Constant Companion

 

I tell her

You are always there

You will never leave

 

I try to comfort her

You rarely visit anymore

I learned to ignore your haunts

Beatings with small lead pipes

Aches from head to toe

How you fill my soul

With cold, black tar

 

I tell her

I walk past you on the street

Do not pull over

When you try to hitch a ride

I become a workhorse with blinders

Do what I need to do,

Leave you in the dust

 

I combat you

Work hard

Avoid routine

Get off the fucking couch

On hard days

I mine for joy

With a toothpick

 

I tell her

Some days you sneak in the back door

I give you a coffee cup

Worth of consideration

Send you on your way

A mere cloudburst

Rather than a deluge

 

I did not tell her

You leave a little behind

Like dropped pine needles

From last years’ Christmas tree

Like imperceptible scars

From minor cuts

 

You are weak now

I am stronger

I watched children grow

I tasted tears of happiness

And defeat

Know they taste the same

I am a grandfather

And can now recall

What life was

Before you numbed elation

With your Novocain

 

I have not told her

How you wither and pale

When I cup her face

In my hands

And take in her love

Like a new mother

Receives her child

I have not told her that

But I will

The Miracle Maker                                                

 

Gone before sunrise

No resurrection

We called the relatives

 

Our young nurse

Left work early in tears

On the hottest day of the year

Spread the crochet blanket

You knitted

Across the foot of her bed

 

A miracle you lived this long

All the times you fell

You did get up

All the scary thoughts

When the meds were not right

Did not embitter you

A miracle you never stopped loving

Giving away trinkets and food

When you had so little

 

Outside your trailer home

Drinking iced coffee

You chatted up neighbors

Shared a smoke

Your smile, infectious laugh

Cut through barriers

 

A miracle one man loved you

For thirty years

Stayed by your side

Despite it all

 

You were a miracle

I could believe in

Turning water into Corona beer,

The slow-developing kind

Wandering the desert

Of your tortured soul

           

Better than Moses

Parting humanity’s drowning sea

In dogged perseverance

Relentless love

Your little bit of oil

Lit our world

 

No one can doubt

The miracle of you

Two by Two

 

 

Two Companions

 

Wait at the intersection

Walking figure on the post is red

She rolls, not walks

Bends over to calm

Her short haired,

Curled tail friend with

The panting laugh/smile

She stares into his eyes

Pats his head, one long

Stroke across his back

 

Walking figure flashes green

Leather clad hands

Dig deep into wheels

Springing four-legged romp

Through intersections

Traffic and emissions

Rubber and paws

Conquer all obstacles

 

 

 

Two Crows

 

Swooping flight

Against cerulean sky

The dull beat of large wings

Surge of passing air

Tucked in for speed, then

Flapping, darting in unison

 

Together

They beat the bum rap

Of their death metaphor

Black, strong beauties

With beating wings and hearts

Fearless of the coming night

Moment by Moment

 

Lately

I sense the stolen moments

Falling hair from scalp follicles

The dander of me returning to dust

 

I am deciduous

Those days of summer

Browning, inevitably tumbling

In life descent

 

And the doctors,

Well-meaning time savers,

Take samples and pieces of me

Hoping to stall the axe that will topple

A vain attempt to keep my roots viable

 

And everyday

I think about what I have done,

What I never did

While packing the remaining days

With commitments

And promises

Things that in the end

No one will remember

 

Then I am startled awake

By the early morning banter

Of my grandson

Five years old

He renders

Clocks and calendars

Into liquid absurdities

 

He sips from his juice cup

Shows me his Lego

Firefighter airplane

With the plastic tree

Plastic flames on plastic branches

He douses fires

Blue plastic water beads

Bounce off the coffee table

 

His beautiful blue eyes

Take me back

To the path I lost

Where

Nothing else mattered

But the bliss of now,

Where laughter and crying

Come and go

As effortlessly

As an autumn leaf

Gracefully twirling to earth

Carmel by the Sea

 

Sinuous Pacific Coast Highway

Skirting the shoreline

Surf thrashing craggy boulders

Sweeping white sand

Sheep grazing in a pasture

Stretches to the ocean

Sea mist veil dissipation

 

Bucolic restaurant patio scene

Crab cakes, iceberg salad wedge

Holy Water margaritas

The salt on the rim

The salt of our lives

 

Breaking through cloud sunlight

Hearing the history or you

Sharing our space and time

We flow with waves and tides

Learn our currents

Smiles foam wash shorelines

Fair winds and typhoon yarns

Rudderless and star driven voyages

You are never a doldrum

You are a pacific dream

 

There is peace,

Kindness in this land

Is it because of you?

 

Here, shadows politely recede

Yellow Brick Roads

Grown up Disney girls

Redwoods and cypress

Eucalyptus intoxicates

No prince needs to save you

Evil stepmothers do not exist

Fires, masks, lack of rain

Fault lines and traffic

You live with grace

Love as easily as you smile

Buttercup Days

 

Do you remember butter cup days?

