Laughingstock

T’is a cold-hearted addiction I have,
a laughable wild-goose chase
to trade this reclusive life of
the honey-tongued mimic, to attempt elbowing
my way into the company of the published.
But who am I kidding? I’m the uneducated go-between
of hot-blooded youth and cruel hearted
old age, without a hint about joining
the ranks of the bold-faced names,
the ones that are read trippingly
on the tongue there beneath the title,
perhaps earning their publishers’
money’s worth from what small advertising they
might grant them. But I a publisher will never
secure.

I am the noiseless one, eschewing
the foul-mouthed pageantry of the readings,
staying home and puking out more verse
on this new-fangled whirligig of a QWERTY
quill, stringing half-assed, well-behaved
ruminations dexterously down this alleged page
that really isn’t. How can I be disheartened
if I do not choose to champion myself out in the
infinite space, if I remain faint-hearted it is
but a foregone conclusion that the game is up?
I’m not some bloody Shakespeare, you know.

Poem #26 in my poem-a-day quest for NaPoWriMo 2015. This piece was in answer to a prompt to use a word coined by William Shakespeare as the basis of the poem. You know me, dear readers…in for a penny, in for a pound. There are at least 30 words or phrases reportedly coined by the Bard of Avon in this ponderous piece of ever-to-be-unpublished fappery–including the title. This would probably be a funnier bit of business if it wasn’t true. I haven’t submitted anything to a journal in almost a year. And you can’t win if you don’t play.

In Audience with The Queen

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A female North Atlantic right whale with her calf in the ocean.

On the mid-afternoon boat out of Boston,
we headed southeast past lobster traps
and gliding slicks of motor fuel,
all there to run the engine that transported
tourists from flush to a good deal poorer
in the time it took to eat one meal
at Ostra or The Capital Grille.
We were still digesting Quincy Market pizza,
feeling the breeze on our bare legs
poking out from the deck above’s
meager shade, as the hot sun sprayed jewels
off our bow. Above us, a radio squawked
that another boat had spotted her due east and
we canted to port, a vee-shaped churn
of golden foam trailing behind us as we
became smaller and smaller on the
blinding mirror of sea. She soon appeared
off the starboard bow, birds circling her
like a conscious island, the gray queen
sinuously weaving her barnacled weft over
and under the Atlantic’s green warp waves.
And then it was pretty much over.
The boat powered up and sped us back to the
dock in Boston, as we winced with sunburnt legs
and bleary eyes into a sun that was setting
over the city, which bloomed bigger with
each rumble and bump, each passing trawler’s
casting of wakes our way. I remember the image
of the dimming eastern distance, where I
left behind my feeling of human superiority
and all my other images of that day,
having dropped my camera over the side
when I bowed in my audience with the queen.

Poem #25 of Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo 2015. A sea-faring tale of a past brush with royalty.

Give Me a Moment

It’s not like there ever existed
a moment for me, that spot in time
where definitive presence existed.
There’s a before and an after,
but that present moment
ever eludes my consciousness.
I envy you who can hold onto
what remains my ungraspable.
A moment for us never happened either,
just anticipation and memory,
with the “what was” tipping the scales
for the longest time. Through the years,
though, I see it fading into balance
with the “what might might have been.”
Perhaps that’s why I push so hard
into this paper, to gouge a permanence
of the momentary, something I might find
someday in an as yet elusive present.

Poem #24 of Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo 2015, answering a call for a “moment” poem. In writing so many of these things, I just turn loose my imagination, trying on some character’s “present.”  And sometimes they just wash over me onto the gouges I’ve made in a page and my heart.

Just One Letter Away

When we walked, I always buried
my fists in my pockets, barely
looking up from the pavement before us.
To see, to touch, were beyond hope.
Wind blew cold past ears warmed
by a voice, and silent visions played
on the far side of consciousness.
Behind this window today I watch
breezes smooth the grass and ruffle feathers.
Near-dead images rise like whitecaps,
spraying memories of warm fingers in flannel,
eyes focusing on the imaginary,
on someday poetry. I don’t hear you,
but the cold never-to-be remains
just one capital letter away
from this fist-clenched pen.

