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.

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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.

Big As All Winter, Small As a Snowflake

10:00 AM
It’s been a light,
excuse-me snow fallen all morning.
The kind you may not notice
if you look out the window
through these sheer white curtains,
because that’s what’s happening
outside, too.
But after a couple of hours
or so, your upstate New York
genetic wiring kicks in
and you part the curtains
to see what you’ll need to
shovel away as soon as
“Excuse me. Don’t get up”
turns into
“It’s been nice, see ya.”

12:00 Noon
It’s still snowing,
and Winter’s great eraser
has softened most of
the jagged debris left
by the plows from the last snow,
like Nature’s own Photoshop app.
Even the stains the dog next door
left to certify my driveway
is really his, have disappeared
behind today’s gentle white curtains.

2:00 PM
It’s time to close the sheers
and let Nature take her course,
or teach it,
because snow is always better
seen and not yet herded
into Man’s gray boundaries.
Of course, that’s only if you can
just watch it from a poet’s perch,
where everything looks smooth
and clean as this paper
before I buried it under
flurries of worries about things
that can feel big as all Winter
and small as a snowflake.