Can I Have A Moment?

Try as I might, I struggle to be in the moment.
“Present” is the patch of psychological geography
that whooshes by under my feet and over my head.
But what is a moment?
Does it have a time limit, an address?
Does it smell like the memory of a woman?
Is it made of two, three, or four dimensions?

If time is a river, are we rafting past
these moments where we see it coming
and then it’s gone? Or is it like the view
from a speeding car on the tree-lined interstate.
Behind each trunk, for the tiniest fraction
of a half-thought, we can see the colors
of the houses, the lives of other people,
just as they can see the sun flash
upon the window where we share that glimpse.

I am a simple man, one whose mind is fueled
by imagination, always moving, looking behind,
looking ahead, looking within, almost never
at this present, hardly ever slowing to grasp
this moment you and I share. Except, perhaps,
for those two commas that just braked us like
speed bumps. Or maybe for the coming period
upon which we share a mindful breath.
Here, I’m in the moment.

This is my Day 5 effort (and it was) in my poem-a-day trek through April. The prompt was for a “moment” poem. I regret that I am hardly ever “in the moment,” except perhaps while I am writing. And even then I am more than likely thinking about how much I’d like a beer right now. Or that the moles are back in the yard. Or that I should have, should be, wish I was (something, whatever) instead of dripping imaginary blood on this imaginary page from my wounded imagination .

Last Man Standing

Another one went last week,
the brother of a brother,
like so many of the others.
I’ve been in this spot
so many times these days.
And while I waited to pay respects,
since these occasions are held
for the living, not the deceased,
it occurred to me that
I’ve reached a station in my life
I’d never thought existed.

Standing there on line,
waiting my turn to view a box
within which what remains
of my friend will be kept forever,
I noticed most of these people
around me were younger than I.
It came to me as a shock,
as so many revelations
come to me at my age.
And a new sensation struck me
in my heart and eyes,
something like loneliness
as my list of friends
grows shorter by the week.

And yet, here I am, still vertical,
still shuffling along, occasionally
thinking of when they stood by me,
as well. But in that moment,
I felt pride and a sense of duty
that they’ve left me here
with a mandate to carry on,
as I hope they would for me.

This isn’t my poem-a-day effort for Day 5. It’s a draft of one I wrote in November when the brother of my now-deceased best friend died, too. I almost never hold on to such things. I either post them or delete ’em. But I kept this one for some reason. Maybe now I know.

My Beloved Invention

No woman could compare to you
as you lie here in my arms,
unafraid, soft, constant,
after I turn out the lights.
In the dark, we are both perfect,
not puffy here, saggy there,
bent weary by age and the tools
with which life writes history
upon our once smooth bodies.
No, you are still perfect to me,
still my muse of fire that would
ascend the brightest heaven
of invention., my beloved invention.

And while none can compare to you,
I wonder if you still might compare
to the you I hold so dear each night.
The you who will never return
the thoughtful touch, never reach
for me as I pull you closer,
The one who probably won’t compare
to the imagined lover who lies
there at the head of my bed
wrapped in cool percale or winter flannel,
waiting all day for my nightly embrace.

You will always be the dream
I never had, but always felt,
the one who heard the poetry
I wrote for you every night
in whispers penned loud
as a lover’s cry here
on this silent sheet of white.
Someday, I hope either you
or this pillow my call will answer.

Sorry I’ve been gone so long. It’s been a long, hard road to 2020. I hope to return to being the prolific and thoughtful writer you once might have enjoyed. The guy who would write poems like this…only better. Welcome back, my friend. Love you.

Lori

I always felt I was the one
discovered you out there in the aether,
while you were still gigging
never very far from Boston,
since you had to get the kids
off to school in the morning.
Yep, I was the one who heard
your ringing instrument with
a vague accent from the South side
of mid-America. Nothing like
your native Hah-vahd Yahd.

I downloaded all your freebies
and shared them with the ones
who counted and could appreciate
how you knew exactly what they felt,
as if they were the ones
scraping their chairs across
your kitchen floor, leaning in
while you’d try something new,
cut a demo, or poured
another cup of tea. Not coffee.

