Prisoner of My Own Device

I have become a prisoner
within this body, this mind,
this world, this life.
While I know I can’t jump
into any others, I also realize
I can’t jump anymore at all.
Meanwhile, they’re all
shrinking around me, this spark
of humanity, of being.

I cannot escape from this world
that exists beneath but one roof,
population: six and one ghost;
this hobbled body that cannot
do much of what it once did;
this mind atrophied by age,
sadness, anger and fear.

I exist in whines and complaints,
poorly expressed, framed within
postage stamps or cards
I’d send only to you.
And I don’t know why I try,
since even I don’t want
to listen to me anymore either.

Soon the air will be gone,
this spark extinguished,
these silent songs choked off.
I know I’m the key to my escape,
but how can I turn
if there is no lock?

I’d tap out this message to you on the bars, but there’s no you there to listen and we’ve each forgotten our secret code anyway.

C’mon, Snow

The two feet of snow
disappeared across
the length of December,
and now Winter looks
like Autumn from my window.
The great smoother
of Man’s and Nature’s
jagged angles has ebbed
its way back into the clouds,
leaving reminders of a job
poorly done collecting leaves.
But one can’t expect perfection
when you are, indeed,
but one.
And that is the lot
of the lone gardener,
the one who wields
the rake or the pen.
Or so I’m told.

I suppose I could go out
into the cold cold afternoon
to gather the leaves
that came after I put away
my toothy tools, just as
I suppose I could sit here
with a heater at my feet
and rake words into
this biodegradable bag
of free verse. Besides,
there’s no one looking
to collect any leaves
until March. Like no one’s
inside looking at poems.
C’mon, snow.

Class of ’70

I’ve lost so much from
when last we met,
chunks of life gone with a
loss of courage and of memory.
Just like last week, when I realized
I’ve lost high school
from the library where I
can pull bushels of useless facts,
yet not four years of proofing
in the fires of adolescence.
Perhaps that’s because
I never did the fire-walk
across the coals of teen desire,
not for fear of getting burnt,
but more for fear of not.

Oh, there are some scars I find
in the corners where my other
secrets lie beneath the dust,
so I know I got close a few times.
But I can’t remember when.
Maybe the scars were from acid
thrown my way by the guys
with asbestos shoes
and courage to burn.
Doesn’t matter now,
since some of them are naught
but someone else’s history
to forget.
Just like mine.

The Magic in Gray and White

It’s been four days
since the storm left
it’s two feet planted firmly
over the property,
standing there on the roof
and straddling the road.
And during that time,
it lost its serene demeanor,
aging with wrinkles, scars
and the spots that time
will paint on your skin.
But she who ordered the storm
to leave a guard on this realm
until told to stand down,
that is until the coming March,
has sent in a bit of reinforcement.
Silently, the new minion
fills the gaps in the line
left by a few days where
the sun made its counterattack.
And now, with two inches of reserves
softening the uglies
that follow an early snow,
all’s quiet on the northern front.
At least until, I’d suspect,
some ranks of sun and rain
make this army of white
run down my roof
for the storm drains.
I can wait until
Christmas, though.

This study in gray and white – the poem, not necessarily the photo – is the winter view I have from my writing desk in the basement – my Lair. It’s just a gray wooden shed with some pines and maples holding up the sky behind it. But when the snow decides to fall, it becomes something magical, where the dull and plain become something to write about. At least to me.

Conflict of Interests

They told me to stay away
from telling you about loss,
just as they told me not to
talk to you about everything else.
It’s quite a heavy lift
when loss is what I do best,
what defines me, what joins me with you.
But I know that’s a lie,.
How can I lose what I never had?
What we never had.
What I had was proximity,
as if I was standing next to
the Mona Lisa or a Kahlo self-portrait.
What you had was an admirer
who appealed to your sense of humor,
your intellect, your ego,
but never your heart.
And that’s okay, since your heart
is a battlefield, laid bare
by the conflict that finds you
at every turn and from which I turn
whenever it finds me. Now
I seek the peace I’ve never found.
It’s hiding somewhere in these words,
unlike the word “Friend.”

That Last Hug

“How are you today?”
I ask too often,
speaking it into that empty space
where something of you remains.
Not like a photo,
since my memory is of someone
who probably doesn’t or never did exist.
This is the space where
I’ve kept something you wore that
conveys more than a fuzzy, faded look
of care-less I never did accept.
Even with years of hanging
in the back of my mind’s closet,
I can hold it by the hand,
impart some of my own warmth
to it, hoping it might echo
the sense of a hug and the aroma
of perfume and sweat that’d
mean more to me now than a slight smile
suspended from red-reflected eyes
an Instamatic caught in
a moment of surprise…
or maybe disappointment.
So I ask, “How are you today?”
though I probably wouldn’t
recognize your voice,
just the warm smell of you
from a last hug I made last.

But Never Fell

The wind is a harsh mistress,
pushing the trees away one minute
then caressing and singing songs
older than time to them the next.
She fills their leafy lungs
and billows their chests with
faint whispers and panicked panting,
giving them voice as over decades
they reach skyward, their arms open
to accept as much of her attention
as they dare.

You know that feeling, that sense
of the cold shiver following
the touch that sends your skin
to chattering chill and then heat
like August’s exhalation exultation
when storm is near. You’ve felt
the caress and heard the whispers
that shaped you and carved initials
if not into your skin then for sure
your heartwood.

Thank you, my winds, my zephyrs,
my barely-there passing-throughs,
my gales, my limb-lifting,
branch-breaking darlings.
I bow in your memories as I bent
to your whims. Bent, but never fell.