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November Came to Me.

 

Without warning

November came to me

In June.

The morning primrose newly budding in their sun warmed beds,

Always a welcome harbinger,

Now meaningless to me from

The dark and deep quiet of my bedroom above.

 

The stars when they appeared seemed meant for others

Capable of joy, even simple recognition,

My November revealing them as distortions,

Pinpoints of lights in the torn fabric of a distant

Foreboding world.

 

November came for the best of me

To extinguish my light,

My peace,

Leaving behind flats of nothingness

Hours, days, never to be accounted for,

Regained,

As I groped blindly through them.

Or slept. Or stared.

 

Laughter seemed inconceivable.

Sadness lay deep in my marrow

When November came to me

In June.

 

(Photo courtesy of Jeff Philips.)

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How Things Happen

 

And you had no idea
They were coming.
The neighbor who turns ugly about your
Dog.
The girl you had your eye on all those months at night school
And you hear she got engaged to the dullard two rows
Over.
The audit the year you got
Sloppy.
The partner you thought had your back
Who contradicts you over a triviality among
Friends.
The doctor’s news when only that day
You’d ran five miles and met your wife for
Cappuccino.
The toddler not perfectly buckled
Up.
The gift of white designer jeans
Confirming he has not the faintest idea who you
Are.
The cop at the door
When things were going so
Well.

sepia photo for Brothers In Arms

Brothers in Arms

 

Writers are the most natural of allies.
We inhabit the same landscape.
The three a.m. grope for the right word.

We try not to wake anyone.
We stare at a comma. Just stare.
We wrestle with line breaks.

We start again.
Our drafts sit in piles.
Semi-colons mystify us all.

We find fascination in minuscule detail.
The girl’s hair down, or should it be a braid.
The navy shoes or the pale blue.

Was it raining or threatening rain.
Did she say the word goodbye or whisper it after.
Was the door left ajar on purpose.

We know there is a perfect title. A perfect modifier.
If only we can find it,
Tease it out gingerly.

Recognition is hard won.
What do poets do, they ask, mystified.
I’d write too if I had the time.

We creep into bed in the wee hours
Still wrestling with the last line.
Wondering if we came even close.

But if we get it right
We dare to join the pantheon of immortals
Before us,
Who persisted in that same dim light for the one word
Just out of reach.

little girl

Forget Everything.

Today’s prompt from my writer’s group “Forget everything” prompted this… assisted – ably – by three cups of coffee.

 

The Deceptively Simple

Forget everything you’ll never know about
Quantum physics
And oil futures.
What constitutes prime.
Leave string theory
For the committed.

Focus on the knowables
One at a time. Small bites.
Start with the deceptively simple.
This:
How to Talk to a Small Child at a Party.

Just like you would anyone else.
No special voices. They hate that.
No crouching down like you’re best friends.
Share casual observations.
Recommend the artichoke dip.

Do it right.
Before long
She’ll end up beside you on the couch
Asking your name
And your opinion of the latest Star Wars.

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No One Wants to Fail

This new poem is about choosing to not look away, but to notice.

Painful, yes, and there are easier choices. But it seems to me I have never had a choice. Perhaps others feel the same. And out of this decision to simply not look away comes so much, in ways I have no doubt are untold.

 

No One Wants to Fail.

From the cart behind me
I hear the commotion.
The little boy refuses to bend his knees
So his mother can place him
In the child’s seat in front.
He stiffens,
Screams.
Another child tugs at her skirt.
But she has had enough.
The shopping trip is sacrificed.
She yanks them through the exit doors,
Her face set in anger.

The boy will wish he had obeyed.
His sister will see it all unfold.
The mother will wish it was otherwise
But feel powerless to make it so.
Who among us
Wants to fail.

angel statue

Hard Evidence

There are so many gods. I like to believe there is one just for small children.

 

Hard Evidence

Ahead of me in line
I catch a glimpse of two tiny white feet
sticking out from a baby seat,
uncovered on this October morning,
the soles black.
Around each of the frail ankles
lies a ring of grime.

When the baby’s face bobs into view
I see that she’s captivated
by the jeweled butterfly on my lapel
and smiles wanly.

Shall I pin the treasure to her stained sweater
Spirit her away
Teach her the names of all the creatures that fly.
Shall I wash her sooty feet with the finest velvet
And dry them with my hair?

hearts2

Maybe

Maybe

 

It was a Wednesday,

A normal middle of the week day.

Or was it a Sunday, all the more

Portentous.

Did I wear green

After debating the monochromes.

Weren’t you in that gray bespoke suit

The one you got for a song on 81st.

 

I remember a scent.

Sweet, apple blossoms perhaps.

Isn’t that our favorite song playing suddenly,

Somewhere.

Did you lean over to stroke my cheek

For no reason whatsoever.

I might have put my arms around your neck

Surprising you from behind.

Was it a long time we stood there

Just like that.

 

Are we unfazed by the long wait for a table,

The sudden downpour,

The lineup for a cab.

Is that you mimicking Walter Raleigh,

Until I, the winsome damsel,

Protests no.

 

Do I imagine

Such enrapture,

Such fervency.

Or has time and yearning

Simply made it so.

old photos pile

Easter Morning Once.

 

A new dress, even if it had been my sister’s.

Helmet-like perms, and all of us

in soft white cotton gloves, with vertical ridges stitched in

above each knuckle, so they stood up,

like Mickey Mouse’s on Saturday morning.

The matching hats were courtesy of Jackson’s Department Store’s bargain bin,

Fill a basket, five bucks out the door,

their out-sized pink and blue plastic daisies haphazardly attached,

head wear meant for the deranged.

 

Our conspiratorial looks as we were herded together

for the obligatory snapshot on the stone steps after Mass,

the sunlight harsh on a still-frigid April morning,

swiss dot and stiff crinolines lofting in the wind.

 

Embarrassed by my sturdy white knee socks,

I yearned for the silk stockings

Worn by my older sisters, who flanked me.

Stationed solemnly in front

was our younger brother, happy to form his own line,

quietly proud of his clip on bow-tie and tartan vest and

perfectly pressed little wool trousers.

 

Chins up! Stand straight! came the reprimands,

but not one of us listened.

At least one child would turn her head away that day just as the shutter clicked.

Another would squint unbecomingly against the glare.

And the third, the face of the third girl

would show to the camera a look of such sadness

as is unimaginable in one so young.

 

Now piled deeply in this battered shoebox,

the sorting job no one ever took on,

these celluloid witnesses to our lives.

The edges scalloped like icing on a cake,

bearing hairline cracks, some of our heads and limbs torn asunder,

the truest chronicle of those years,

bringing with it the simple message

that each of us might have done better

if we’d only known how.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Pen in your Hand.

A story by the poet Ann Kestner I read this morning… I wanted very much to share it.

“My father worked with wood and metal and concrete. I work with ink and paper and metaphors.

It is not a far stretch between engineer and poet. We do the same work.

My father is almost 80. He worked 20 years for Otis Elevator before the layoff came and then he found employment here and there and then over there – for nearly 45 years he worked as a mechanical engineer. Nothing he designed carries his name. No one knows it was his mind, his imagination that engineered the freight elevator of the fallen Twin Towers and countless other things. His creations are all credited to the companies he worked for.

The pen in your hand, the hubcap on your car, your front door – Everyday we live our lives using things imagined by people whose names we will never know.

As poets, we may not be paid well or at all, but at least our creations carry our name.”