Ice Cold

We used to walk along this shore, telling secrets and lies even we liars believed. 

During those cold December walks, we’d watch Winter grow its skin across the pond, pressing down the rippling mirrors that would catch your eye and pass its attention to the ones next to it. And they, in turn, to their neighbors, echoing it all back again.

And when the snow began to fall, light as a lover’s touch, it would cover the sheet of ice with lace, teasing us to guess if we could trust the ice to support us yet if we dared step upon it together.

“C’mon,” you’d always tease me as I tapped on the ice with my foot, “Where’s your sense of adventure? Haven’t you ever taken a chance in your life?”

And I told you I was taking a chance right then. To which you’d reply, “No you’re not. And believe me, you won’t fall.”

I think you meant fall through the ice. I thought of it as falling another way you’d never worry about, but I did. And wanted to.

I wanted to know what those others knew, the hidden knowledge that I’d only imagined. I wanted to feel the pleasure with you that others felt, but was afraid to take that step. Walk after walk, winter after winter.

“C’mon, take my hand,” you say and I finally feel the warmth of your hand in mine. You pull me toward you and grasp my arm as if we are a couple strolling along the edge of the ice-covered pond. But I know we’re really just two people sharing the same path, the same conversation, the same lies.

“All right,” you say, “I’m going to walk you out a bit and you go the rest of the way.”

“No, I don’t think so. I’d prefer if we just walk along like this,” I say and put my hand over yours as you squeeze my arm. The wind blows the snow across the ice as if it’s some ghostly skater carving edges like your fingernails are carving little moons into my hand.

You pull me closer and lean in to give me a kiss on the cheek, your lips warm, your cheek cold, eyelashes netted with snowflakes, the sound snatched by the wind as it whooshes by my ears. 

“Would you do it for me? For a real kiss?” you say, gazing into my eyes with an eagerness you’ve never offered me before. And I’m not sure what beckons me more, the ice, those snow-laced eyes, tempting lips, or my heart. 

“I’ll go with you. I promise. I just want to see you take a chance for once. Just so you can learn that sometimes the lessons we learn from them can last a lifetime.”

I want to do this so much. Not just because of the prize I could potentially receive upon completion of this dare, but also because I need to know what stops me. Always stops me.

“Okay, but I need some more incentive,” I say, suddenly demonstrating more nerve than I had in years.

“C’mere, you,” you say and mush your mouth to mine with a little lick of my lip on the way back to a smile I’m afraid will melt the ice before I get my chance to walk my way to the paradise I think you’re offering.

“Okay, let’s go. I’m getting kinda excited about this,” you say, grasping my arm again.

“Whoa, not so fast,” I say.

You tap the ice and say, “Nothing to worry about. And if you’re still nervous, just close your eyes and I’ll walk you out.”

“Uh, all right. Maybe if I could have just a little more of that warm courage you’re dispensing, I wouldn’t be so…you know,” I say with fear and lust battling in my gut like glandular gladiators.

“Close your eyes, silly,” you say and plant a big wet kiss on my cheek, squeezing me so close I almost can’t catch my breath. 

And then you drop your arms away, leaving me with the echo of that kiss ringing in my head.

“Just a couple more steps, love, then you can come back. I’m waiting right here for you.”

I turn and see you standing closer to the bank now. Your face impassive, like a marble Madonna, not giving any thought, desire, care. Just…waiting.

But I still can hear your kiss and the sound such a long kiss makes, soft, warm and wet, a constricted inhalation, yet sucking in the best of life, giving back such gratification. What a sweet memory today will be.

That is until I also remember it’s the sound thin ice makes as it rips open, sharp and cold, making one gasp, sucking him under, submerged, waking him to the knowledge almost no one else knows. What’s going on beneath that cold white facade? Now I know. Now I know it all.

“You’re welcome,” I thought I heard. 

No, love, it was my pleasure.

Dig We Must

 
 I gave up early today, with the 
 Finish Line out there in sight.
 And now I sit here wondering,
 “Did I really put up a fight?”
 The voices behind me say “So what?” 
 and “Why should anyone care?”
 While the faces to my front smirk 
 as I struggle or they dully stare.
 They’re the only parts of what once 
 was a verdant and fertile imagination.
 Now they’re the only crop yield
 I can claim as my own creation.
 
 So I stepped away from this story
 and here try not to waste time.
 To toss what once was a blessed gift
 would feel like my biggest crime.
 This here is a half-hour’s harvest, 
 of unmetered but rhyming weed.
 That unrequited love story sits,
 a fallow field for which I’ve little seed.
 It’s been a long, lonely winter,
 but I won’t let my tools rust.
 I’ll march back to it tomorrow, friend,
 ‘cause I’m a writer, and “Dig we must.”

The Apple Won’t Fall Until the Mango Does

 
I thought I could do it,
 sit and roll thoughts and
 feelings down a page like 
 chocolate syrup runs down 
 a sundae-eating kid’s chin.
 You know, simple as gravity.
 But Newton’s apple 
 doesn’t
 fall
 on
 my
 head
 anymore.
 
 No, my dome is too full
 of mango now, an orange
 ovoid I’ve never swallowed,
 and yet of which I am gorged, 
 sated, sickened, obsessed.
 So I just typed, letting nature 
 take its course onto the page. 
 But all I’ve accomplished 
 over this quadrennial 
 is dry heaves that leave me
 with nothing but tears
 falling 
 down
 onto 
 my 
 empty 
 hands.
 
 I hope someday soon, the emetic 
 of time will allow more colors 
 their space back in my head, 
 instead of that vomitous orange. 
 But at least I’ll be shed of it.
 Then I hope to find new rainbows
 in the black I’ll once more bleed,
down 
 into 
 your
 once-
 open
 heart.

