Don’t Forget Your Mask

 I’m weary of wearing this mask,
 I say to myself each day, 
 as I horse another inhalation 
 up against my hoarse throat.
 Then I expel this air I’ve exchanged
 for double-carbon molecules,
 the waste of a life’s breath
 supporting this waste of a life.
 I suck in another half-lungful,
 my inhalation shallow. 
 I hold it a few extra seconds,
 then exhale a one-note tune
 hiding the face in the mirror.
 It’s time to go, and I hear,
 “Don’t forget your mask.”
 I pat my pocket and crank on 
 this smile. I’m so weary of wearing 
 this mask,

#100words (or thereabouts)

 One hundred words are not a lot
 you can read them in a minute.
 Could even make a game of it,
 but there’s no prize if you win it.
 It’s the writing of them, trust me,
 that takes up much more than that time.
 I know, I’ve written many poems
 and got stuck with just ninety-nine.
 But the tougher job, so I’ve found,
 and believe you me it’s no fun,
 is thinking you wrote one hundred words
 and counting one hundred twenty-one.
 But I’m a pro, even wrote some books,
 excess words are mere distractions.
 I’ll cut some “the”s and some adverbs.
 The rest? S’why God made contractions.

Of course, in writing this bit of rhyming verse, I blew past the century mark of words (111, actually), but that's the risk you run when you try to keep the lines at a certain number of syllables. Maybe I'm actually a dilletante poet and not a professional. But I can cut the latter to "pro" and you know what I mean. And even though I was in a pickle, I'm not a "dill." Oh, and one of those books I wrote is full of one hundred word poems. It's titled "One Hundred Beats a Minute."

Smoothing Away the Eldersnow

 The flurries fall, 
 filtering through empty trees, 
 to touch the coarse eldersnow, 
 hardened by mid-winter 
 sun and raw winds.
 The jet stream jetsam shifts 
 from west to north on its path 
 to due south on the map 
 of my window frame.
 Drifting through maples and oaks, 
 I notice there are no birds 
 upon the branches, 
 to catch those frosty feathers 
 upon their own.
 Even the crows are absent,
 their nails-on-chalkboard voices 
 silent against slate clouds;
 so silent I can hear 
 this whooshing flock whisper, 
 “We’ll take it from here,”
 as it smooths away the crusty
 old regime.

Ice Cold

We used to walk along this shore, telling secrets and lies even we liars believed. 

During those cold December walks, we’d watch Winter grow its skin across the pond, pressing down the rippling mirrors that would catch your eye and pass its attention to the ones next to it. And they, in turn, to their neighbors, echoing it all back again.

And when the snow began to fall, light as a lover’s touch, it would cover the sheet of ice with lace, teasing us to guess if we could trust the ice to support us yet if we dared step upon it together.

“C’mon,” you’d always tease me as I tapped on the ice with my foot, “Where’s your sense of adventure? Haven’t you ever taken a chance in your life?”

And I told you I was taking a chance right then. To which you’d reply, “No you’re not. And believe me, you won’t fall.”

I think you meant fall through the ice. I thought of it as falling another way you’d never worry about, but I did. And wanted to.

I wanted to know what those others knew, the hidden knowledge that I’d only imagined. I wanted to feel the pleasure with you that others felt, but was afraid to take that step. Walk after walk, winter after winter.

“C’mon, take my hand,” you say and I finally feel the warmth of your hand in mine. You pull me toward you and grasp my arm as if we are a couple strolling along the edge of the ice-covered pond. But I know we’re really just two people sharing the same path, the same conversation, the same lies.

“All right,” you say, “I’m going to walk you out a bit and you go the rest of the way.”

“No, I don’t think so. I’d prefer if we just walk along like this,” I say and put my hand over yours as you squeeze my arm. The wind blows the snow across the ice as if it’s some ghostly skater carving edges like your fingernails are carving little moons into my hand.

