACK
Looking into an old photo
I see the years that whispered by
Like the leafing pages of a book
Being reviewed. A little breeze
Brushes softly to my face, like
Kisses that intentions placed
Gently all around:
On my eyes, my ears, my forehead
And now lovingly on my lips.
I stare more deeply into the picture
And I see more there than before:
The innocent happy eyes, the
Foreshadow of experience coming
The nascient emergence of the one
Holding the photo now staring into
The past becoming the future.
The present seems so precious,
As though those soft embraces from
The past, and the imaginings of the
Times to come, were a susurant refrain
Lilting in eternal unison:
Live, live, live.
I said to her, "Let's go back and
Take another photo just like this one.
Only it'll be you and me right now."
She looked at me and
We both laughed and kissed
And went off to work.
OUT THE WINDOW
It's another morning, world anew
But it's yesterday's shuddered window
Slammed against the dark, the recurring
Shadow foes who linger and lust for me --
Those tenebrous thoughts that seem
Looming and imminent -- that now opens
And floods my soul with hope, and dispair:
With promise and perfidy; those two reins
We all hold in sweaty hands as
Our life gallops away into the sun setting
Somewhere on an empire of dreams
Where our fears are stripped down
And our true natures fly off like eagles
Or even swallows never to return
I stare out the window
And see a thin edge of color on
Summer's leaves tinting into
The coming cold.
LONG, LONG DEAD
Every poem I write is no longer posted
Because I found that my writing was
Being gauged and planned for the readers.
Sometimes I write poems that no one should read
Let alone see. They need to be hidden in the
Deep recesses of a poet's mind, festering
Like wounds and cuts that cannot heal.
They need to be put away until
After I'm long, long dead.
If my mom had had a son
I'm not sure she would have wanted me.
She probably would have liked a lawyer
Or a doctor, but me, she would have shunned.
I spend each day doing things that have little
Concrete reason, although there's rhyme.
I make stuff up and goof around, far behind
Are the people I chased and burned and gunned.
It was a national tragedy that shook the world.
The home of brave freedom was hit and hit hard.
How would America respond, what would we do?
Would we darken or brighten into something old or new?
On the anniversary ... how did we do?
OFF INTO THE BLUE
The ripples of kindness
You send, reach shores
You will never see,
But reach them they do.
The only power you'll ever have
Is the good you give.
If only more could see
What's so clear to you.
Like an eagle on the wind
You quietly live an example
That inspires. As we watch,
We are lifted up as eagles, too.
Your goals are lofty but
Easier than may appear:
Be kind, be brave, be bold;
Do as you would have others do.
A quiet look,
A forgiving thought ...
And off into the blue.
For Jay Stokes
WASH AND DUST
She was crying inside but walked away.
The darkness swallowed her
With the savor of a gourmet.
She spent the day giving
She touched her work with love.
She shared surprises with others, and
She cared about everything.
At night she phoned and checked:
Made sure that no stone was left unturned
In her caring. But a callous word
Turned her to saddness; the dark enveloped
Her with an unwelcome aloneness.
If giving turns you sad,
Then your giving is bad,
If it snares not frees, then of course,
You suffer the loss of the greatest freedom:
To love without bounds.
There in the dark,
She became a miner working
In the dripping wash and dust,
Longing to be in the light again,
Having lost the way.
THERE'S NO ESCAPE
Everything we do
Is written down
On the pages of
The lives we spend.
The eyes that see us
The tongues we lick our lips with
Leave little tracks
That follow us
Through different times
And in different ways
To the end
That never comes.
Revolution is something we give
To each other. Like Love.
Like dancing. Like truth.
In fact, we must.
A WORLD AJAR
He's in his late eighties and looks pretty good.
He came into the gym carrying an old dish towel
And walked towards the machine
I was walking towards. I got there first
Without rushing, sitting down,
And adjusting the weights, getting ready to work.
He wandered off as though
Someone had pulled the plug on his
Control panel. He hung the old towel on
Another machine and wandered around
Lost in the gym maze machine.
