Inside an Asda supermarket in Keighley, West Yorkshire, via Wikipedia
At 9:30 AM in the supermarket,
the ladies lead their men up and down
the aisles like well-behaved dogs.
Of course, even angelic canines
need break away from mistresses
when they see that shiny jar of jalapeños,
smell that tasty tray of glazed donuts,
hear the beer distributor jingle his bottles.
That’s when the ladies bring
their shuffling charges back
to their sides with a “No,” or
“Remember what the doctor said.”
The old fellow quietly growls,
slinking back toward Mistress’ cart
as she points to the economy sized box
of Raisin Bran and issues a silent,
Glowing Embers. Photo by Jens Buurgaard Niels, via Wikipedia
We, the human kind, know a hunger,
felt by no other creature.
It is a hunger of the heart we call
a yearning. It offers us gloriously
flaming pains we circle like moths
within our hearts all our waking days.
My yearnings lie stacked within me
like cordwood, each having a name,
each carved like some graven idol
resembling one I could not exist without.
But I do.
A new yearning comes along, turning
the idol to charcoal, or it just
flames out, the pain growing
smaller and smaller. But still,
they never let me rest.
It can be like a windblown tree branch
tapping at my window as I try
drifting off to a sleep without dreams.
Or maybe it becomes like the drip
of a faucet I barely hear but know
is there, softly haunting.
The other night, I give that tap
one more good twist to the right
and closed my eyes, believing
I’d shut down the last yearning.
But I was wrong.
There will always be that lone
echoing heartbeat I feel when
I place these fingertips upon
my own chest. I’ll feel that
glowing ember until this burning,
yearning heart stops and
hungers no more.
There’s a tiny space between
truth and the lie that he used to
slide through, slick as a snake
hunting warm prey.
He’d look any girl in the eye
and she’d freeze, not with fear,
but with an inquisitiveness,
a need to know, an insatiable attraction,
like that of a moth caught
before the flame.
That’s what made his fall
all the more interesting,
all the more comical,
all the more notable, for it was
his heart eventually lying there,
she-scorched, on the barroom floor.
There’s a space between
truth and the lie, and it runs
in two directions.
He often wondered if.
Not necessarily the what if,
the suppose if, the if-then,
the how about if, the if only.
His if surpassed the conjunction’s
nature to ask a question or
to join two different things.
All the heartbeat noise and stir,
the inhale and exhale
of night’s spent staring
at if written in bold black
invisibility upon nothing but
dark ceiling, waking to if climbing
the eastern horizon, filled his eyes
like pennies on a dead man’s.
He’d long cursed his dread realization
that two skinny letters could unite
a pair of ideas, concepts,
realities, when a wider duo
— WE —
— US —
Autumn on the Hudson, by Jasper Francis Cropsey, 1875
I miss those times we’d walk side by side,
the breeze, your breath, brushing
my face softly as I inhaled you.
I’m afraid I’m misplacing us among
so many of my memories, losing you
to fog-bound years, to our time apart.
To forget those days we touched,
how we turned gray and then white together,
how you always would echo back
to the vision of how you looked
the first time I saw you, would leave
my soul dry as a forever drought.
You’ll never know the many times
I spent watching you as you’d lie there
and I sat transfixed, dreaming,
at your bedside. The train would sound
in the distance and I knew my time
had come. But always I would linger.
You’ve been the route by which feelings
finally came upon me and emotions
floated away, the coursing blood
in my history, the ink in my pen.
Carve your scar deeper into me,
Great North River, heart-blood of empire,
companion, inspiration, muse.
Never let me go.
A poem of my personal and artistic relationship with the Hudson River, one I fear fading into a sad distance with age and geography.
Alexander cuts the Gordian Knot, by Jean-Simon Berthélemy (1743–1811)
Where would you go,
if you could start over again?
Where would you pick up
the thread of your life and
cast it in a new direction?
“Oh, 17,” she’d say, “before
I made all those mistakes.