The yellow reflection sunshine

Under your chin?

You made pinky promises

Saved your mother’s back

By not stepping on a crack

 

How simple it was to determine love

Plucking dandelion petals,

Love me, love me not

Blowing paratrooping seeds

To spread and create more

Do you remember?

 

That merry-go-rounds

And Ferris wheels

Go round and round

No beginning or end

 

That your dolls talked to you,

That baseball cards attached on bicycle frames,

Slapping spokes motored you

To endless adventures,

Do you remember?

 

Wishing upon a shooting star,

Blowing out all the birthday candles

Tapping your heels three times,

Believing in Tinker Bell

Do you remember

Keeping her alive,

Believing

Dreams and wishes came true,

There is no place like home,

Do you remember?

 

Good luck in four leaf clovers

Bad luck if you spilled salt,

Each grain a tear you will later spill

That there was a time

When skinned knees and being

Caught in a lie made you cry,

Do you remember?

 

How oaths and secrets

Could not be broken

Cross my heart

And hope to die

Your heart

Was big and full and red

As that Valentine

You drew for your mother

Do you remember?

 

Do you?

Do you?

Remember

Boy’s Club

 

While living at my daughter’s house

My grandson and I established a boy’s club

In my ten by twelve room

The tyranny of girls is not allowed

 

In our club we do manly things,

Watch YouTube, play MLB The Show,

Wrestle with Jurassic Park dinosaurs,

Read poetry or make forts under blankets

 

It is an exclusive club,

Strictly enforced with secret passwords

No exceptions but of course, mama is allowed

And Nora too, his best friend

But absolutely no Bennett, he pushes too much

And is too little to say the password for boys:

Jack Skellington, (Sally is the password for girls)

 

No one otherwise gets in

Unless you are Pikachu

Or Spirit the wild stallion

Or anyone who rings the front doorbell

And can say the secret passwords when prompted

Especially if they bring treats

Like a well-stocked Frozen Elsa Pez dispenser

Or beer

Crossing the Bridge

 

 

Our etheric bridge stretches

Above clear sky and clouds

Rarified and elastic

Permeating all space

The interstice of all matter

Like sunlight filtered

Through arching trees

 

It reaches over rivers

Slippery sloped embankments of youth

Where fluxes meandered

Or flooded in heavy weather

To later harbor

Far from mountain births

Nearer to the ocean

 

And we rose like morning vapor

From far facing shores

To absorb, assimilate

In ghost jelly connectivity

Waking/dreaming love making

Mediators of the living

What Gods only imagine

 

And I will walk this bridge

To be with you

A bridge I once thought too far

And we will cross

Above our vessels and cargo

Above our deep currents

On a vista where we will see

Beyond all harbors

The ocean’s majesty

Where we belong

Father's Garden
and the Rest of the World
 
His was a garden of promise

Chosen nurtured seeds

In rich, wet soil

Tomatoes splitting with flavor

Towering sunflower stalks

 

Sister and I were mere sprouts

Too small to till, break winter frost

We picked out loose stone

Haphazardly dropped seed

Uncovered a potato bug

Fat mandible, sickly pale

The grotesque horror of him

Looking at us with remorse

For he was exposed, and he was ugly

 

We grew in the soil of our parents

Rising in sun and rain realization

That our Mayberry neighborhood

Was not all fertile land

 

The cheap man

Called hot dogs, tube steaks

Harangued his wife, two boys and a girl

One boy was cruel

The other was called a retard

Possessed unrestrained, frightening strength

The sweet, pretty daughter, later killed herself

 

Down the road

The old German couple

At first kind to my sister and I

Until the day the husband lost his mind

Came by with a shotgun

Threatening to shoot us all

Thinking father was planning to sell

A parcel of land to build a Jewish Hospital

 

Or the gloomy Addams family house

Down the dirt road

With the elephant foot umbrella stand

Or the teacher

With the loose daughter

 

There were leeches in the lake

Snapping turtles in the pond

Copperheads in stone walls

Ghosts in our house

 

We saw beyond

The living color televisions

Of Disneyland America

In black and white

News broadcast education

Lessons in geography:

A place called Vietnam

Vocabulary: assassination

King and Kennedys

Science: atomic bombs

Gravity: blacks hung from trees

 

In elementary school

We learned how to hide under desks

Higher education taught us

The physics of bullets cutting through

Kent State protestors

We deduced

It is a small, small world after all

Without a magic kingdom

Just as the best gardens

Harbor potato bugs and root rot

 

And all our father ever wanted,

This amputee of World War Two,

Was for us to take root, flower

Spread our seeds to the wind

Or be like the fox we saw

After the harvest

Leaping from tall winter wheat

In constant, sardonic fox smile

Laughing, bounding effortlessly,

Safely

Out of sight

Vacant Spaces

 