I did my last set and, exhausted, got up
And went on to another one. He perked up.
Went directly to the machine in question
And smiling, began to do what I've seen
Him do every day for months now.
I use different machines every day and
Vary my workout as much as my imagination
Can conjure up. I find machines I haven't used
In a while and use them (even if I really hate them).
To me, to use everything available is routine.
But for some, the slightest variation is
A world ajar, a lid slipped off, a turn unknown,
A dark abyss lurking, a stone to be turned,
A bush with something that could run out
An uncertainty to be delayed or,
Better, avoided altogether.
He's in his late eighties and looks pretty good,
So whatever he's doing, it's working.
He left the gym before I did
And as I was leaving
I noticed that the old towel
Was still hanging there.
The worst thing we've ever done
Is create classes among us.
We are who we are. Nothing else.
Our fathers our mothers our families
Are not who we are.
We are who we are.
It is not determined until we each do it.
Each of us can change the world
Each of us can find ourselves on an incredible
Precipice, a moment to decide:
To be who we are or to run and hide.
OF SUCH PEOPLE IS THE TRUE WORLD MADE
He works in a field that cares for others
His passion and discipline is running
He knows poetry, Hardy and Housman no strangers
He listens well and opens up with stories
And ideas and feelings about how things seem to be.
His smile is overwhelming and infectious
And he seems so comfortable beaming it in
All directions. He learns, I think, by doing, though
And has to endure that process and its inevitable
Pitfalls. He concentrates mostly on the good things
But worries about shortcomings.
He's a great communicator and admires those little things
That mean so much. Thoughtful, kind and genuine.
Honest, hardworking, hopeful and loving.
Of such people is the true world made.
When I think of you my mind stays pure
And this is not always so with everyone.
When I think of you it's your way that's the lure
And with others I just look and run.
In those moments when the guards let down
And my eyes are the mind's eye at best:
I see you as a little girl, pretenses overthrown
And radiant with all of life's divinest.
People may see you and see other ways and means
But they don't know you as I do.
They may not have seen the smile that beams
With goodness like a bolt from the deep, deep blue.
She works out six hours a day or more.
She does the stairs, the treadmill
And sometimes the weight machines.
She's there every time I go.
I go in the morning, and in the afternoon,
Sometimes I sneak in really early
Sometimes just before they close.
I can't remember once when
She wasn't there.
She's not really that fit either.
Thin yes, and pretty, but
All those things I do in between
The people, the places, and things
I do make me wonder
About her. She always smiles,
We talk, she has friends who come over
And say hello. It's a world for her:
Air conditioned, populated, invigorating
And she's giving her life to it.
We're lucky she's there, a friendly face
An encouraging smile.
Does anyone miss her in her other world?
JUST RIGHT: A POET'S VIEW
The cabinet I built is taking shape.
In my mind it is done.
But still, yesterday I spent four hours
Slating a louver door and gluing
Rails and stiles with tongue and groove.
I sanded it to what I knew it really was.
I adjusted the louvers until they matched
My reality. I kept fidgeting and fussing
Over it until it reflected my dream just right.
Then I propped it up with makeshift pieces
Until it was in position in the cabinet
Where it will be mounted today.
I stood back and relished seeing it
Right there, where
It always was.
The newspaper is full of inspiration
The morning shows're too
The walk down the stairs is a blessing
The coffee pot's off, but still warm
My face looks good in the mirror
Even a two-day stubble is promising
And my boots fit well.
The pounding rain left fog everywhere
The lawn is ripe for a wet mowing
The skies are cloudy, but I know
Above them, where I have been
There's blue sky everywhere
I'll take whatever you give.
To have a good day, all one needs is a little hope.
(Often on a very small scope.)
Hope is not packaged up in cellophane.
(It often comes wrapped in pain.)
And, as we overcome and persevere
There is an evaporation of fear.
As fear fades out pain always goes away.
(Suddenly, there's a brightening of our way.)
THIS WAY AND THAT
He was standing on the scale
Staring at the weights and measures
As I started to wash my hands.