I’d think every new inch.”
True, I’d say, you’ve knotted
your golden thread in some
serious grannies and tangles.
But I can’t judge.
Where would I go?
Hard to say. My life is nothing
but one Gordian cock-up,
impossible to retrace and
stretch out again. I guess I’d
maybe choose 11, when I got
my first scout knife.
Here, let’s cut me open and
spread me out. See the
tapestry of a life raveled
in doubt, fear, and the soft
ensnaring loops of misplaced
hope that trapped me within
since I first frayed that
yellow blanket in my crib.
Winter doesn’t know when it’s over.
It doesn’t know it isn’t Spring,
Summer or Autumn. In fact, they’ve
never even been properly introduced.
They just bump into one or the other
one day, not knowing who they are,
where they’re going or what day it is.
It’s scientists and poets who like to think
they recognize what the seasons are
all about, who give silly names to storms
and overly dramatic voices to the winds.
But we’re really not sure if
another tomorrow will greet us or if
we’ll ever meet our soul mate.
We may bump into that someone one day
on the street, pass in a flash
of sunlight on the highway,
not a name or warm touch exchanged.
Oh well, it’s mid-February and
the grass lies open to Winter’s
bright smile in the azure sky.
Snow hides in the shadow places
like some criminal, when all it did
was remind a poet he can only capture
the “close enough” of what
he thinks he knows of these days.
And, really, he doesn’t know
anything for certain other than
the big ambiguous It isn’t over yet.
Rain taps the window,
a piano with no strings,
while wind blows through trees
in a rhythmless clatter
and a sound like oboes
Cold pierces the wall
with a metallic sharpness
I feel in feet that keep no beat
and on ears that sense only
ticks and whooshes.
I long to hear the soft thump
of heartbeat against my chest,
of your warm breath as it
waltzes across my atonal ear.
No nature, nor charts, strings,
reeds or brass could ever move me
as you in concert with us.
You get to a certain age and
your memory becomes like
that snow falling outside
upon an even older snow fall.
You’ve left footprints in that earlier one,
each an impression, something
you can look back to and say,
“I’ve been there.”
And with each sweep of falling flakes,
the scope of your vision loses clarity
and those footprints, become
It’s not the snow I curse.
That’s what led to those original imprints
in this smooth canvas of the life
I’ve traversed. I just wish I could find them
a little easier when this snow ends.
But it doesn’t seem to end,
it keeps falling, sometimes
just a flurry, others a blizzard.
Now I stand in place, the flakes
falling upon my shoulders,
dimming any recognition of me,
until I straighten my spine,
suck in a deep, bracing breath and
testify in my Come-to-Jesus voice,
“Yeah, I’ve been there…
…but now I’m here.”
My friend, the writer Jo-Anne Teal, has pointed out that many of my poems resonate experiences to those of us who’ve attained “a certain age.” I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear that, wanting to appear the younger, flat-bellied, dark-haired Guy I thought I once was. But she’s right. I can only tell you what I know, where I’ve been, maybe even what I feel (God help us all). So now I’m okay with “owning” this new-life position of poet-of-a-certain-age because that’s what I am. And I’ve got some things to tell you before the snow falls too hard or gets too deep and I can’t find my way back anymore. This is a poetic picture of my footprints.
Like this mid-February snow
on the bristled fields,
I’ve been scoured
by winter winds from the peaks
of their memories’ topographies.
I am the enigma, the shadow
from the periphery of potential
Once-was, destined to become
the ultimate question of Who-was.
To all the ones I thought I loved,
and no doubt to the few who
could love me, I am the paradox,
the deep wellspring who could never
spill the feelings they sought
in comprehensible thoughts
or deeds, let alone
But the singing winds will blow,
and the springing hope always
returns, until, for me,
one day it won’t.
Maybe that will be my time
to step from these shadowy places
to dawn as a memory that will bring
you smiles, the answer
to that final question.