It’s not that I wish
my creaky old bones
could still maneuver
a shovel full of snow
like a martial arts master
slicing the chrysanthemum air
with fancy sword or spear.
I’d be quite content never
again to clear pathways of
the imperialist white interloper
overtaking my home.
But the spray of snow
from the spout of a blower
carving egress from
my fevered cabin
sometimes entrances me
like watching the flowing silk
streaming from the ends
of those blades swung in
harmonious soft and hard
by Righteous and
I’ve believe I’ve been
cooped up here too long.
The Poor Poet, by Carl Spitzweg, 1839.
You couldn’t call it sadness,
because it’s not. Though
I guess you can call something
anything you like.
That oak tree might pass
for a teddy bear to some,
broccoli to others and
Aunt Sue to Uncle Jake.
But what I’m feeling
probably isn’t sadness.
Doesn’t sadness feel like
a gut full of vinegar-soaked knots
or a head full of mini-constrictors
crushing your brain,
squishing out the joy?
I’m sure there’s some up here.
I think I left it behind that
sheet-draped, me-looking facsimile
Damn, where’d I put it?
Isn’t that sad?
I wonder what would happen if we just
ran into one another someday.
It’s not going to happen, but what if?
Would your chest jump a little,
gassed on adrenalin or maybe bile?
Would you get all prickly around
your ears and face as blood
pushed all the elevator buttons?
Would you turn and cross the street,
like you meant to do that all along,
never looking at me, rather than
present your face to mine in a guarded
“Hi, old friend” moment?
Would we even recognize one another,
after age and life and lies have made like
locusts or glaciers on
our my face s?
Would you be okay with an every-five-years
reunion of our class of two? I’d be the one
with the sticker on my chest that said
“Hi, my name is …” since I seldom know
who I am anymore other than old.
I don’t know why I wonder these things
from time to time. Maybe it’s the hopeful,
unworthy masochist in me.
You know, the one who each day
casts lines of memory and imagination
into the dark ocean of time,
never knowing what I’ll haul in.
Today it’s been muddy, writhing
questions and wonders. That’s how it goes
when you fish for words and hope.
There’s always another chance tomorrow.
The shadows on the snow are blue,
I think. Are they shivering cold
or shaking in the wind lying there
on that white expanse left unbroken all winter?
I’m sure I’d be blue if I went all cursive
on that pristine page. Instead,
I sit here in an off-gray pallor,
the dermatological equivalent of
an inside voice, while I interview shadows,
present and past, outside my double-paned
Emily Dickinson-autograph model world view.
An orphan orange leaf races blindly across
the tree shadows, like it’s frantic to
be gathered up in their arms again,
while I gather all these
different hues of blues,
all the azures and ultramarines,
cobalts and cyans, sorrows and desolations,
and scatter them like leaves
of complimentary colors across
this snowfield beneath my hand.
The shadows are growing longer now,
wider and darker, too, turning
to indigo and eventually, I would guess,
to midnight, when they’ll be near-black,
mourning the passing of this
sun-bright day, when I could sit
and compare all my blues to theirs
and not once feel sad about.
No, not even once.
Maude Fealy, Photo via Wikipedia
He borrowed her photo from the Internet.
It depicted a beautiful girl from 1908.
She’d infected him with an infatuation
for which he sought no cure and
he carried her around in his phone
the way previous generations kept the photo
of the pretty girl that came with their wallets.
“Sure she was my girlfriend, once,” they’d say,
and quickly slap shut the leather,
lest the guys looked too closely.
He couldn’t do that with Maude.
She obviously was from another era,
though had beauty enough for any.
Whenever the lonelies embraced him,
or the trout pouts and phonies
ignored his goodness, he dialed up Maude.
“She’s not my girlfriend,” he’d say,
and slowly click shut the app
after one last longing look at her.
Because, of course, she really was.
What I wouldn’t give to see
dust running up and down
the road today. Feeling
its gritty fingers on my cheek
would bring those old tears
to my eyes, or at least
that’s what I’d blame.
We used to walk
in that warm breeze,
blinking a code only the lonely
might understand, if they was
to take their eyes off the ground,
or turn them around
from the dark, blinded inside.
I saw a picture of us,
side-by-side on that walk,
sun behind us,
those dusty old days, too.
And your soft memory
did dust’s job
Heard the great John Hiatt’s “Dust Down a Country Road” today. And then my heart heard this…
How is it I get so dizzy
just looking down
from so low a prospect as this?
Why does the pain
of falling from here—
the chronic falling, not
the soon forgotten landings—
strike me as so great
and so long?
Maybe it’s the climb back
to what I’d laughingly call the top—
if I laughed much anymore—
that helps me forget that abrupt stop
at the bottom. It’s an aching,
a back-breaking trek, despite
its short distance. And because
I don’t look down,
fearful always of the misstep,
the inevitable error in my oft-faulty footing,
it’s so long.
Someday I wish to keep climbing,
ascending to the heights
of the smiling ones, whose anti-frowns
ensnare birdsongs from below.
I’d never look down again,
never contemplate that dizzying sight,
the speedy final fall, that one-way flight
from which there’d be no bounce.
Just the close-eyed bliss
like a fleeting last kiss
of one final adieu
and so long.