What Is It We See When We Don’t Want to Look?

As I wander from my right ear
to left, the sounds sometimes
ring clear as a trumpet’s blare.
But sometimes, the sights
along the way don’t
stand so sharply defined.
I guess that’s okay, though,
if you consider yourself an
Impressionist with a notebook.
Yep, that sky’s full of swirling stars
and that’s the sunset on the Seine…
to my squinted mind’s eye, at least.
Memories give me the most problems,
though, how they appear so palpably
at the corner of my eye,
yet transparent right in front of me.
Perhaps life would be better
if I got out of my head and
directed all of my attention
into your world. But, while
my mind is full of whats
and whos and maybes, yours
looks like it might be full
of too much this or that,
him or her, definitely or clearly.
Perhaps that’s just what I think
I see when I focus, instead of
admiring you through the half-veiled
lids of my feelings, and perhaps
you’re as befogged inside as I am.
Humor me, and squinch your eyes
and describe the man you see
this last time before I fade away.
And then lie to me
just once more.

Full Stop.

He hates to think
he’ll reach The End and
never have the chance
to close their story
with a clean, contented dot,
punctuation connoting
the final exhalation
of a spoken breath.

Her draft still
bears that bold-face
exclamation point,
bolt-upright, indignant,
with arms akimbo…
if !” had any arms.

His version sports
what they once called
an interrogation mark,
a Quasimodo “?” questioning
something they still
didn’t understand,
only that he’s either
the clueless or callous
actor who prompted
her reaction.

They say he’s not got
much of a future
to look forward to
and his vision’s grown
too befogged to clearly
discern the past.
So he wonders if
some day she might
just say hello.

Perhaps then they
could bid goodbye to
the figures who cast
their shadows upon
what once was yet
never could be
and place that .,
a simple declarative
conclusion, on this,
a story better left
…unwritten.

First-draft desparate free-write. Full stop.

Gentling Me to the Other Side

Today, I once more dove
into this river so cold,
to see what I’d find
on the other side.
It grows colder and colder
as I grow older and older.
So often I jump in and
almost founder, my body
and mind not willing
to endure this shivering
self-immersion again.

But you often appear
as I reach out and pull
the water close to me, and
I remember the warmth
of those embraces,
when last we embraced.
That touch of your cheek
always helps gentle me
to the other side,
where I find I’m holding
something warm and white,
though it’s never your hand.

Instead it’s a craft you
helped me lash together,
with which others might
float upon our memory
of close and apart,
as if we’re moored boats
banging against one another,
tethered by our shared history
on this river where
I’ll always fight
for whatever touch
we might share.

So often, this is how it happens. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I guess it just IS. By the way, only three more pieces to hit my 1,000th post on A Thing For Words right around its seventh birthday. I had no idea I’d been so inspired by whatever muse reaches out to me from time to time.

Dribbling Out the Clock

It came and went so swiftly,
the February evening snow
and its morning melt.
You could hear its heartbeat
as it ran down the rainspout
once the sun climbed above
the trees’ skeletal arms.
They shook small fists
newly clenched on their
branch tips, as if protesting
Winter’s next icy incursion.
Such protests never elicit
the preferred end result
while the calendar still
has March to march through.
But I admire these maples’
sanguine rush to get their
life’s blood flowing again
now that it’s sugaring time.
I raised my fists, too,
and shook them until
the blood rose in my cheeks.
Then, I slapped the old maple
on the ass like a teammate
from a dimly recalled basketball
season. My recall of those years
melts as quickly as this snow.
It drip-drip-drips as fast as
the gutter and the sweet sap
of memory dribbled by #44,
Acer Saccharum.

For those of you not hip to the vernacular of basketball, a sport I coached for 30 years, “dribbling out the clock” is the practice a team ahead in the score might use to burn up what’s left of the amount of time left in the game. One or more players will just dribble the ball as the clock runs down, rather than attempt to score any more points. In other words, the game is for all intent and purpose, over, save for that final buzzer. You may read into that bit of between-the-lines (another bit of sports argot) what you will. Oh, and Acer Saccharum is the  scientific name for SugarMaple.

Like a Heart Ever Bleeding

Bleeding Heart by Michal Boubin

So many years have passed
since the first time
I felt the chill and
hot rollercoaster thrill
when I sensed you standing
on the threshold of my life.
It wasn’t a feeling I
hadn’t experienced before,
but with you it’s clung
to me like a tattoo.

When I think of that day,
and so many thereafter,
I can still feel the sting,
the pinching pain of the needle,
and bubbling rush
of endorphins upon which
I floated, intoxicated
on something and someone
to whom I became
irredeemably addicted.

No, it wasn’t your name
inked onto me, nor
even your face. Such images
would fade with age.
It’s been more like a wound
you carved into my heart,
initials that never healed,
a portal through which
it expresses emotions
I once preferred stayed within.

But that changed once
I dipped this pen into that
which flows between us,
and wrote thus.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Or is it, Happy Valentine’s Day? As always, I leave it to you, dear reader, to find your own impressions, your own story in these drops of what rested stagnant within me until that day it was given release.

Tunnel of Loves

Sometimes he can almost
make out what he’s looking for
deep in his Well of Memories.
Could be they’re glimpses
of what he actually experienced,
or maybe pieces of some other
recollection torn, dented
and stuck on their way down
in the shadowy moss fuzzing up
the view of this ever darkening
tunnel of loves lost and found?
Did she really say what he sees
in that unlikely clump of lichens?
Or is that merely a couple of dreams
he lost when finally he awakened?
Is that truly the touch
of her cheek to his or just
another soft thing he can’t recall
if he stole or merely wished
would warm him now when the world
grows colder, darker and
more regretful by the night.
Sometimes, when the moon’s just right,
he thinks he sees her face there
at the bottom, watching him
as he searches for something
no one ever saw but him.
Probably it’s just his face
reflecting back into those eyes
that hope they’ll find her there,
or see she might still care,
or the image of her ever thinking
she sees the same things
in the dark memories into which
she stares. If she ever dares.

Dreams of Wolf Creek, Kansas

The Wolf River, Kansas by Albert Bierstadt, c. 1859

I sometimes dream of eastern Kansas,
in those days before the wars,
when the white men fought each other
to be the right men behind the doors,
deciding the lives of men red and black,
to remain the preeminent beast,
over this land he said God was his alone,
from the left coast to the east.

I think of the man in the village,
sitting on the bluff above Wolf Creek,
and how once he ruled wherever he stood,
a wandering Pawnee being anything but meek.
And I know his time is passing,
his wandering no more his choice.
Soon the white man will fight everyone
over the black man who still had no voice.

In my dream the lodges moved westward,
if they ever moved at all.
Because illness, greed and the great lord God
seemingly turned on the Pawnee, Otoe and Kaw.
And that’s why I dream of eastern Kansas
in those days before the wars,
because a native man might still call his own
his land, his freedom and his lores.

Free-write rhyming thing, an exercise I tried to get the juices flowing. For whatever reason, the name William Stafford and the words “Lawrence, Kansas” kept clanging in my head. I searched for some art that might help stimulate some creative spark and found that picture by Albert Bierstadt of Wolf River in Kansas, circa 1859. Then I let loose the reins and my claybank muse cantered me here.