Speak to Me in Light

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Get that hurt look off your face.
Darkness will be with us always.
But so too the light, because
without light we wouldn’t’
know but dark. It would be all.
I know some who breathe in
darkness and exhale light,
banishing even my blackest pain,
miracles performed by the spirit
of kindness and gratitude
within them. It’s as simple as
we dispel cold with the white clouds
we speak on even the darkest
winter’s night. I like to dream we
possess that gift, calling
and feeling returned such light
like dawn upon another dawn,
all the echoes of our lives.

Another instance of using the first and last lines of a song by one of my favorite songwriters, James McMurtry. These bookends for my study of light overcoming the dark are from his song, “Dusty Pages.” Such people do exist. You know them, they can take your darkness and turn it to light so you see, if not your way out, at least a brighter path. Oh yeah, and this is another of my compulsive 100-word pieces. 

Prima Ballerina Assoluta

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She’s peeled off her shrug of russet,
just about ready for her
season-long performance
of The Nutcracker.
Anchored firmly in fifth position,
she stretches her bare arms
skyward, perhaps for a demi-détourné.
She’s the only danseuse left
from the corps de ballet that once
swayed and rustled their
crispy tulle in concert with
the West Wind’s orchestrations.
Now she’s the principal,
evergreens complementing her
in her terra cotta-colored costume
as the dawn lights rise above the roofline,
compelling me to applaud with this pencil.
Despite her snow-broken branch
and wrinkled bark, she’s still
prima ballerina assoluta
of the backyard ballet.

Every year, this last oak on the  north boundary of our backyard sheds most of its leaves except for that ring sound its lower limbs. I’ve always called it her tutu, which really stands out when the snow has fallen. She’s dropping her shrug now and we’re supposed to catch some snow tomorrow, but I couldn’t wait to write about her in the dawn light this morning.

Things Fall Apart

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Things fall apart, the Irishman said,
and, as days dwindled like hours
dropping by the temporal roadside,
my life sloughing off like a snake’s skin,
I’d once turn to look at the trail of debris
I’ve left along my way.

Along both shoulders of this
pothole-pocked gravel two-lane lies
the detritus of all my broken promises,
crushed chances, dashed hopes,
severed relationships and shattered dreams.
But I reckon that’s what this life’s
supposed to be, not some smooth interstate
of a heretofore to hereafter.

I’ve found it’s like driving along
and That Song comes on the radio
and you see Her while the highway fades away
for the next six miles. Suddenly
you’ve reached your destination and
you don’t remember how you got there,
what you passed on the way, what
you might’ve dropped while recalling
a better-forgotten past and contemplated
a cloudy never-will-be.

I try not to look back, try not to imagine
my destination. This current place
in my journey is what’s most important.
And every time I think of taking a peek,
I look hard to the right and left
and continue slouching toward Bethlehem
or wherever it is I’ll finally fall.

My thanks to William Butler Yeats for the opening and closing lines of this marathon (for me) of a poem. Those lines come from his poem, The Second Coming. We only get one coming, though, so maybe we should try taking in as much of the scenery of our lives rather than who/what/where we’ve been and what it’ll be like when we reach that nebulous destination that we probably won’t make anyway..

The Hours Lost

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It’s strange how some mornings
I wake up before the sun,
and a light I cannot see
goes on there in the dark.
Even with my eyes closed
I see things I haven’t seen
in a long time. Most likely
because I’ve kept my eyes closed.
It happens more and more
these not-quite days, when
I really would like back
those extra two hours of sleep
these vivid visions stole
in the blackness of this room,
where I thought I shut everything —
doors, eyes, mind — long ago.
Maybe it’s our hours I wish
I hadn’t lost that want me back.

So The Poets Tell Me

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He asked me how I do this,
lacing words like macaroni
on a string of some thread
of a thought, like it’s
a Mother’s Day gift necklace
you dutifully made in second Grade.
Sometimes it’s that easy,
and it looks it, wonky doggerel
with broken mini penne sticking out
like a the the in the third line.
Other times, when you want to weave
something special,
like a fine Navajo blanket in verse,
it comes out looking like
one of those potholders you’d make
from stretchy bands on
a comb-toothed frame in Cub Scouts.
But when the right thought,
the right words,
the right secret sauce
of frantic inspiration
comes along,
thirty minutes staring into
the pale blue haze
of a laptop screen
just before dawn
can feel like only
a heartbeat, and look like
a poetic sundown sky scape
from the pages
of Arizona Highways.
Or so The Poets tell me.

Sorta, kinda inspired by my brother. Thanks, Mike. This probably doesn’t answer your question, but to think about the How usually ends up with me asking myself Why. And that’s a question I don’t think I can answer in one of my pieces of pasta jewelry like the word one above.

More Perfect Union

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As the latest election newscast droned on, the old man sighed and muted the television.

“Y’know, I’ve met a couple of presidents. And some presidential candidates, too,” Grandpa Ed Duryea said to thirteen-year-old Grace one afternoon.

“You did? Which ones?”

“Well, there were Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter back during the Bicentennial. That’s 1976 to you youngsters who may not care that this country has a proud history spanning almost 250 years.”

“I know that,” Grace said with a tiny pout.

“Even met Trump and Hillary Clinton, though neither when they were running for President then,” Ed said.

“Really?”

“Yup. Then there was Rodney Schuyler Beauchamp.”

“Who?” Grace said, her eyes widening.

“You never heard of Rodney Beauchamp?” her Pa said.