You pull me closer and lean in to give me a kiss on the cheek, your lips warm, your cheek cold, eyelashes netted with snowflakes, the sound snatched by the wind as it whooshes by my ears. 

“Would you do it for me? For a real kiss?” you say, gazing into my eyes with an eagerness you’ve never offered me before. And I’m not sure what beckons me more, the ice, those snow-laced eyes, tempting lips, or my heart. 

“I’ll go with you. I promise. I just want to see you take a chance for once. Just so you can learn that sometimes the lessons we learn from them can last a lifetime.”

I want to do this so much. Not just because of the prize I could potentially receive upon completion of this dare, but also because I need to know what stops me. Always stops me.

“Okay, but I need some more incentive,” I say, suddenly demonstrating more nerve than I had in years.

“C’mere, you,” you say and mush your mouth to mine with a little lick of my lip on the way back to a smile I’m afraid will melt the ice before I get my chance to walk my way to the paradise I think you’re offering.

“Okay, let’s go. I’m getting kinda excited about this,” you say, grasping my arm again.

“Whoa, not so fast,” I say.

You tap the ice and say, “Nothing to worry about. And if you’re still nervous, just close your eyes and I’ll walk you out.”

“Uh, all right. Maybe if I could have just a little more of that warm courage you’re dispensing, I wouldn’t be so…you know,” I say with fear and lust battling in my gut like glandular gladiators.

“Close your eyes, silly,” you say and plant a big wet kiss on my cheek, squeezing me so close I almost can’t catch my breath. 

And then you drop your arms away, leaving me with the echo of that kiss ringing in my head.

“Just a couple more steps, love, then you can come back. I’m waiting right here for you.”

I turn and see you standing closer to the bank now. Your face impassive, like a marble Madonna, not giving any thought, desire, care. Just…waiting.

But I still can hear your kiss and the sound such a long kiss makes, soft, warm and wet, a constricted inhalation, yet sucking in the best of life, giving back such gratification. What a sweet memory today will be.

That is until I also remember it’s the sound thin ice makes as it rips open, sharp and cold, making one gasp, sucking him under, submerged, waking him to the knowledge almost no one else knows. What’s going on beneath that cold white facade? Now I know. Now I know it all.

“You’re welcome,” I thought I heard. 

No, love, it was my pleasure.

Dig We Must

 I gave up early today, with the 
 Finish Line out there in sight.
 And now I sit here wondering,
 “Did I really put up a fight?”
 The voices behind me say “So what?” 
 and “Why should anyone care?”
 While the faces to my front smirk 
 as I struggle or they dully stare.
 They’re the only parts of what once 
 was a verdant and fertile imagination.
 Now they’re the only crop yield
 I can claim as my own creation.
 So I stepped away from this story
 and here try not to waste time.
 To toss what once was a blessed gift
 would feel like my biggest crime.
 This here is a half-hour’s harvest, 
 of unmetered but rhyming weed.
 That unrequited love story sits,
 a fallow field for which I’ve little seed.
 It’s been a long, lonely winter,
 but I won’t let my tools rust.
 I’ll march back to it tomorrow, friend,
 ‘cause I’m a writer, and “Dig we must.”

The Apple Won’t Fall Until the Mango Does

I thought I could do it,
 sit and roll thoughts and
 feelings down a page like 
 chocolate syrup runs down 
 a sundae-eating kid’s chin.
 You know, simple as gravity.
 But Newton’s apple 
 No, my dome is too full
 of mango now, an orange
 ovoid I’ve never swallowed,
 and yet of which I am gorged, 
 sated, sickened, obsessed.
 So I just typed, letting nature 
 take its course onto the page. 
 But all I’ve accomplished 
 over this quadrennial 
 is dry heaves that leave me
 with nothing but tears
 I hope someday soon, the emetic 
 of time will allow more colors 
 their space back in my head, 
 instead of that vomitous orange. 
 But at least I’ll be shed of it.
 Then I hope to find new rainbows
 in the black I’ll once more bleed,

You figure it out. I've about given up.