At the Border of Art and Life

America
Walt Whitman
Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

I remember when she almost lived up
to the beatification
old Walt granted her in ’88,
but even he knew the “equal”
in his first line didn’t equal “equal.”
Jim Crow decreed otherwise
and steel from which
the mountain guns used on Americans
at Wounded Knee two years hence
still lay in Mesabi rock.
I wish it was so, Walt’s America,
with its perfectly perfect children,
its forever Freedom, Law and Love.
But I walked Third Street in ’67
and watched that American neighborhood
fade from Walt’s words of greatness,
as others did.

He was right, though, about this place
we’ve been blessed to live.
It is enduring and capable,
even when Mom goes a little insane
falls off her chair or trips
on our scattered and broken toys.
She always manages to stand,
though scarred and maybe gimpy,
to help her children learn again
to pick them up, maybe even
to share with someone else’s kids.
Happy birthday, Walt, I pray
your America and mine meet again
at the border of Art and Life.

Way of the World

Robins chase and spar
on the new-mown grass,
whether for sustenance
or sex doesn’t matter.
It’s just the way of their world.
Meanwhile, a hawk glides
on thermal waves
a-way up in cloud-washed skies.
His reason is more evident,
as his eyes scan
the flat green palette below
for any small moving shadow.
As his own shadow crosses over
the robins’ field of honor,
they scatter with mad flapping
and low trajectory
for the maples and pines,
since you can’t eat
nor procreate once you’ve become
vermillion-breasted tartare
in the belly of a red-tail.
Meanwhile, I sit and
watch it all, wondering
when my old instincts will return.
The ones that feed my soul,
express the intimate
of this Me-You relationship,
and helps me soar above
this pale gray palette
where shadows of stories are
all I have left of the Me
who also once took wing.

A stream-of-consciousness run of what I see outside my window and inside myself these days. The Way of the World is hard, no matter if you’re an air-coursing avian or an empty-headed mammal with a crumbling body and crumpled soul. The latter gained a little altitude during this flight of fancy.

Oh, I’ve Missed You

I remember those nights lying there alone,
since there was nothing better to do,
when the words would come to me —
like a doting parent, a monster
from beneath my bed, a guardian angel, a kiss,
you.

They would tell me a story without making a sound,
not read, just known, not understood, but gospel.

And, like when I grew up, these parents left,
or I left them. The monster went poof and
now demons scratch their nails
across my consciousness. I sold my angel for
thirty pieces of fool’s gold and any kisses
left with you.

I am alone again, in a darkness beyond black,
waiting for words that don’t wish to share my bed.

So today I sit in this lonely place,
closing my eyes to the light and praying
for deliverance from the exile of my own making.
And here you are again, carrying this thing
I never appreciated. You don’t have to love me.
Just sit here by my bed until I’m asleep.

I never told you how much I love your voice.
I can’t hear you, but I’ll never stop listening.

From St. Pierre aux Portes to Bayou Enfer

Credit: Dreamstime

“You’re sure you know the way? For thirty silver dollars I’d hate to get lost in this damned place,” Amos Adams said.

The old man had little more than grunted since they left St. Pierre aux Portes, bound for the other side of Bayou Enfer.

“Quiet, boy, or you’ll wake the dead, or worse, the living who might lie ahead,” finally came from the tobacco-stained hole in Bub Renard’s beard.

“Listen, Bub, which way out of this infernal wilderness? Seems we’re going in circles, with no rhyme or reason.”

“Rhymes? Sonny, ask me what I knows of the to’s and the fro’s, the gives and the takes, the misses and the makes, and I’ll say, ‘That’s a good question’,” Bub replied.

“Look, there’s a price on my head and I’d just as well put YOU under as listen to anymore of your nonsense. Just get me away from here, okay?”

Then came the howls.

“What was that?” Amos said, eyes wide.

“My children be callin’, with hunger they be bawlin’,” Bub said as the sound of little feet danced toward the man judged for respecting life not enough by the one didn’t respect Amos’ so much.

When they were done, Beelzebub Renard, the guide into but never from this dark place, told his children, “If they ever ask, in earnest or in passing, mine would never be the face they’d see the last thing. They never suspect my smile’s vestigial. And their sins? Hell, mine was the original.”

My 250-word bit of flash fiction (with a poet’s splash of rhyme) for Cara Michaels’ #ModayMenage challenge.

The Last Word

I’ve gone and squeezed it dead, I more than fear.
That’s why I sit in my spot and just stare.
Where once images and feelings ran clear,
now only dust. And what’s worse, I don’t care.

I started doing it with you in mind,
your love being all that I ever wished.
I knew this harsh mistress could be unkind,
now I’ve killed her and that fire’s extinguished.

I push and dig, bring up naught but a moan,
the once-blazing fire within me gone cold.
Doggerel in its ash I trace here alone,
like a bell I ring, but not heard, so untolled.

I thought, perhaps, my gift would abide,
a soul-filling thing I’d do ’til I went.
But it seems it’s passed before I died
and all I’ve left is this goodbye unsent.

Like a friend that’s gone, I might grieve this loss.
I know I’ll grieve no longer seeing you.
Maybe this time spent without is just a pause,
my “goodbye,” au revoir ‘stead of adieu.