You sit and ask yourself these questions every day,
questions about self, the world and the world
within yourself. You must be relentless
in this interrogation, taking it beyond
mere Question and Answer into
Answer Known and So Why? So What? So Who?
And So Why? once more.
Sometimes the response is instantaneous,
others you must drag it from within your darkness
by a chain. The brave ones know it’s the sneaking
imminent ones, the ones beneath your tongue,
hiding in plain sight of your heart,
the YOU concealed among those look-alike boys
who eagerly cast lies on the breeze,
who provide that most difficult extraction.
And this is why sometimes you have to break
the rules of order, writing these things
under a stark, bare light, at the end of a rubber hose,
scarring yourself with worry and woe, joy and hope.
Relentless, the poet must ever pry.

Poem #15, the Ides of April halfway point of Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo 2015. This was a call for an “adjective” poem. Maybe I succeeded and maybe I didn’t. But I at least dug within and DID.

Too Honest by Half


“Lag BaOmer bonfire” by Yoninah via Wikimedia Commons

To be honest, I haven’t half-thought this
out or anything for that matter in quite a while.
But that’s because for so long I’d only half-seen
the truth when it stood there in front of me.

That’s understandable, because most of us
only half-speak the truth or the lie,
never quite going all in on the whole
and nothing but…

I’m old enough now to not care being
much like the norm, who skirt verity like
it was a big bonfire. I don’t want to be
one of you who get close enough to feel warm,
but not so close as to get burned.

I wear the scars from facing that heat.
It hurt, but not so much as standing close enough
to feel all your tepid, half-assed, la-dee-da
half-truths smiling in my face.

Poem #14 for Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo 2015, prompted by a request for an honest or dishonesty poem. Typically, I did both in one.

Five Our Fathers and Eight Hail Marys


Confessionals in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain,
by Georges Jansoone, via Wikipedia

It was silly, the heart-pounding,
sweaty-palmed anxiety
of sitting there in the twilight
of a near-empty church,
waiting to whisper what a ten-year-old
thought were grievous sins
to a forty-year-old man hiding in a box
behind a screen and a collar.

I remember the nuns making us
practice for first confession
and sending me back to my seat
to think up more sins, since
I couldn’t come up with enough
imaginary ones from which
I could be given a real penance.

I haven’t been back in many years.
Not since one of those guys
sitting in the darkness committed
his own too-real heart-pounding,
sweaty sins and felt forgiven
after some buddy in another box gave him
five Our Fathers and eight Hail Marys.

My catch-up poem, #13 in Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo 2015, from a prompt asking for a confession poem. A free-write produced this, for which I may burn.

Don’t Blink

Rolling through the valley,
you pass the canal and mill towns,
the farms that string like an antique necklace
all the way to Albany. Near Dolgeville,
I saw a once-was farmhouse and barn,
empty of family and stock.
The barn’s roof rested on the milking floor,
empty birds’ nests in its beams and joists.
Yet the house still stood, though canted
toward the Mohawk.
It looked to be held up by one window,
which stood almost plumb and middling strong
for the time being, staring as it always did,
out at the path where the cows once
rumbled in and lowed for their milking.
“Don’t blink” I said to myself as I rushed by,
“because someday this will all be gone.”
“Don’t blink,” I begged the house, whose
sad swirled-glass eye looked out
on one more hollow bead in the
necklace leading all the way to Albany.

The Shadows Always Win

I’m eastbound for home
in a late afternoon race
with sundown. The shadows
of the cars and semis
stretch like sprays of night
before or beside us.
Passing a big rig outside Herkimer,
the shade is cool and I
lose the sun on my rooftop
for twenty yards in front of him.
Up ahead, crows, the shadow birds,
blanket the carcass of some
unlucky ruminant who stepped
out of the shadows
near the highway —
and then became one.
As I pulled into my driveway
just before 7:30, I’d succeeded
in whipping the dimming end of day.
But my shadow, now stretched
to a grey, exhausted grotesquerie,
reached out, key in hand,
and beat me to my front door.
I guess the downed deer
should have provided the lesson.
No matter how fast you run,
the shadows always win.

I was on the road all day Saturday, so today is a make-up day for Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo. Here’s #11, which came to me as I raced home from Utica, trying to make it before dark.

How to Write a Poem

A daydreaming gentleman;
from an original 1912 postcard published in Germany,

via Wikipedia.

First you sit down and
look out the window.
Whether a framed bit of glass or
a soft hole in your soul,
doesn’t matter. Then you wait,
looking for the ripples in
the breeze and listening for
the colors of nature,
human and otherwise,
to reveal themselves.
Did I mention you have to
do this with your heart?
Sorry, those are the rules.
I never realized, when I
was a boy, that I was writing
poems when I would stare
at the world and you,
whether you were in front of me
or not. I just forgot
to write down the details of
how the air around you glowed,
how the songs of birds shone
blue and yellow and how it
felt to touch you with my heart
when I wasn’t touching you at all.
Until today.

Poem #10 for NaPoWriMo 2015. A “How…” poem, that changed when I looked out that second window.

A Cold Day in April


Råbylille Strand, Møn, Denmark: beach and sea from in early spring

He huddles against April’s cold
awaiting the work this season must do.
Trees rattle, but in new finery,
crows’ black raiment amended
with drops of red, brown, blue and gray.
But the brush of this season of rebirth
has yet to daub its verdant cheer.
Breezes’ cold rustles no longer sing
Winter’s forlorn moan, but birdsongs,
each calling a longing for the warmth of another.
The man, shoulders hunched against
another chilling pronouncement of Spring delayed,
whistles his lonely tune, recalling brown hair,
blue eyes and red lips in his graying memory
of keeping her warm all those Aprils ago.

Poem #9 of poem-a-day April, NaPoWriMo 2015. Was asked to write a work poem. I chose to write of the work of the season and of keeping a long-ago memory warm as Spring.