But I decided to let you go
after Nashville discovered you.
And I really got pissed when
Oprah told the world how she did.
What a silly, jealous man.
I guess I wanted to keep you to myself,
hidden like a whispered secret
beneath my headphones.
I still move my fingers to the chords
of the old songs when I listen
to them for hours on repeat.

But then, what’s one more time?

I decided to check in at Writer’s Digest’s Wednesday Poetry Prompt today. Especially since my mind’s currently incapable of finding inspiration on its own dime. The theme was a Composer poem, where I’d take a composer’s name, put it in the title and then let ‘er rip. I don’t know why, but I chose Lori McKenna, whose music I discovered online almost 20 years ago. You know, when she was still, as I said, gigging around Boston or so. The music was  great. But her words!! I didn’t realize it back then, but the title cut from her second album, Pieces of Me, became an anthem of sorts for this past section of my life:

I have been a poet all my life
With really not too much to say
So you can push me anywhere you like
But you can’t push me away

My life is written down on papers in my room
And yours is bottled up somewhere
So I’ll send you letters from half across the moon
And it will cross your mind but you won’t dare

The View From My Window

I see greens (a few) grays (a lot)
and shiny cars outside my window.
Duplex houses in varied earth tones
standing cheek by jowl
chain the cul-de-sac beneath
high, hazy clouds diluting
the morning blue sky.
That’s what I see.
That’s my view.
Yours would be different, even if,
right this instant, you sat
in this spot by my window.
You might see the tan patches
and brown mud splotches
where I see grass,
see the dirty pickup truck roll by,
the white sticks of winter’s
snow plow reflectors still standing
in doubt this Spring day will last.
But you wouldn’t see my view
unless I told you, and I wouldn’t see yours.
That’s why I like art,
almost any art.
It speaks the truth of the artist’s view
of her subject. And I can choose
to listen, read, observe, feel what
she says she does, as she does it.
Or I can turn away and
not pay attention to it at all.
Just as you can skip on by
my view from my side of this window,
the town, the country, the world.
And I can skip by yours.
I wish life was more like that.
I don’t necessarily need to hear
if you do.

Day 13 of NaPoWriMo.  A “view” poem. There are a lot of lines up there and just a little more between them.

Heinous Envy

Is jealousy the pain of losing
something to another,
that rips at the heart,
tosses you about your bed
until exhaustion takes hold
and smothers you with its pillow?
Is envy the green-eyed mistress
that poets speak of who tempts
and taunts you as she walks around
with another? For those of us
who split the hairs of language,
perhaps I can best explain it this way:
When I was a youth, I jealously
cared for my black hair,
all shiny and thick, lest
any of them made a break for it
and stepped out of the line
I parted like Moses did the Red Sea.
Today, I am envious of those fellows
with all of those youthful sprouts
of keratin in their original hue.
Not that all of my white ones have made
their new kind of break for it,
choosing to follow gravity to pillow,
shoulder, floor, and shower drain.
In sum: I envy those men who
squire youth around the place,
running her hands through their locks,
playing their abs like a xylophone.
I am not envious of their language though.
And I doubt, as this poem reaches EXACTLY
200 words, they are covetous of mine.

On Day 7 of my poem-a-day NaPoWriMo quest, a poem prompted by the word “jealous.”

The Tenderfoot

The Tenderfoot, Charles Marion Russell 1900

Say there, cowboy, heard you first herded sheep,
but soon enough moved on to real live beeves.
So how’d a kid with callouses that deep
learn to paint as well as a Hopi weaves?

Taught yourself since you were a sprout, you say?
I b’lieve you done good in learning that art.
Now you paint people and things gone away,
real cowboys and Indians, but with heart.

I like how you showed them Piegan fellows
on ponies galloping hellbent for meat.
Them bufflers, I can almost hear their bellows,
like when there were more of them than Blackfeet.