I soaped up thoroughly,
Washed the sweat off my face,
And wet down my hair.
I had been working out for 90 minutes.
Then I went to the hand dryer and dried
My hands and face and hair through three
Hand drier cycles. He was still there
Staring at the scale's indicators,
Shifting his weight back and forth.
His arms were moving slightly as though
Touching the weight and lightly pushing it
This way and that.
I sat down on the bench beside the scales and waited.
He noticed me and jumped off. "Is this thing any good?"
I asked stepping up. "It's OK," he said.
I adjusted the weights, and pushed them a little more to
The left than usual. "Pretty good," I said absent-mindedly.
As I stepped off smiling and walked out of the locker room
I saw him looking at me in the mirror.
He was moving back towards the scale
As I turned the corner.
She was sitting in our circle, came a little late
And it was only about 4:00 in the afternoon.
She look separated somehow, thinking of other things.
"Does anyone mind if I drink?"
It was odd, but this is an odd place anyway, so
No said they minded and out came a gigantic
Bottle of domestic beer from her purse, which
Up to this point seemed small but now amazing.
She opened the bottle with a church key on her keychain
And sipped, tight-lipped and not deeply as though
Rationing for those lean times when all you want
Is not anywhere near all you have.
We went on talking as though nothing had happened.
But really the bottom had fallen out of the world
And an abyss had opened in front of us. One was
falling and screaming so loud that her pain filled
The air like a sonic boom, disorienting and shaking
To the core. Everyone noticed this odd, silent event,
That much was clear from the glances and rephrasing
Off sentences underway, half-spoken, but now needing
Shading and rearranging in the new torn air.
She is pretty, though her face is redder than it should be,
And she is young; "twenty-two," she said.
She is sexy-looking although she tones it down as though
To say, "It's not all that great really."
Most nights we have a campfire and she stated
That she intended to go. I usually wonder out after
A warm soapy shower in a cramped smelly stall the
Place provides. Believe me, it's good enough and more
Than appreciated. But it's the feeling of the place
That it conveys more than a complaint from me.
I use it as though it were the Waldorf and Park Avenue
Was writhing outside in ecstasy waiting for me again.
But, anyway, after that I stopped at my camper to get
A bottle of water and headed to the campfire.
She was there, but I didn't notice her right away. I took
The only empty seat and a voice said, "Hi."
There she was in the fire light, glassy-eyed smiling large,
Her teeth reflecting the flames, her face the heat.
There were several conversations going on but she was not
Involved in any of them. Her gigantic bottle was nearing
Empty. Suddenly she got up and left, walking off in the
Tall grass getting smaller and smaller. The bottle was in the
Chair where she was sitting. We talked a while and then I
Saw her coming back. Walking like a person on a long,
Exhausting hike, she quietly resumed her seat and drank
The last of her beer. Then she stood and started walking around. No one Had said anything to her. I said, "I bet there's more
Beer somewhere if you want it. Several people offered her a variety of beers, foreign and domestic. She chose Heineken.
She was there when I left, right there in the chair sipping away.
She had told me that today was a bad day, "Hung over," she said.
She told me of school troubles, and parents, and living in a little town
With nowhere to go. "Maybe I could volunteer to help people in Africa."
As I walked away, I was thinking of how things
Get wasted. We throw everything away when in America's past
We saved everything. Roadkill happened on those wagon trails
But people picked them up and saved the fur and the meat and everything
Was important, everyone mattered to some degree. But now
It's a defenestration society; screaming by at the speed of fear and dread,
We throw out everything ... alive and dead.
When a home burns to the ground the people say, "We can replace
Everything, all our possessions, but the photos and memories,
Those we will miss." I took a picture of her a year ago, she looks exactly
The same. She could have been wearing the same clothes.
The way life is rolling over her, it's killing her ... and she knows.
I watched you tear the Hosta stems on purpose
And told you that you were throwing your power
I said that in violence we cast aside our strength
And told you that in restraint and reverence our
You asked about running on the grass and I
Said the grass likes that and in harmony the
Grass gives you its power.
