This, These, This

In the dark, ceiling-staring
into the nightly abyss,
I became not-alone.
Twilight dreams before sleep
projected a life of never be,
but would never leave
in the soft dawnlight glow
behind my hooded eyes.

I lie there thinking of
the living, the dead
and the one beneath
those covers who was neither.
With one more sigh,
t’was then I saw them,
short strings of expression
rising from my body,
five knots in the first,
seven on the next.

They repeated over and over,
a rope ladder I climbed
past soft women,
and hard worlds,
elevating my spirit
and body to a near-waking
breath and breath
exhalations of unrhyming song.

The blood-rush in my ears,
wave upon wave, sounded like
“Wish, which, wish,.”
To which I replied,
“This, these, this.”

My young friend, the terrifically talented Anthony Desmond, makes his official debut as a member of the dVerse Pots Pub crew the afternoon of March 4. He is asking poets to write a poem that is influenced by certain times in our lives that made us the poets we are today. I originally wrote something mopey and dark, but decided to toss it this morning. (I’m a foolish artist, aren’t I?) This piece came to me, like the time my first “real” poem, Night Writer, did. In fact, it practically is the story of Night Writer. Welcome aboard, Anthony. Hope I did right by you.

Shadow Play

Behind the pink scrim, shadow play performers gesture about the stage in indistinct silhouette to woodwind accompaniment and the plucked bass string of my pulse.

Here and there, flashes of halos bounce against the screen, but instead of blinking I open the curtains.

Before me I see lakeside willows waving and the glaring pitter-pat of the Star’s face upon that shattered mirror of water.

It falls warm upon my cheek like your touch, and I can’t help but close my eyes again.

“What are you smiling at,” you say, as I lean back, humming the score of Nature’s Ombre chinoise.

Here is a 100-word, Five Sentence Fiction drabble prose poem that I am sharing with Lillie McFerrin’s troops (Prompt: SUNSHINE) and with my friend Victoria C. Slotto’s call at dVerse today for and Object Poem, where we look at something quite ordinary, but in a different way. Hope I haven’t jumped too far from their requests…these pain meds and all.

A Thing for Words’ 3rd Birthday

Birthday cake 1

Today marks the third birthday of this little corner of the WWW called A Thing for Words. It was born of a desire to share my writing with other writers, but has grown into something even greater than than that. It’s become a home.

If you had walked up to me three years and a month ago and said I would one day be the proprietor of an Internet presence upon which I’d have hung something like 350 pieces of writing in 36 months (more than 300 of which would be poems, for God’s sake!), I would have laughed at you. And I didn’t laugh much back then. I’d never believe I would venture into the pirate seas of the blogosphere. However, even squirrelier, there is no way I could see myself writing 300-some poems…ever.

As I prepared to touch pen to paper in drafting (As usual, One-Take Hesch on the job) this bouquet to A Thing for Words, it came to me that I may have built this house, painted, papered and peopled it with my scribbles and blood-drop dribbles, but it’s been YOU who have made it a home. Because of you, my kind and generous readers, there is a pulse in the body of of this place. Your visits, “likes” and comments keep me at this exercise in therapeutic phlebotomy I try to conduct a couple or so times a week. Thank you for helping me find Me.

And so, friends, here I raise my glass of virtual brew on the occasion of the third birthday of our place together out here in the scary old World Wide Wilderness. You have made it a less scary place. You’ve helped make it home. Now, who wants cake?

Writer’s Lament

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Today I felt like I emptied out
my whole damn bag, reached in
and grabbed nothing but burlap.
This happens from time to time,
but it occurs more and more
these days. These nights.

They’re the empty windows I see
as the train of fictive thought
blows past me in the dark.
No faces, no people, no stories,
just a dizzying necklace of  lights
with no illumination.

We all go through these long nights
of emptiness, no feeling, no sense.
And just before I throw the hopeless,
helpless sack against the wall,
I felt this thing stuck in the weave…
See?

Here’ s my (hopefully final) sickbed poem, a 100-word Drabble, in response to a Word Bank prompt from my friend, the talented Kellie Elmore. Kellie said I could use any or all of these words — train – burlap – fiction – pearls – vertigo — or use them as inspiration. As usual, I took the biggest bite. Free Write Friday with the flu, baby. Don’t try this at home.

Silver Bell ~ A Story

kettle

Larry Benson, three months out of the South Idaho Correctional Institution, had been standing outside the Target store on North Eagle Road jingling a little silver bell by his Salvation Army kettle for five cold and snowy hours.

He thought it odd that a six-foot four-inch black man in a Santa hat and red Pendleton jacket could be invisible at this suburban Boise shopping mall, but it seemed so as most shoppers looked right through him as they skurried toward the snow-choked parking lot.

Damn, man, Larry thought as he shivered his bell a little quicker, here we are Christmas Eve an’ all, and these folks thinking ‘bout nothing but getting’—presents, hugs, home, laid—an’ not givin’, as the Reverend Ryker an’ the Lord would have us do.