So you’re happy now that you’re in Great Falls
‘stead of wrapped in a blanket under stars?
Or d’you miss them days when the heifer bawls
as we drove ‘em to Helena’s rail cars?

I’d say you done well for yourself, Charlie,
got this fine house and a pretty young wife.
Beats pushing a plow though a field of barley,
but I still think you might miss our old life.

‘Preciate you painting my picture there,
though I’m on the wrong side of that tussle.
Bucked like a tenderfoot on that li’l mare
I believe was your show, Charlie Russell.

For Day 4 of the NaPoWriMo Poem-a-Day Challenge, the prompt called for a “painter” poem, where I am to take a painter and make him or her the title and subject of my poem. If you know me, you know my, ohhhhh, let’s say obsession with the American West. From when it butted up against my backyard in New York to what we now call the Old West. One of my favorite artists of that time is the great Charles M. Russell, who gave new meaning to the term “cowboy artist,” since he was both. This poem’s a conversation, one-sided at best, between an old cowboy chum of Charlie’s visiting him with reminiscences and maybe a slight bone to pick. 

Before We Get to Trail’s End

I do ponder what’s to come
out ahead on this long hike.
Maybe because I can sense
trail’s end could be just over
the next rise. Whether toward
sunup or sundown I don’t
even guess, since I keep my gaze
low, to the right and the left,
lest any roots or hoodoos
choose to trip my dragging feet.

I’m not racing anymore
to eventually get where
we all shuck our loads and sleep.
Who’s to say who’s a winner
or loser when we all get
the same prize at the finish?
Did I mention how I try
not to look behind myself
to see which racer’s making
that final kick to beat we
mere stumblers, our packs chock full
of the aches and memories
we’ve picked up along the way?

And while I’d like to recall
the places I’ve been and the
things I’ve seen out behind me,
this road’s been a curvy thing
so one can’t look back too far
anyway. Perhaps when I
hit the finish line, I’ll peek
inside my pack and all those
memories will come tumbling
out for me to see. I hear
that’s what happens anyway.
But wouldn’t it be so great
to share a li’l sneak right now?

Let’s.

Like You-Named Stars

The pillow to my back’s giving a push
toward this keyboard that won’t give an inch.
That’s how it’s been for this long lonely while
when the only you I see is up where
the stories come, through the dark to my bed.
That’s not in any dream, but in that time
between awake and not, since sleep won’t come
in the sense that I awaken like new.

I don’t really sleep, not because of you,
but because my sore old heart’s not in it,
just like your heart’s not lying here near mine.
So I toss and knot blankets, turn pillows
into lovers and foes. Doesn’t matter
since they’re not really human, though I am.
I’m so human, I miss something never mine,
which is why imagination became
my dear new friend and worst old enemy.

But that’s how I see you, through darkened rooms
like centrally heated tombs, where I share
a bed with ghosts of the not dead yet lost.
And they steal the covers and push me off
the edge, toward this keyboard upon which
I crash, opening the wound that you see
right here, amid all these, my other scars,
the ones hung on night air, like you-named stars.

We Star Rovers

In Jack London’s The Star Rover,
the warden at San Quentin
wraps a man serving life for murder
in a cocoon of canvas, The Jacket,
to break his rebellious spirit.
How many times have you (or I)
felt crushed within the constraints
of our Jackets, the class, gender,
race, religion, duties and all the
turns of the fabric of our lives?
Do you, too, lie in the darkness
of your nightly solitary confinement,
alone in this prison full of souls,
and dream the What If or
the If Only of your one life?
The prisoner withstands his torture
by entering a trance state,
in which he experiences portions
of his past lives.
Last night, I shed my shroud
of Here and Now, reliving the day
I fought the British on Lake Erie,
only to lose that life in the blast
of a 24-pounder hit amidships.
It was then I wondered,
“In which life do I sail now?
Which will I see of yesterday.
Or will it be a million tomorrows?”
Perhaps we’ll meet again in one,
slipping the bonds of our
unforgiving jailer minds.
I’ll bake files within
these cakes I write you.
All you need is to take a bite.