Orchestra Night - AAO & Forsythe

Orchestra Night – AAO & Forsythe (Photo credit: CaZaTo Ma)

Pain has long washed over me
like the waves of a symphony orchestra.
It’s manifestation from pizzicato strings,
up the ranks to shrill reeds and blaring brass.
The concert master within plucks a string,
a twinge, a spark in my body,
or draws his bow long, back and forth,
so seamlessly extending the exquisite tone
across my neck, my shoulder, all the parts
grown to accept the groaning background music
of a life full with this symphony
of self-written suffering. Today,
muffled timpani, always there, almost-hidden
by itself in the left side of the back row,
thuds its dull soreness, the ensemble resting
for a few bars. It’s a manly ache, this,
a limping, crippling thump played
with a pair of lives I’ve left ungrieved,
the heartbeat of my days, my nights,
this concerto of my times.

Enraptured ~ A Story


lace_black_02 (Photo credit: queenBlingerie)

“While I’m in the shower,” Elise said over her shoulder to Glenn, her date this hot July night, “would you be a love and pick out a set of undies from the fridge for me…whatever strikes your fancy.”

As he pulled a sandwich bag – a sandwich bag! – full of black lace from the vegetable crisper, the open refrigerator  couldn’t cool the burning on Glenn’s face, nor the burning question others asked of whether he’d bitten off more than he chew in asking out Elise.

He couldn’t think of anything but Elise since she came to the firm’s Cincinnatti office from Columbus, a law school buddy of Glenn’s supervisor, and how he finally got up the courage to ask this edgy, cerebral beauty out.

Over the sound of the shower, feeling the chilled bra strap between his warm fingers and along a gelid lightning bolt from his right shoulder to his navel, Glenn heard Elise sweetly call, “Just leave them on the bed or dresser, Glenn…I promise not to keep you waiting long.”

Glenn was about to place the underwear on the long dark dresser when he noticed two gold bands and a diamond ring sitting in a blue dish; he blinked, stared at his reflection in the mirror, then shrugged at the familiar-looking guy goofily grinning there, and sat softly on the bed.

A flash of Five Sentence Fiction today, based on the word Enrapture from Lillie McFerrin.

Closing the Door

Brown eye

Brown eye (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That thought came wafting back again today.
This time a song blew the door open a crack.
Even though you would never push it wide
to fill that empty space, a gust of curiosity
slipped a faded picture across its threshold.
As always it showed that captured half-smile,
but until lately I never noticed the off-boil simmer
in those hot cocoa eyes whose gaze I tried
but could never hold. It’s for the best my grip
couldn’t stand the heat, and your focus alit
upon more distant objects of what passed for desire.
I nudged shut the door and the wind swept away
most of the memory out where, really, it belongs.
But some dust of it I never can blink out.
I guess that belongs where it belongs, too.

Remembering Dave Carter, who saved me…again

Dave Carter

Dave Carter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before I became what some call a poet, I couldn’t tell a Sara Teasdale from a Saran tea cozy, a Billy from a Tom Collins. But I recognized what I considered mastery of words and how some men and women gave them a heartbeat that mine would echo, a vision that I could see.

Besides Dylan, (Bob, not Thomas) Paul Simon (to whom I give thanks for that last bit), Leonard Cohen, Nanci Griffith and their rarefied ilk, there came late to grace my mind’s ear a songwriter most of you probably never heard of named Dave Carter.

And seemingly as soon as I “discovered” him, Dave was taken away, at age 49, by a heart attack just a few counties east of here in Hadley, Mass., on the morning of July 19, 2002.

This passing hit me in a way I did not expect…harder than I would imagine during this time of my depression and illness. And, in retrospect, I think the poet (for he was a poet of brilliant gifts) Dave Carter’s death may in some way have been a spark toward my becoming a writer again after I came through my little heart and head issues a few years ago. You never know when that tap on your shoulder will come again, so I decided to become the me you’ve come to read.

I was feeling a little blue today and wasn’t sure exactly why, I’m sure it’s a compost heap of things, from which I hope someday something fine will grow. But, once I remembered the date and listened to a bunch of Dave’s songs with his partner in music and life Tracy Grammer, I remembered how lucky I am to still be here and able to express myself as I now do. Certainly not so well as that poet of the plains, Dave Carter did. More like a poet of the plain, and that’ll have to do.

I may never be published, may never submit again, but I can’t deny what I’ve been given.

Do yourself a favor and check out some of Dave’s lyrics someday, particularly The Mountain and Tanglewood Tree.  Until then, here’s a glimpse of Dave and Tracy doing his song that I want played on my way outta this somewhat brightening world. Maybe I’ll meet Dave then in Happytown. It’s called When I Go.


Vintage Coffee Pot - Gold

Vintage Coffee Pot – Gold (Photo credit: Ann Douglas)

An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship.
Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you allow it to get inside you.

I am a vessel, probably more empty than filled,
not a glass holding a metaphysical question of fullness,
but more a coffee pot with a permanently stuck-on top.
My contents will pour, if I decide to share,
but it will be damned difficult for you to share yours,
if I decide to let you share. I’ve never gone dry,
though I’ve known more dregs in my heart
than overflowing sloshes.

To slosh connotes a messy decanting
and I am careful to be free yet neat in that
which I share. I locked on my top a long time ago,
not to keep all to myself, but to keep yours to yourself,
your splashes of vitriol, anger, acrid and sour.
I have enough of my own poison settled there
at the bottom of this tin pot, dented by time.