You went tearing off through the Hostas and
Avoided every patch of grass wearing your
Weakness like a badge of honor.
You came and sat beside me and put your head on
My shoulder. I could feel your breathing and your
Heart beat slowing down.
I said nothing but moved a little closer and put
My arm around you. Your strength and mine pressed Together like a bare foot on soft summer grass.
WE WERE HERE
Building things makes reality seem more doable.
It makes life seem somewhat bendable to us,
To the inner needs of the day.
Building takes the time in our pockets
And turns it into nails and screws
And tables and shelves
On which we put our memories and
Dreams of being useful and memorable
In the midst of anonimity unavoidable.
While the world is so full, an emptiness pervades
And we wander hands-in-pockets
From moment to moment like migrators
From somehere to somethere.
Building anchors us momentarily.
We were here.
Consistency, they say, is
The hobgoblin of little minds, but
Truthfully it's a good thing in a friend.
For friends are, they say, hard
To find and easy to lose, but
A true friend is never lost.
Friendship is love pure, true
And better than lusty moments it lasts
Even when the gusty times subside.
WHEN A POET FALLS
The little dewy grassy feathers
Will raise him up again.
Those mysterious worms
Will tell his story softly to the earth.
The wanton birds soaring
Lift him to an even higher place.
His fall is forever as he embraces
The wind and the rush;
His fears are gone in knowledge
Of more to write than ever.
His pen is now a comet and his
Tears are now the stars.
People pick up his writings and wonder
Where has he gone this gardner who
Tended to the obvious for a life?
Where has he gone, this prophet who
Told us the beauty we turned under?
And where has it gone, this small voice
---That whispered love, love, love?
THE WORRIES BLEND
The things that you'll never be
Are so like people in Honah Lee
Who we'll never see.
And so, go girl, say yes to you.
And so, go girl, say yes, to you.
With all that you see within
With all that there is therein
Why worry what might be?
And so, know girl, sing out loud.
And so, know girl, sing out, loud.
Everything you see in your dreams
Is exactly what it seems
There are no in-betweens
You glow, girl, in the light of day
The mystery is that you say
You sometimes can't see the way.
You know, girl. It's straight ahead.
You know, girl. It's written and read.
Love like a rock that can't bend.
Love like a friend to the end
Where all the worries blend.
Weakness, human weakness
It's all around, all abound
It sneaks up at the grocery store
It's on every channel
It's in bottles and bags
Cans and careers.
It fills the days, the weeks, the years.
It makes us laugh like fools
And it drains us to exhaustion
It sends messages of love
And it brings loneliness and desperate
Thoughts, like how could He make me
So weak and so duplicitous
In all the things I do so wrong?
Why didn't He make me perfect?
Then I would be happy.
What if you were made perfect?
Why should you be so twisting
When you are only doing what
You were made capable of doing from
The beginning? A knife can carve and cut.
A garden grows weeds and flowers.
The sea soothes and surges.
People can love and have urges.
We are strong in our weakness.
We are human, nothing needless.
NEVER WASTE A MOMENT
Everything is so precious
Never comes again
Yesterday, tomorrow and then
Moment by moment our lives
Hotfoot through our veining thoughts,
As we possess the moment,
Or pool in our oughts.
Those green eyes see blue skies.
She looks into things from way within
She glances sometimes guard down
She says things that seem silent
And she makes no sound screaming for action.
The moment may elude her in her quest of the next
But she knows that in action there is rest:
Respite from disquietude and doubt
Peace in doing, pursuing and running it out;
Facing the demons that throw her into space.
Things work out.
There's no doubt.
There into the dark reaches
Of the black imaginings
Of the darkest thoughts
In the darkness of doubt
Dread, and those dire driftings
Of faithless abandon
Where all is lost in a maelstrom
Of misery and directionless
Meandering, hand wringing,
And predictions of coming disaster,
Long overdue failure and the
Final reckoning of all inadequacies
And transgressions; there where
All is coming due
In the poetic justice of
And self-delusions ...