Poem #22 for NaPoWriMo 2015. An out-of-order free write brought on by this cold spring day.

April 26, 1865 (Do They Remember?)

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The Lincoln funeral procession passes through downtown Albany on April 26, 1865

I wonder how many of them
here on this dark day remembered
the President’s last visit to the city?
Do they know the actor was in town
that day, too? Do they know
that each performed that night?
The President, to grumbles and chides,
in the Capitol and Governor’s house,
and the Actor, to bouquets and accolades,
on the boards of the Gayety on Green Street.

Do they recall the weapons flashing
through their tears on this second visit?
How that first crowd, raucous and angry,
had to be clubbed back by the butts
of soldiers’ muskets that soon would
spit fire in the gleam of southern battle?
Do they remember the actor, handsome
and passionate, appearing in The Apostate,
had fallen upon the Albany stage and
pierced his own chest with a dagger?
Do they wonder what if?

The crowd now weeps as the casket
rolls by on this street where men both
slept that night and one now sleeps
for all time. A moan follows the casket
along Broadway and up State as if riding
the swags of black crepe where once
stripes and stars directed a course
from this city on the Hudson to a nation on fire,
where two lives crossed paths once,
then again on the way back to Springfield.

Poem #23 of NaPoWriMo. Writers Digest was looking for a history poem and I recalled what happened in my home town almost exactly 150 years ago today…President Abraham Lincoln’s casket came through town on its way back to Springfield, Illinois. Being a bit of a history buff, I recalled some coincidences of the President’s first visit to Albany on February 18, 1861. I wondered if any of the people lining the street as the casket passed wondered the same things I did. This long piece poses those questions for which we have no answers.

The Inconstant Wellspring

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Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, by Jon Sullivan
via Wikipedia

I’m sure I might have tried you on once,
whoever you are, or whatever.
I combed my hair that way,
wore those silly bell bottoms,
talked like a Virginian,
walked like I wore cowboy boots.
I tried writing like Papa, like Clemens,
Stafford and a little Whitman, too.
But they all proved too much work
for less than a little warmth and worth.
So I stopped trying and just Did,
or at least what I Could.
I discovered a Me in Me, felt
sometimes sweatpants comfy in this
baggy or too-tight skin, resigned
to this shiny sand-trap tonsure
under my hat, content with
this stringing of words that rain
happy enough even if only unhappy I read them.
I’m their inconstant wellspring,
their old unfaithful geyser.
They’re my jolly, tall, young and
once-hunky self. Even these lies.
Stand too closely to us, you might
fall in love, or indifference or maybe
just feel what might be tears.

Poem #21 in NaPoWriMo 2015’s Poem-a-Day effort. And this was an effort! That’s why I decided to write who I am and am not.

Just Like Deputy

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We each sit in our respective spots
just out of the rain, little Deputy Dawg and I,
waiting for unknown prey to pop its head above the mud,
come slithering out from under a little bit
of landscape. There he goes, tearing ass
along his zip run, the cable sizzling
like a griddle until he reaches the end of the line,
where he tips up on his hind legs
and chews the air with yips, yaps and
a little guy’s idea of a fearsome bark.

On his way back under the porch, he dives
into a mole hole. Pushing and digging his way
into the lair of the unseeing though quite knowing,
he comes up with something indeterminate
from this poetic promontory, something
small and dark that he shakes until he’s satisfied
he’s drained the wild out of it.
Now he’s nibbling on its innards, sometimes
tossing a bit to the ground and ignoring it,
others giving it a sniff and a lick,
then putting it back with the body.

I understand this great hunt, the running headlong
into the darkness, ending up covered
in a kind of mud and blood, tipping back,
chewing the air with sounds little guys of each
our species make when we’ve spied our prey
and go in for the coup de grace. I know the feeling
of pulling something small and icky
from the muck and then tossing its best bits
into a pile for the unseen though quite knowing…
just like this…just like Deputy.

Poem #20 of Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo 2015. This one coming on a rainy day here, watching the little Jack Russell next door do his thing (which has from time to time included nipping the poet’s writing hand). Now I’ve nipped little Deputy, myself. That’s the little devil up there in a nine-fingered photo by yours truly.