You figure it out. I've about given up.

Winter Solstice

 
 It finally came, the shortest of days,
 in a year long as the night that comes after.
 But all days seem three-hundred days long
 when they feel like just as many a disaster.
 
 Yet this year we count such calamities
 in the thousands, if not millions or more.
 Numbers have become numb in their meanings,
 except when illness or death knock on your door.
 
 So the planet spins and traces its path
 'round a sun that cares about us not a whit.
 And we trudge our way through this dark Winter
 on its back, as if we were each just some nit.
 
 I try to have hope things will get better
 now that more sunlight’s creeping back this way.
 Our longest night might finally be over,
 and with it some of our sorrow and dismay.
 
 But if you still have trouble finding the good,
 you’ll need a certain help finding the better.
 Perhaps we can brighten our lives like we used to,
 simply talking ourselves out of the darkness together.

Our Angels Fly Low


 The snow’s come back, it’s Nature’s way
 to demonstrate who’s boss.
 And if you fail to know that by now
 then, Baby, that’s your loss.
 That’s a surprise, since loss you wear
 like a parka in the snow.
 No one looks good in those gloomy rags
 but what the hell do I know?
 Life’s fashion plate I’ve never been,
 always it's blue or gray or black.
 Let’s go outside and enjoy the snow,
 We’ll wear all white when we come back.
 
 Would it cheer you in these darkling days,
 when sorrow’s all around us?
 Lay down here with me and swing your arms,
 and angels leave behind, thus.
 And perhaps other angels we’ll hear on high,
 come some silent night ahead.
 The snow’s let up, our angels fly low,
 wings touching on this bed.
 They say angels are forever beings,
 but ours might be gone tomorrow.
 I pray my words lay forever in your heart 
 and one day smooth your sorrow.
 

Their Gifts


 
As the holidays come, he’d been thinking
 about her and others in his dim past.
 His memories, like white tree lights blinking
 flash and fade like guests, yet she’s always last.
 
 Does he recall the cards and gifts they shared?
 Has she kept any of them all these years?
 He hoped she understood they meant he cared,
 even the times his gift brought her to tears.

 Then his mind would move to another thing,
 focus he couldn’t hold long anymore.
 But occasionally some thought would bring
 a shadow she once knew to her mind’s door.
 
 But shadows are hard to find in the black,
 the darkest night of the year will bring soon.
 She drops that thought back in its velvet pack,
 and, for no reason, hums herself an old tune.
 
 And so their thoughts pass as if in a storm,
 out of reach, like a lost note or missed flight.
 That’s their lives, misses and losses the norm.
 But life’s gift’s best shared if only they might.

Some Small Kind of Love


I’d love to eat away the dark clouds,
 but for so long they’ve feasted on me.
 I’m smudged across the sky face-up,
 so I don’t even get a view of the world
 from this dingy popcorn ceiling.
 And so I must rely on memories of my
 once-was, which grow foggier each day.
 I view them from my hazy altostratus hammock,
 neither fowl nor fish, soprano nor bass,
 just smoky wisps of "mmm…perhaps" that’ve 
 always kept me above distant, concrete reality.
 You do look lovely here, though, where
 all our hair is ashen so who cares about age, 
 and storms fill in for what passes for passion. 
 Maybe someday I’ll turn over and find you, 
 bright-faced, smiling with some small kind of love 
 at sun-laced puffs of poetry…recognizing 
 a few kinda look like you.

Can’t Change Who We Are

 
  I don’t really know you, just like 
  you never knew me. You assumed, 
  ever since once I opened my mouth, 
  and out came some impermanent impertinence, 
  as I spoke the thought of a moment.
  True, here and there I’ve expressed 
  myself embarrassingly in black and white, 
  that more enduring medium with which 
  I’ve abased myself.
  I can’t change who I am, though I can 
  always change my mind. If you 
  don’t believe that, then I guess 
  that’s proof perhaps you’ve 
  never changed, either. 
  That’s fine, though, I wouldn’t wish
  to change you. Well, maybe just 
  one opinion.
  I’m not…

The Boat



They’ve taken the sheets, now even the mattress,
 for fear he’ll use them, himself to smother.
 They wager if he’ll last three days, at best.
 “I feel for the bastard,” some guards mutter.
 
 “What if a European had done it,
 crossing Il Mare in so small a craft?”
 “I’ve got no sympathy. No, not one bit,”
 said the oldest guard. With a sneer he laughed.
 
 “Serves him right trying to sneak in that way.
 Caught a wave wrong. That boat flipped like a toy.”
 “Yeah, but should he such a penalty pay?
 Can always send him back, but not the boy.”
 
 The disconsolate prisoner agreed.
 Mehmet wanted to pay for his blunder.
 Guilty of negligence a court decreed.
 “Why couldn’t it have been me went under?”


I was asked to write a poem in medias res last week and couldn't come up with anything because...that's how it is these days. But I heard a story on the BBC this morning about a man who had the misfortune to have happen what occurs in my poem. The world has always been, at best, an unforgiving thing. And the sea might be its harshest child. 
 

Hello, You


 
 Hello, you, 
 the one who
 helped me see
 poetry
 in my life.
 Even the strife.
 
 I miss what
 you did, but
 now you’re gone,
 life moves on,
 even when
 comes the end.
 
 Memory,
 I and thee,
 together
 forever
 on this stage,
 a white page.
 
 Now I’m tired,
 uninspired.
 Lost the way,
 sad to say.
 So I go.
 Thank you….
                      Joe