There, out of the dark night
That covered me
Was this gauzy, tear-blurred
GOOD AS NEW
It was a long fence, with lots of sections.
There were some sections nicer than others.
Some were weather-worn to paper thin,
Others were dried and peeling with age.
Some were cracked and dried on top.
Some were rotted at the bottom.
All were wanting care.
A week of working together and
We had a new fence. The little problems
Were all worked on, sanded, chipped, scraped,
Pieces replaced, tightened, straightened
And painted fresh. We worked together.
I scraped and sanded, nailed and sawed;
She painted, covering everything
With a fresh, smooth coat. When we
Stood back and looked at that old tired
Fence that we had thought we might have
To tear down and replace, it looked
As good as new. We looked at each other.
Good fences make good marriages.
It was so warm that I took off my sweatshirt.
The soil was warming and my roses were yawning.
I saw a worm stretching on its little soil bed
Searching with its curled length for the warmth around.
The birds were chirping and whistling in the morning air
I looked closely at the Azaleas and there were little flat green specks peeking.
Still, a shovel-length down the cold still clumped the dirt
And there was a thud as I plunged the tool a little too deep.
I poured water into the bird bath -- they were calling for that service.
The warmed-up water from the sun-drenched hose freed the little ice patch at the bottom.
It floated around as the water filled and slipped over the edge and fell to break in pieces.
The greening grass seemed far better dressed than the slow brownish blades still sleeping.
Then it started to snow. At first I wondered, "What is that?"
And then the pace picked up and there was no doubt. The thick flakes fluttered extravagantly
Like it didn't matter anymore, what the heck, throw them away, like the last vestiges of something
When the job is done, the time is past, little orphans of another day, the last hurrah, an echo fading away.
I just watched the scene, perhaps like the birds thinking of a springtime bath.
The white snow covered what I had just been doing. My roses seemed surprised and not pleasantly.
The worm turned downward, the shovel handle caught the snowflakes and the hand-warmed shaft melted them and dripped.
In a few minutes everything was white like time traveling backwards. I pulled a few snow-covered weeds and went inside.
AGAIN AND AGAIN
Some day when you are old and gray
Take down this poem one more time.
Remember all the times we had together
And a friendship that lasted forever.
Remember how we talked and talked
And talked and never tired of talking.
Then think of the times when
You were thinking of me, putting those
Things that I held important first,
Ahead of the things you loved and wanted.
Think hard on those times
And feel the warmth of my affection
Recrudesce, even from beyond the grave,
With appreciation and a renewed
Desire to do the same for you
Again and again.
Discovering something that you used to hate
Is now something you will always love,
Is like walking through a long locked gate
And finding a message from God above.
The day-to-day practice
Of day-to-day things
Is a little secret of
Not getting stale.
When you try to do it better
When you try to improve
Whether it's work or love
That's when you make the sale.
MOVING THE NEEDLE
The dissatisfaction for some
In the drift and eddy of their life
Creates impatience to act
To shake the seismograph a little.
A senseless act of desperation
Alleviation of boredom
Has done its share of damage
In the world we know.
In the world we don't know
There's another device.
It measures the ebb and flow
Of things new and never known.
Its tender needle only shakes
When some never-done or said
Occurs. Sometimes it senses
Even the faintest thought.
The world of was
And the world of will be
Are just the when and ifs
But those few precious ideas
In the world that is
Of a world that might be
Move the needle of eternity.
EVERY WORD MATTERS
You've really got to watch it,
People think the world
Swings in and out as you breathe.
They listen with ropes in hand
Their eyes have barbs,
In attentiveness they seethe.
WHEN I SAY I LOVE YOU
When I say I love you,
It's not me and it's not you,
It's not just love. It's
You and me, and
What we've done together.
Love can be those springtimes
When in each other's arms
We whiled away the wisps
Of youth as though forever
We were young.
Love can be those hard times
When we stared at each other
And saw the darkness
In our souls and the days
Of sad drudgery.
Love can be the child
Who came bursting in
And changed everything
From just you and me to
Something so much more.
