Run Aground

Allegheny morning
© Diana Matisz, 2019

I still see your reflection
whenever the river slows
in its infrequently placid way,
kicking out sparkles here and there
just to make sure I notice.
Then a tug will push a barge past,
always laden with the weight
of the world someone’s mined,
all the time arguing
with underlying currents,
unseen snags and shallows,
whining of rusted steel on steel
and the strain of tarred ropes
that bind. And the wake
of their passage slices your image
into slivers of memory, emanating waves
that buoy and ground me as I list
in this spot, unable to move on.

With thanks to my dear friend Diana Matisz, who’s images have inspired me for years and I hope still will for years to come.

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Sorry

He’s not too bad a guy. He has feelings as deep, sore and soaring as anyone else’s, I guess. Maybe even more so, we just don’t know. Few have ever seen them as he moved through the vacuum of his days.

I once caught him in one of his brooding moods, the ones maybe you’ve seen or you’ve felt. He broke through the 1,000-mile stare and wall of his self-imposed isolation to look up at me, half-grinned and raised his chin in greeting. He hummed his shrugged-shouldered humph when I inquired how he was.

“So how you doing?”

“I’m doing. Wondering if all this is worth it.”

“All what?” I asked.

“Just doing, being, thinking. You know, like that Descartes guy said, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Maybe I should just stop thinking so much.”

“That’d be no fun.”

Then he surprised me with, “I’m sorry.”

“What are you sorry for? You haven’t done anything to me,” I said.

“I’m sorry because I’ve never expressed to anyone my regrets for my sins and omissions, never cried at their funerals, never spoke up about how I truly felt, never professed my love to those I should have and never moved on from the ones I shouldn’t,” he said.

“Why are you telling me this?” I asked.

“Because you’re the only one I can and that’s what I lament the most,” he said as we each turned away from the mirror and switched off our bathroom light.

Condemned to Repeat

Didn’t vote for him in ’72,
thought everything about him C.R.E.E.P.y.
Bet you’d cast yours for Humphrey, wouldn’t you?
Especially with Agnew as VP.

But Dick got his Milhous caught in a door,
starting with the botched Watergate break-in.
The dirtiest of dirty tricks galore,
Step One in a demise of his own makin’.

I love it when pols go around thinking
they’re the smartest boy in any room they enter.
In this case it left ol’ Dick a’drinking,
his paranoia pushed front and center.

They say that Pride goeth before the fall
as slaves warned winning generals Roman.
Dick thought his powers were greatest of all,
’til Congress and the Courts left him moanin’.

Now I’m not one to be pointing fingers,
since I can’t cast even the thousandth stone,
but them what think their stink don’t lingers
may soon look around and find they’re alone.

Again, I’m not casting any aspersions,
but I believe I can tell wrong from right.
Seen my share of political excursions
to the dark side, where people lose sight.

Someone said something about history
and how not knowing it you could repeat it.
But that’s really not any mystery,
unless you’re too self-absorbed to heed it.

I guess there’s a moral somewhere in here,
about crooks and hubris not mixin’.
But if the shoe fits, I hope that it’s clear
history shows you could end up like Nixon.

This bit of rhyme was prompted by a call for a “name” poem. This was the second name to come to mind. Too many people still have not heeded George Santayana’s advice, I fear. And yes, you probably had to be there in ’72 (or seen/read “All the President’s Men”) to know what C.R.E.E.P. was. But for the rest of this piece? Nahhhh…

The Halo By the Door

Your face doesn’t register
where your memory resides.
It got lost in my mind’s
last three moves.
Your halo hangs on a hook
by the door and rattles
with each recollection’s
coming and going.

It still glows when the light
hits it right, but the light
doesn’t hit much anymore.
That’s what happens
when you get old
and memories tarnish,
tear and disappear in the dust
of an old man’s mind.

Sometimes I think I hear
the rustle of your wings
in the dark, but we both know
you never left the ground.
You just left, leaving behind
this silly halo I made
that you never wore,
just posed with, holding it
above your head to humor me,
always with one eye on the door.

Sometimes I wish I could remember
the face I thought belonged
wreathed in this ring.
Then I realize I’m better off
with a faded figment
of my own device
than the memory of a fallen angel
who finally learned how to fly.

The World Has Grown So Small

The world has grown so small
from within these four walls,
even with the windows open wide.
I’ve pulled aside the curtains,
cast my hearing and vision
as far as they can go and yet
still the world confines itself
between front and back,
left and right.
But what are directions,
when up is down, down is beneath,
out there is in here and
you are found beside none of them?
What is beside, too?
My world has grown smaller
since I first wrote “The world.”
It’s crowded in here by myself,
when even thoughts have no room
to even shrug their dissatisfaction
with their surroundings and mates.
The light is suffocating now,
unable to radiate upon a world
so insignificant it can’t cast a shadow.
This world has grown so small
that I have only sufficient space
to exhale, to only express
– not hold – blood and love
from this constricted
chamber, these four walls,
this space within no space,
this Universe of one and none.
Yet still, I’ll always keep
room enough for you.

The Winds Came Up Today

The winds came up today,
shaking the old man awake
when they tousled the curtains
across his drafty window.
The winds came up today,
bending the trees,
in full late-Spring flutter,
to wave their frayed flags,
some spitting out their whirligig seeds
to fly from there to there.
The winds came up today,
tipping birds in yawing flight
from the old man’s house
to the school, where
cheering kindergartners freed
their new butterflies
each from the safety of
its cracked chrysalis.
The winds came up today
in front of the old man’s house,
tearing away the tag
on the wheelchair by the roadside
which said, “Free, no longer needed.”
“The winds came up today,”
the nurse said to the old man.
But he already knew
after they whispered him
awake from the drafty window.
The winds came up today…
Only the winds.
Only the winds.

To a Muse (Even If You Don’t Exist)

If you were my muse, then I have failed you.
Even if you weren’t, it seems I’ve dropped the ball.
If I was your poet, apology’s due,
since yours was never my story at all.

But you’re ever in my mind, even now,
when I have no thoughts left to inspire me.
There’s no sense in giving you a reason how,
since at last count I think it required three.

See, this so-called poet has lost his way,
the words, like crumbs some damn birds have eaten.
Your inspiration I’d die to display,
but the losses have left me sore beaten.

And so I offer another prayer,
on wings of this imaginary dove.
Please reach out and let me know that you care;
nowhere will you need to use the word “Love.”

Love’s a construct lonely poets devised,
It’s Obsession drives their creative time.
Their made-up stories often go unrevised,
though some I’ll share, even if they’re in rhyme.

That’s the problem and sin today I share,
with any who’ve fancied themselves my muse.
I’ve run bone dry of what my soul laid bare,
and beg your kind indulgence without excuse.

My empty soul no more can work alone,
I need your whispered aid, if you’re listening.
A note would be enough, who needs a phone?
Once more, my writership you’d be christ’ning.

If you don’t care, then that’ll be the end.
Who cares if some hack writer goes unread?
But if you care for the man, once your friend,
please help him tell new tales before he’s dead.

Seriously, I feel I have nothing left within of this reborn writer. And that’s killing me more than you’ll ever know. Losses and depression have blown out the flame that flickered to life from a dying ember ten years ago. And this inability to create life from thin air is killing me. So today I sat down and let something or somebody within nudge me toward creating this rhyming (GAG!) bit of what might be verse. Maybe that’s what I need. Just the impetus to drive forward, sadness, loss and ills be damned.