But, please, if you wish to mingle the nectar
of kindness, love, and peace with my poor pour,
I shall turn absolutely acrobatic to help you.
I shall respond with the cream of all I am
if you wish to mingle with the remains
of this old vessel, this heart, scarred
and still more empty than filled.

I wrote this free-write poem in response to a prompt from my friend Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday for June 29, 2013. This week she asked us to write something inspired (and you never know where inspiration might take me) by the quote at the top of this piece. So there you are.

To Wander Adrift

English: Washington Park Lake in Albany, New York

Washington Park Lake in Albany, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The leaf-strained sunlight dappled your cheeks
like raindrops falling from the maples,
as we wandered through the park and looped ’round
the green-skimmed pond that had become
a metaphor for the river of my life.
Seldom did I look at you as we complained
our individual existences. There was a discomfort
in our eye-to-eye connection, as if
those sundrops ricocheted from your face
to my eyes, draining them down onto my shoetops.

When I did look up, you would break the connection,
its annoying chemistry stinging on your lashes.
And every noon-time, the tower bells would peal
“Happy Birthday to You,” as that morning died
and the sun passed overhead on its way
to some western demise. We would sometimes
wave goodbye as you buffeted away upon your rapids,
your head tossed back in a smile,
and I slowly puttered in ever-shrinking circles
there in the turgid algae of my torporous eddy.

I shake my head when I think how
each of us escaped those days when
we easily could have pulled the other under.

Mother’s Day

English: Mother's Day card

English: Mother’s Day card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eighty-something year old Moms
tend to give their middle aged sons
ancient history lessons,
even on Mothers Day. A word, a photo,
a memory, she dropped them all
like a cup of tea. And he picked them up.
The photo was of a chubby 5th grader,
alone, flying his crazy black hair
and a goofy gray grin at half staff,
there on the front stoop, a stain of
something on the front of his shirt.
His fingernails were dirty and
he had smudges on his hand, no doubt
from scrawling or drawing something,
from his perfectly cultivated
amber waves of imagination, a look
of skeptic wonder on his face.
He hasn’t changed too much.

Still the pudgy-feeling little guy, stain
worn like a badge of honor over his heart,
smudges of gray on the heel of his
age-twisted hand and head.
He cultivates this self as he tends
the wretched patch out back.
Perhaps one day they both might
bear some fruit, something more than
weedy promise and seedy emotion.
Farmer or poet. They’re the same
to him now. Each a singular effort,
trying to grow something out of
tiny near-nothings.
He put that photo away. Mom’s
absent-minded lesson learned.
You are who you are, kid, but you
can be loved no matter who that is.
Once again, Mother knew best.


Spring Cleanup

a light in the attic

a light in the attic (Photo credit: kevtori)

The fresh spring light cants just-so
through the windows of my soul
illuminating the dust specks I
set to roaming on this seasonal foray
up in my attic, inspecting things
I’ve left there and sometimes forgot.
Seldom do I rummage for anything
in particular. No, not really.
I’m drawn up here each April
like a spawning salmon,
instinctual and compulsive as
the sneezes trumpeting my return.

From behind the exercise bike, a glint
of post-equinox revelation flashes
upon pieces of incomplete old puzzle.
With unbent wire clothes hanger,
I root about in the sticky, nasty grime
for this compulsive remembrance,
always keeping its pieces at arm’s length.
Even upside down, soggy, some like broken mirrors,
they reflect the gaze of hot coffee-brown eyes
I managed to hold until I blinked
and dropped them, in a searing splatter.
I close the attic windows’ lashed curtains,
enough of this reflecting. Over the bike,
atop the puzzle, I toss a box of books
where they belong, into that corner of stories
best kept for another day.

Shared with the gang at dVerse for Open Link Night



FLUTTERING HEART. (Photo credit: Neal.)

It hangs behind that space between the breasts
where a woman might place her fingers and inhale,
maybe even close her eyes, when she feels
strong emotion. A touchstone of flesh, perhaps.
I touch that spot from time to time, when I feel
it flutter behind its shield of bone or when
it awakens me to the mortality-reminding sensation.

The medics pulled from their Latinate lists
the term ideopathic chest pain, even if it doesn’t hurt,
just like once they called it ideopathic pericarditis.
A hardening of the heart.
Unknown cause.
Outside and in.

You laid your hand on me there once, with emotion,
and I felt a different flutter, inside and out.
Now I realize why you might touch yourself that way.
I understand that contact with life while it lasts—
crazy, loving, strange, and yeah ideopathic life—
is mostly worth the pain and even not understanding
its why. This hard heart softened at that touch.


Running Downhill

Running Downhill (Photo credit: michael.heiss)

Where does it go?
This time that just became
that time, my time
that’s become our time?
I try my best to slow its pace,
breathing the air of life more slowly,
learning to accept all that
my senses and soul used to deflect.
You’ve seen me now recording
each tiny movement, thought,
nuance and subtext, just like
a real author drafting
a fictional fight in a thriller,
stuffing each bead of sweat,
all the booms, near-miss whizzes
and heart-splitting slashes
into as many pages as possible.
Perhaps I am an imaginary man
writing this true story,
trying to fill my oh-so-limited
remaining temporal space
with even the most mundane action
on this, my return to a childlike,
unbrakeable downhill run, and with
the thrill of me being part of us.