The red doors opened with a whoosh and out walked a man holding the hand of a little girl, who unclenched her mittened fist over Larry’s kettle, clinking maybe five silver coins into it, saying, “Merry Christmas, Santa, I’ll be leaving cookies out for you later.”

The doors shut again and Larry saw his reflection in the glass, the snow clinging to his beard, turning it into a white cloud beneath his now-merry eyes and he knew he had to say it: “Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas and thank you, little lady…you’re at the top of my Nice List for tonight.”

I must be feeling some spirit of the season, because I took Lillie McFerrin’s flash fiction prompt this week–SILVER— and out jingled this little five sentence bit of holiday lunchtime prose.

Fallen (Low November Sun)

Oak Autumn Leaf - Autumn Colours Series

Oak Autumn Leaf – Autumn Colours Series (Photo credit: ishyam79)

The low November sun cast shards of gold,
old and burnished, around the Narcissistic oak,
as the winds pushed that brawny
exhibitionist body into clattering sway,
not its standing ovation of summer-leaf
self-applause. Yesterday, the
Golden leaf closest to me fell.
She was the one toward whom I would reach,
against whom I would rest, I would rub
for mutual security and solace
whether the winds hummed or thrashed.
She was the one who pawed me toward the sun,
as my hand never left her side until
she felt the nudge and fell away.

I’m alone now, waving for the wind
to rip me away from this empty place
at the tip of this twig,
attached to this branch,
shouldered to this oak,
this raggedy bark metaphor for
life as some grand repeating circle
of birth and death. But for us,
the leaves, the joes and mollies,
it is not a circle. It’s not
some spinning wheel. It is
a finite line from root to shoot.
There is birth. There is death.
And whatever happens along the
in-between is nothing more than
a matter of opinion.

image

On Saturday, November 16, our Mollie got old and sick all at once and we had to let her go. I’m inconsolable. Still hurting a week after my shoulder surgery, but this is the real pain in my life. She was the anchor to my existence. My first thing in the morning, my last thing at night and more often than not my source of inspiration just to be and guide to express myself. Maybe she was the muse I never thought I’d have or need. But she was my best friend and, in the way of a man who only recently made the acquaintance of his feelings, the love of my life.

Recently, American sportswriter Peter King had to put down his beloved golden retriever Bailey. He wrote a column about it from which I managed to pinch this thought through my tears. King wrote: “The easiest way to not feel this grief is to never have a dog. And what an empty life that would be.”

After almost thirteen years living with, being exasperated by, laughing at, caring for and loving (and being loved by) Mollie, I can barely describe how empty my life now feels.

Maybe this poem is a poor start.

Entitled to Love

Dandelion-Fluff_Sun-Shining__104258

Dandelion-Fluff_Sun-Shining__104258 (Photo credit: Public Domain Photos)

When we were new,
and life, that skeleton gate
upon which the ivy of our season
clung and climbed, we bloomed
like flames within stacked kindling.

We burst from darkness,
your spark upon the dry past of one
who should never love another.
But when your spark flared,
my black heart dissolved.

A twilight of promise grew
where deep shadows and
brightest illumination
crossed in a jumble of
fuzzy possibility.

We chose not to wait for
the full bloom of what
the night voices,
the midnight call of lovers,
said would come.

What would they know of
the sere and broken tinder
from our time untended
in the green years of lost,
if ever lived, youth?

And so we watch, together,
as they step off the steps from
one side of their lover’s cages
to the other, held captive
like exhibits owned by others’ greed.

We sway free in our light
and lightness like dandelions,
ready to burst and fly together
upon whatever breeze takes us
to all our tomorrows.

A Free Write Friday exercise based on my friend Kellie Elmore’s prompt to use one of the following titles as inspiration for a poem:

“Dandelion Season”
“Phone Call at Midnight”
“The Green Years”
“The Human Zoo”
“The Fires of Spring”
“The Ivy Covered Gate”

Typically, I chose them all.

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.

Gone Fishing

I sat in frustration yesterday
and for too many yesterdays before that,
worried if the Joe who did
all those nice poems would again
warm the heart of the Joe
who was doing nothing but
warming this seat.
Bill Stafford never worried like that.
The old poet would stroll to his couch before dawn
and just cast his line into that dark stream
behind his eyes,
not caring if he reeled in a bullhead or a rainbow.
Bill was an angler of words
who knew enough to love the fishing
as much as the prize.
Not that he ever threw
any of those catches back
into the Stream of Subconsciousness
from where they came.
Why do I worry about the straightness of my elbow
when I cast my line,
or what type of tackle I’d use,
or whether the bait was just right?
Today I’ll just tie some string
to a safety pin and snug the other end of it
to a stick. I won’t worry if they’re biting
on worms or grubs or any bait at all. 
Whatever hits the hook will be fine with me.
And that’s what I just did.
How many of you, like I am, are too often blocked from creating because of paralysis by analysis?  The great American poet, William Stafford, addressed this in an essay in his book, “Writing the Australian Crawl.” This poem is about how old Bill taught me to “just write.” And that’s a lesson I believe is “just right” for all writers.