Love could be the smoothing
Out of roughness and of toughness
Into a soothing happy
Day to day agreement that
Things are as they always will be.
Love could be the deep draw
Of breath, almost a sigh,
Of relief that so much is
Past, and peacefulness
Fills our days.
But when I say I love you,
It's all of those and more.
It's not me. It's not you.
It's not just love. It's
When I say I love you,
It's embracing the world
That we are walking through
Stanza after stanza
-- February 14, 2006
WON' T STAY OPEN
Being proud of it
I really am,
But truth is
I do try to manage
What other people
Think around me.
Fast and furious
Think a lot faster than
They think they do.
Hard to keep up,
Let alone get ahead
Of what's coming.
"Don't want you to think ..."
Is a common phrase
Just a faint echo
Of sound to all the
Back and forth.
It's perpetual motion
A room full of
It's blazing a tangled way
Through the wild jungle
To a path that
Won't stay open.
BEING IN THE MOMENT
Like your hand on a hot stove,
It's hard to avoid some moments.
They steam up the windows,
They shake the stage,
They kiss you so deeply
That you roil and churn
And nothing else matters.
There's the world that never was,
With all of its replays
And replays and replays
Such a distant echo
Of what really happened,
Even roses aren't
Then there's the world that
Never will be where
We happily aspire
In dreamy hues
That no brush can stroke,
No eye ever see.
The world that is is scary,
We long for the,
Abstraction of that
Other flame that
Calls us away and
The intimacy of worlds
That don't exist
Never could exist,
Draws like nature
To a vacuum.
I look up, and you're
Asleep on the couch.
FIGHT FOR WHAT'S YOURS
In the little lights of the morning
When the only sounds are
A rustling of you moving
Around to get going
When the only thoughts are yours
To choose and keep or not
Then you have to fight for
It's your morning, it's your day.
It's your thinking, it's your way.
Fight for what's yours.
Is a preservative
Of things that easily
Could go bad
If just left out
In the open.
The little ziplock seal
Slides along even as
We listen, knowing
That that must go
Then one day, strolling
Along the mother board
There it is again: fresh
And crisp and sour
Or sweet, reserved
Time travel is not
Unusual for us, we
Walk in and out of
The past like
Here, now gone.
Thinking of a world
Of immortal truth
Waiting for the light
The guy in front is asleep
Or so it seems as green
From red stays steady.
No trace of response
Or movement of
Two cars back impatient
Angry honking seems
Remote like where
Is that coming
From? The guy right
Behind is waiting.
Time seems to suspend
Itself as precious
Seconds stolen seep
Along like honey
Weight to fall.
Patience takes patience
And courage too
To wait in knowing
That to all comes
The ultimate wakeup
Of time to move.
After all, where are
We going? To the
Next red light, stop
Again we wait and wait.
What's the rush?
Who's ever gotten
Everything, so are
There really any?
Those seconds imposed
On us by hesitation
Or loss of control
Of our moment-to-
Are sacral prizes.
Suddenly we are
In the arms of chance
Captive to consequence
We do not command.
Waiting for another
The notions of
All mankind stir
Within us, and
We feel what
It is to be both
Cause and effect.
We've all been there
In that middle place
Unphased in time
Away on a slumbering
Dream of inattention
To details at hand.
And we've all had the
The blast interruptus
Of reverie, the sudden
Is that what must be?
Should we all press
Into the loosened
Consciousness of another
And whack each other
Back to actual?
Or is better to wait
And see? To enjoy another's
Harmless, daydream disarray
And wish it were us
So able to woolgather
In the midst of a day?
Suddenly, we're moving again.
Traffic jostling and
Signalling every which way.
Who hesitated? Who
Knows? Busy won over
The Muse's waylay.
There are those days, when
It's like a dream overslept.
The wires wind around
But don't connect.
The news is deja vu,
Even though the facts are all around.
And you look away from the way
People look at you.
You sit with folded hands
Hoping to go unnoticed
By those passers-by.
You search the middle air
Intense to be unfound.
You'd go back to bed, but
That's where it all began:
Feet wouldn't move
When you ran.
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