Falling Leaves

January Pages

January Pages (Photo credit: alykat)

That dog-eared, marked-up 12-page manuscript
on the wall gets changed again tonight for
a revised version with page numbers shifted
and the title respelled. I’ve seen a lot of these
restockings a handful of sunrises after hanging
of Christmas stockings on the day this slim volume’s
denouement says we’re supposed to. Then, The End.

I thought about this construct for a long time,
while counting all the so-called Mondays to Fridays
and how many full leaf-falls until I can scribble
my own manuscript full of leaves. Recently I figured out
I’m not as old as these calendars say I am
simply because a certain number of Septembers
fell like any other pages from the trees.

The Final Bar


Left hand wraps the neck of my Larrivee
and I press four fingers into a G-major shape.
I like the fuller sound of my pinky on the high E,
ring finger on the B, both third fret.
G, C9, D, the I-IV-V progression.
Then E-A-B. All nice big cowboy chords,
twelve bars, like the progression
from January to December.
It’s always like that…the years,
the mindless strumming through life.

This past one was good to great,
with its share of sad, so I turn the chords
into 7ths and play it all as a slow Blues.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
This gets pretty boring, the passage
of chords, of days, of months,
unless I throw in some solo runs.
I sometimes show off
(for myself, up in my Lair).
You know, just to be free of Life’s structure.

But this thing has to end.
I can hear my critics downstairs, 
so, as I come back ’round to Bar 11,
I go grab my I Chord, the E,
and let it ring nice and long,
closing my eyes to remember it
until my next time.
They have a word for finishing up
on that tonic chord. We resolve back to it.
Just like in that last bar of the year,
we end things with resolution.

Shhh… Still ringing.

This was written as a true Internal-Editor’s-eyes-closed Free Write in response to the photo above from my friend Kellie Elmore’s blog and her New Year’s Free Write Friday feature. I admit, it’s a little rambly and free-form, like a good blues and a good year.

Five Sentence Fiction ~ Ending

The Half Windsor


Half-Windsor (Photo credit: Timothy Valentine)

Larissa Fine straightened her husband Eddie’s tie — a blue one in a Half Windsor knot — and patted his chest.

“What would you ever do without me, Eddie?” she asked, taking a sticky roller to the lint and such on the shoulders of his best suit.

No one ever thought her Eddie would retire from the family business, he loved it too much — crooked ties and all — but retire he did, handing complete control of the place to his and Larissa’s son, Ted.

And tonight would be the chance for goodbyes and all Eddie’s gang — family, business colleagues, even the guys in his bowling league — were coming.

Looking up from Eddie’s coffin, Larissa smiled and nodded to Ted to open The Fine Funeral Home doors and allow the early mourners in.

Lillie McFerrin

Here is my latest Five Sentence Fiction offering, based on a prompt from Lillie McFerrin. This week: Ending.

Purple Awakening

Purple Clouds

Purple Clouds (Photo credit: amandabhslater)

Purple clouds daub the eastern sky,
bruising reminders of this,
my abusive relationship with winter
and dawn. I traverse the slippery slope
of driveway, highway, my way,
to get this body where it is scheduled to be.
So, with two left feet on the gas,
I lock myself in this well-rehearsed,
one-track commute to and from
everyday butt whoopings.
But whoopings are what I learned
(somewhere) someone’s got to take
for the team, and it’s not right for
just anyone to be that someone.
No one can do it so well as I.
That’s how I got these garlands
of that purple I wear hidden
from dawn to sunset…
and from you and often even me.

Away, Near a Manger


Stables (Photo credit: Earlham College)

Get-together at Cliff’s barn, and the evening stable smells,
chilled like leftovers from an equine Christmas party,
sting my nose like the host overseasoned the hay,
tossed nutmeg in the meal, or gifted the gelding
with too much Paco Rabanne.

And once agin it crossed my mind,
if the faith-spawning story is totally true,
did a similar cold night in a barn
on the other side of the world
carry somewhat similar smells?

I try to envision the reality of that scene,
mindful that the people in the Nativity story
didn’t appear to be carrying their own
key lighting and Martin guitar accompaniment.
Did they sense the same ambiance as I do?

Or did the application of a little of that gift
frankincense and myrrh make their barn smell
a wee bit more festive than these present-day digs
for old Dobbin.  I think I think too much…
But every Christmas, I still wonder.

Snow Angels

Snow Angel

Snow Angel (Photo credit: dalechumbley)

The nightmares began in the week before Christmas;
screaming, fearsome trespass into the child’s mind.
The news had infringed with no conscience
and stolen a bit of innocence from the six year old,
waking her from a terror others could not escape.
“I don’t want Santa to come into our house,”
she said one night. “it scares me.”
“You’ll be safe, hon,” her father whispered.

“Mommy and Daddy will protect you,”
her mother said. “And your Guardian Angel, too.”
“Why didn’t their Guardian Angels
protect them?” she asked,
in the direct distillation of thought
only a child can accomplish.
Her father closed his eyes and drew a breath
before telling her.

“Because so many little kids
and their Mommies and Daddies
fear this world more than we used to,
God needed more brave little angels
to help them feel protected.”
As snow fell outside the bedroom window,
the little one lay down with her mother,
satisfied for a bit, sleeping safely in her arms.

Her dad thanked God for her and that
she heard not the door open and close twice.
When she awoke in the morning,
little Emma called into the kitchen,
“Daddy come see, come see.”
There in the new-fallen snow, a score
of snow angels had ringed their blessings
upon a home and a little girl.

I’m sorry if this doesn’t really sound like a poem. I’ve been struggling with these feelings all weekend and I have difficulty expressing such things sometimes except by “writing them out.”  Some folks say I’m some kind of storyteller, but I often lack the emotional capacity to couch thoughts of such horrible things as the Newtown tragedy in words. This piece has helped me gather a few in one place. May all our angels rest in the peace of this season, and all to come.

An Honor

Most of you who know “real” Joe and not only the Poet Guy Joe, understand that I am a bit strange when it comes to dealing with praise or honors. I’m like one of those Roman generals driving his chariot into Rome after a victory. In my case, there is always a voice something like my own yelling into my ear, not whispering, that I’m still the dirt-dull and too-fallible doofus I’ve always been. Just occasionally luckier.

So it is with my usual confused awkwardness that I announce the international poetry journal Aquillrelle Magazine has honored me with selection as its “Poet of the Month.”

I’d like to express my most sincere gratitude to the editors of Aquilrelle for this honor their kind attention to my poetry.