In poetry

It is the space

That speaks volumes

People are the same

 

Every Sunday

He would climb out of his green Malibu

Sit in the now vacant back pew

To hear his nephew’s sermon

 

The husband who loved Oreo cookies

His recliner sits empty

His wife’s hand, nothing left to grasp

The dream of retiring

To a quaint Kentucky town

Now just a dream

 

The night worker

That fried eggs after his shift

While chatting up his daughter

In the dining room

As she did her bookkeeping job,

Conversations lost

Each rising sun now a vacancy sign

The silent and scentless frying pan

Now cold cast iron

Tucked away on a shelf

 

The Asian grandma

Her seats at mahjong, bridge and English class

Folded up and put away

Her home untouched

Holiday decorations still up

Cards lined on the mantle

The grandson thinks it still smells like her

It looks like she should be there

But she is not

 

500,000 vacancies in America

How can they ever be filled?

Ask the ones without masks

The conspiracy theorists

The hoax believers

Let them fill the vacant spaces

With their answers

Vacant Spaces

 

In poetry

It is the space

That speaks volumes

People are the same

 

Every Sunday

He would climb out of his green Malibu

Sit in the now vacant back pew

To hear his nephew’s sermon

 

The husband who loved Oreo cookies

His recliner sits empty

His wife’s hand, nothing left to grasp

The dream of retiring

To a quaint Kentucky town

Now just a dream

 

The night worker

That fried eggs after his shift

While chatting up his daughter

In the dining room

As she did her bookkeeping job,

Conversations lost

Each rising sun now a vacancy sign

The silent and scentless frying pan

Now cold cast iron

Tucked away on a shelf

 

The Asian grandma

Her seats at mahjong, bridge and English class

Folded up and put away

Her home untouched

Holiday decorations still up

Cards lined on the mantle

The grandson thinks it still smells like her

It looks like she should be there

But she is not

 

500,000 vacancies in America

How can they ever be filled?

Ask the ones without masks

The conspiracy theorists

The hoax believers

Let them fill the vacant spaces

With their answers

Status Quo

 

I appear content

To you,

I am satisfying as tepid milk

On a summer day

You ask what do I want?

I have no answer

 

I have no answer

To me and you,

About the choices on the menu

Dropped at our table

I choose the first dish I see

The way I picked you

 

And here we are

On a restaurant patio

By a babbling brook

Near a village green

Where an old cannon sits

That children hang and leap from

 

Wars seem far away

But one is right here

Raging within

It is a cold war

With entrenching tools

We are dug in

Trench footed and starving

 

Through this interminable war

Peace only comes at Christmas

Climb from our holes

Cross battlelines

To smoke cigarettes

Play a harmonica

Dream of the home we left behind

 

Then the waiter comes

Asks if we decided

You answer quick

Warm milk on a summer day

I am clueless

Here

 

Rain is a big deal

It arrived this morning

Hesitant and shy

Barely audible

Taps on the shoulder of

this red desert dusted land

Streaking the massive saguaro

Where generations of cactus wren

Carved out their homes

 

They and wandering quail

Make the rain a reason

To huddle and shelter

Just like the doused sun

Which is too often the guest

That stays after the party is over

Laughing at nothing

Burning his drunken presence

On your tired head

 

I make a second cup of coffee

Take in the sepia air

Earth and sky

Blend as one

As do my thoughts and breathing

Not caring about clocks or calendars

Taking in subdued nature

Caressing a hot cup

A moment of grace

Can seem eternal  

 

This rain

Will do nothing to sooth

Withered brush

Fill the Colorado river

But it is rain

With its’ bashful peace

That transforms

Makes obsidian mountains shine

Makes the second cup

Taste all the better

Day Life

 

Birthing sun

Dispels dead of night

Pre-school morning

Children temperatures’ taken

Hug teacher’s knees

They scratch and peck

Like hatchlings from Easter eggs

Striped legging girl

Dark curls and eyes

Hops on one foot

Sees her little blue-eyed beau

She will draw

Crayon hearts for him

 

Mid-life day

No cover, no shade

Power lunch martini’s

Sharp attire professionals

At the five-star restaurant

But under tables

Matchbooks balance uneven legs

Band Aid bleeding heel of the Stiletto lady

The executive’s Italian leather shoes

Scuffed, the shine gone, soles worn thin

 

Old man sundown

Walks scruffy mini poodle

Crosses the intersection

Traffic paused red light

Breeze picks up

Billows light white jacket

He is a wrinkled sail

To the dog’s undercurrent pull

The tightwire taut leash

 

White beard stubble

Knotted brow

Senses the umbilical cord snap

Into indifferent night

Knows he could fall

No safety nets

With a dog at the helm

Sniffing for god