“Of course not. Nobody by that name ever ran for president,” Grace said.

“Well, that’s where you’re wrong, Gracie. And Beauchamp was probably the most presidential man I’ve ever met,” Ed replied. The old man then walked out to the kitchen for another mug of coffee.

“You can’t just leave me hanging here with that bit of information and just walk away, Pa,” Grace said as she followed her grandfather into the kitchen. “Who the heck was Rodney Beauchamp?”

Ed stirred some creamer into his mug of Colombian Suprema. He clinched a larger smile down to his wry grin, the one that Grace knew could bring on a great tale of his reporter days or an even greater lie.

“1972 it was. Rodney lived on a farm with his brother Roland near Mooers Forks, up on the Quebec border. Got tired of all these hippies and privileged draft dodgers running through his place day and night to sneak into Canada,” Ed said, nudging his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

“I read about that. Some guys refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War and ran off to Canada. Right?”

“Correct, hon. It was as divisive a time in our history as I’ve seen in my sixty-odd years. Peaceful protest turned into violent police, even military, pushback. Racial strife leading to flaming riots in big cities from coast to coast. And Roland’s orchards and pastures became his own Ground Zero of protest. He was ticked off at the government and wasn’t going to take it anymore,” Pa said.

“So he that’s why he decided to run for President?” Grace asked. She rocked her chair closer to her grandfather.

“Not…exactly.”

“But you said…”

“I said he was ticked off, but there’s a little more to the story. See, those bachelor farmers don’t have much of a life but cultivating, herding and milking, from before dawn to after sundown. Their pastime is reading their Bibles and the news. In the Beauchamp brothers’ case, that wasn’t just the Adirondack Enterprise, but included the Montreal Gazette…a major newspaper without any biases here in the States.”

“So?” Grace said, blinking.

“So Rodney and Roland looked at the whole American geopolitical scene as world citizens, not just North Country farmboys. And they didn’t take kindly to how we got neck-deep in the Big Muddy of the Mekong with that whole Tonkin Gulf decision letting LBJ essentially declare war, when it’s actually the role of Congress, not the President. They felt the powers that be had ripped and set fire to their Constitution. That and all those boys tearing up their farm on the road to Canada settled Rodney’s decision.”

“To run for President…”

“Actually, to be President. He figured if the Constitution was no longer the law of this land, he’d make it the law of his own land. So Rodney declared his two hundred acres the sovereign state of Beauchampia and himself as its President,” Ed said with that grin again.

“Awww, Pa…” Grace said, pushing her chair back and turning to leave the kitchen.

“After the Beauchampia army——Roland——chased off some conscientious interlopers by seasoning their backsides with light shotgun loads and rock salt, the State Police found out there was a new country between the United States and Canada. Rodney and Roland chased them off, but then US marshals declared war on Beauchampia. They stormed the farmhouse before dawn. Roland was ready, but outgunned. That’s when Rodney declared an armistice. The Feds put Border Patrol officers on Rodney’s boundary with Canada and the influx of ‘undesirable aliens’ coming through Beauchampia’s national cow pasture dropped a trickle,” Ed said.

“Sure, Pa,” Grace called from the living room.

Ed shook his head and recalled the last words he heard Rodney say before they hauled him off to jail and put Roland in the back of the coroner’s station wagon.

“You have no standing in my country. You don’t have jurisdiction to make me do or not do anything. I’m President and a citizen of Beauchampia and here, under our constitution, I decide those things. And you can’t stop us. This is just the beginning. The United States no longer has a moral or political center, no rudder. You’re adrift. I don’t think you’ll ever get back to being the real United States anymore,” Rodney Beauchamp said.

“That was one tough old bird,” Ed said under his breath

He pulled his laptop in front of him and pulled up the New York Times’ site. After reading a few stories there, he visited the Plattsburgh Press-Republican’s site. After ten minutes, he returned to the den where he and Grace had started this history lesson. She had changed the channel from CNN to Fox, which she always laughed at, but her grandfather shook his head at both channels.

“You know, Gracie, not too many days have gone by since they took old Rodney away that I haven’t seen something that made me think he was onto something with that ripped-up Constitution idea. I’ve seen it twisted and folded and sometimes mutilated by the ruling class and the common man alike,” he said, slumping into his leather chair. He knew he couldn’t stand to watch any more election fallout stories. His constitution couldn’t take much more.

“Would you turn on the PBS station, please, Gracie? I think it’s time for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I think I need my sense of right, wrong and the fair treatment of your fellow man…or tiger… reinforced.”

A first-draft pass at a story based on a prompt from Sharyl Fuller. I’ve written a poem related to the quote, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Now here’s a 1,000-word bit of prose.

Always Another Tumble

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I’d be embarrassed
for you to see me today,
sick and bloated,
dragging body and soul
from dawn to dark.
I know the memory of me
is cloudy and tainted
by another of my tumbles
in this long road of mine to
understanding and forgiveness.
I’m sorry for that and for
all those times I failed you
and you
and them.

Sometimes I’m sorry
for myself, but that sounds
so self-absorbed
it makes me feel even sorrier.
And so I hide behind words,
metaphors, third-person cutouts
of what a real man,
a man of strength and honor,
should be, instead of one more
disappointment with
a Y chromosome
and no good answer to your
question…
“Why?”.

One of those first-draft, still half-asleep, poems that usually get written only in my head, but not on the page. Perhaps that’s why this one should stay there—smothered beneath my pillow.