The Tao of Towels


“Why do you do that?” she asked
as I flipped the towel end to end
in its final fold. “Do what?”
I asked, but was pretty sure I knew.
“Why do you fold the towels in half
then in half again on the same axis,
instead of half, half in perpendicular
and then half again?”

“I dunno, is it important?” I said
and began wondering why, too.
Maybe I do it for the same reason
I fold tee shirts like they do
in the store, bottom to top,
flip in arms, fold right, fold left.
I other words, I didn’t know why.

But I knew it was important
HOW to my shrunken soul, which I
drape on a stiff plastic hanger
that has foam rubber along its bar
and on each shoulder, lest
spiritual me slip off and become lost,
once again forgotten, in the dark
back corner of my heart’s closet.

I flip-flip-flipped another towel
onto the pile, careful I’d precisely
squared its corners with one another.
“You’re right,” I said. “It’s really
not important, as long as the laundry’s
clean and neat.” “No, I just wondered,”
she said, heading upstairs with an armful
of conflicted terrycloth compulsions.

Go After What You Love

Until long after it matters
You don’t know if you’re good enough
You can bet your dreams will be battered
So just go after what you love.
     ~ John Gorka, Out of the Valley

I marched into the park from Madison Avenue,
staring down green-stained grandstanding Moses
as he poured parlor tricks from his rocky dais.
“I always thought you might be one of them,
you being published and all,” I said to him.
Just to bust his ass, I strode past the Lake House,
waved my arms and parted groundbound pigeons
like the Red Sea. I don’t think anyone got me…again.
All I wanted was to look up from reading my words
and see someone in Albany share a little joy.
I figured Bronze Bobby Burns around the corner
might intently sit to listen to my poems.

Squirrels scattered like rolling whitecaps
as I approached and stood in the poet’s shadow.
I read him some Albany pieces, ‘cause
I remember when the city and I had a love affair.
At the end of Champagne Tommy,
tulips nodded in the breeze, the bells
in City Hall applauded To Wander Adrift,
and a kid wearing big headphones walked by,
rocking his head to But Don’t Touch.
To my right, a robin chittered and
flapped his wings in the dirt, so I read an encore —
Whisper of Light. It was enough.
I knew my old girl didn’t hate me.


The Murder

English: Crows in flight This field is close t...

English: Crows in flight This field is close to the junction of Nottingham Road and Loughborough Road in Leicestershire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Black pen-nib crows write sure,
harsh and profane above me, all
flourishes, loops and T-crossing,
shouting outbursts of joy
in their own creativity. And I stand
here watching them, feeling guilty
that I’m not flying across some page,
envious of that abandon and their
bumptious “F-you” to those of us cursed
with too much of our own gravity.

Groundbound, I drop my spirit
and my eyes, and fold back my wings.

Now I sit here and curse you all,
crows and men, envious I’ve yet
to test my wings in the open sky,
feeling guilty for listening to
your caws for your own cause.
I stand and give a little jump, write
my little “F-you” to all those flyers,
real and imagined, and curse this
murderous might-be fear and
my own already accursed gravity.

Bully Pulpit

Choir loft

Choir loft (Photo credit: TepeyacFarm)

Does it qualify as bullying
when the one miserying you around
beats from within? Was yours a story
of trying to measure up, trying to
accede to implied expectations,
ones never voiced or illustrated,
where you had to rely upon your own specs,
your own skewed set of measurements?
How many not-good-enoughs to your foot?

Did you get tangled in those hurdles
and those traps you set out to trip
and splat and learn your place?
This congregation of one usually listens
to the loudest one, the guy in the pulpit
pushing me to his way of thinking,
not to the cowed sinner whispering
in the confessional between this pew…
and this.

Up here in the loft I’ve crawled,
where blessed dissonance might
draw attention away from the fearsome
stem-winder in the front of this,
my sanctuary. Here, a new choirist
with familiar face, chants a simple
song of praise giving me more faith in me.
There’s room up here for you, if you
know how to sing your own hosannas, too.

The Tracks We Leave


Footprints (Photo credit: Peter Nijenhuis)

There are times you look back
at the tracks you’ve made and wonder
whose feet fit in those prints.
They can’t be yours, they seem so neat,
so sure, long-strided, suitable
for framing, if you could frame
such sweetly blemished snow.

Other times you don’t wish
to risk even a glance, knowing
you’re trailing jumbled smudges
like some drunken dancer
with mismatched shoes,
no sense of rhythm, mumbling
a prayer for a sudden thaw.

Eventually spring comes
for us all,
rinsing away the perfection
that cannot be,
because nothing is flawless.
Not footprints in snow, or in mud,
or in the sand on a beach.

The tides of time leave very few
beyond today’s impressions others to read.
Oh, but to have left them captured
by even your own memory!
That might be what
even you might agree
is poetry!

Serendipitous Song

Robin pauses on tree stump

Robin pauses on tree stump (Photo credit: TriggerHappyDave)

Red-faced from effort and failure,
the six-year-old stood atop
the tree stump and blew
through the tight circle
of pinched and cinched frown,
spitting wet Bronx cheers into Nature.
Good and angry, desperate and defeated,
he jumped high off the stump and,
on his way down,
a sweet tweet of exhalation
escaped his loosened lips.
And thus, through airborne error,
my whistle was born in mid-air.

Life is often like that,
one horrible failure after another,
crushing the spirit until
that last breath it squeezes out,
and you take that leap.
If you’re lucky, the unexpected eureka
comes from it. You may call that
serendipity or Kismet,
five-dollar (or drachma) words
for five cents of dumb luck.
Like when I cast my sinking soul
into the dark void and
an angel untied its bindings,
teaching it to fly.
Now soul believes it’s a songbird.

Here’s a Sunday morning free write in response to my friend Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday prompt: Serendipity. Sharing it with the folks at dVerse Open Link Night, too.


invisible man

invisible man (Photo credit: flickrPrince)

Trying to write a poem without using
that word, that concept around which
most of them are built, is harder than it looks.
It can be done, some say,
because all you really want
to know about is YOU, but it still
feels awfully distant and sterile.

Have you ever tried painting
a landscape without using green?
What does a symphony composed
to be played on Jello mounds sound like?
It’s possible to enter a confessional box
and recite everyone else’s transgressions,
but then where’s the sweat-beaded contrition?

It would be a sauceless, unseasoned,
unsweetened bit of verse concocted
and best consumed alone in a cave,
that, thankfully, is almost done. One in which
that whiney 1st Person thingy wasn’t used.
Not even once. Wasn’t so hard after all.
So how do YOU think I did?