Engraved In the Alloys of Praise

It’s not that I sought my name on the wall,
yet seeking it was what I found myself doing
one afternoon. I just never sought my name
on the wall while I was doing what allegedly put it there.
I’m just past the middle of the big varnished board,
in the school entrance hall, gold letters engraved
in now-tarnishing brass. And while I’m surrounded
by others who didn’t seek praise, to me,
their names shine brighter than mine.
At home I have more planks on my wall, each with
my name spelled correctly on their plates of praise.
I don’t look at them much. They’re just part of the wall
on most days, covering nail holes that’ll need replastering.
Though, yes, I am honored somebody thought enough
of something I did to recognize it one night
with a nice piece of wall decor.

I’ve learned that this hardware kind of praise is a lot like
somebody’s wake when they die.
More for the living than the dead.
More for that moment of giving than the day after receiving.
More for the engraving than the dusting off.
Better remembered for the day you crushed your thumb
with a hammer than on the day they take your name down.
You cannot capture praise in an alloy of copper and zinc.
Praise is an expression of the moment, an alloy of love
and respect. It’s the warmth of a hand on the shoulder,
the melding of my fist with yours, a hug.
Brass accepts heat like that, too. But it gets cold faster.
You can’t hang a hug on the wall, though. Much the pity.

On this rainy last day of NaPoWriMo Poem-a-Day April 2020, I was tasked with writing a “praise” poem.  All hail to the poets who brought so many poems to ground over the past 30 days. I’d give you all a hug, but you’ll have to settle for this room temperature video screen. 

Total Recall

I remember once when
my memory worked, how you
looked on the day that we met.
Well, we actually didn’t meet
since you were busy with them
and I was idle with me.
But my eyes met you.
I recall you in black and white,
which I’m not sure if you wore
or that’s just how my old
memories conflate with newer ones.
Do you remember when we met,
or have the years smeared
that picture with the tears
I’ve caused you because
eventually we did? Perhaps
I didn’t make that big a dent
in your mind as you did in mine.
Or maybe you’ve lost that memory
because it was for the best.
If they’re there, I can’t find
all the pieces in the corners
of my mind, scattered by fears
that a perfect memory would be
too true for my imperfect fantasy.
But its all here in black and white.

There! I think this might be better. Do you remember when I would write one of these lickety-split over a ten-minute break? Well, maybe it was 15. I don’t remember such things so well anymore. But, like I said, there it is in black and white.

Total Failure

Where humans are concerned,
there’s no such thing as perfect,
no total either. The problem is,
most of us are totally convinced
there is.
See?
Maybe that’s why we love all
to express the notion of “all.”
“I’m with you 110%,”
said the eager beaver, who’s
0% a beaver but is,
ummm,
allegedly, totally invested
in whatever he’s with you about.
Am I sure? Not 110%, not even 90%,
but I’m fairly sure.

When someone says they’re
totally in love with another
someone, (You know, “She’s
perfect!”) that’s really
a manifestation of
a pheromone-besotted brain
(honest, the heart’s part in this
is a poetic construct).
But isn’t it nice to think
of “total” in this context
rather than such affronts
to word nerds as:
“totally destroyed,” “sum total,”
or that singular affirmation
of a bygone era “Totally!”?

So why do we use a word having
such little basis in actuality?
Maybe it’s because we humans
would like things to be total.
Some word has to capture life
filled to the brim, Nature
abhorring a vacuum and all.
I’d like to think my love
is total for those closest to me.
As is their’s for me.
But we’re humans, pretty much
incapable of certainty or
perfection, so there’s going
to be some wiggle room.
The smaller the better, though.
I’m sorry. I’ve totally wasted
your time with this total failure
of a poem. Rest assured, friend,
I’m totally done now…

No, now that I’ve totaled
250 words I am.

Day 29 of April’s poem-a-day caravan. Today’s effort had to take the word “total,” add something to it to make a title and then write something to that title. And I do consider this spew a failure, so I’ll try again this afternoon.

The Way of The World

My way out ahead is so, so foggy,
in a handful of steps I might meet a wall.
But, my steps these days are so, so wobbly,
before I hit any bricks, I’d probably fall.

Yet behind me, the path is no clearer,
blurred by time, broken walls, and ghosts of sighs.
Backward’s too much like a look in a mirror,
It’s fogged, too, but mostly by all my lies.

So what do I do? Look forward or back?
Seems each way is its own bad direction.
I guess I could stand here with my jaw slack,
and claim I’ve reined in for some reflection.

But I know the truth. Maybe you do, too.
Life’s just a foggy game of hide and seek.
If you must move on, here’s advice for you:
The Way ain’t forward or back. It’s oblique.

Day 28 of NaPoWriMo/Poem-a-Day called for a “look back” or “don’t look back” poem. I kind of chose both.

As Big As That, As Small As This

When I close my eyes,
I can see you clearly.
Not from a distance, like
from all these years away,
but as if you were standing
right in front of me.
And if you really were here,
I’d still not see you,
not as you are, since
I’d be looking through
my glass with the rosy hue.
The one that magnified everything
about you into massive things.
Colossal, monumental, unrealistic.
That’s obsession for you.

I always thought you saw me
through that glass, too,
only from the other end,
where I looked so small.
Diminutive, unimpressive, quixotic.
I never did see you as you are,
a deep and complex forest,
rather than an array of pretty trees.
Too bad I believed the trees,
who saw a pesky weed.
You never were as really big as that,
and I never really as small as this.
So we never really were, were we?

Day 27 called for a “massive” poem. I don’t have the wherewithal today to put together some Homeric monster epic. Nor even an abridged version. And you don’t have the time to devote to reading it. Wait for my book. So here’s an equally fictive piece about how we can blow the normal up out of proportion, as well as diminish it into a gnat. Get rid of that rosy glass, y’all. Left out in the sun, it’ll burn everything down.

Keep the Change

I must say, the change
seemed rather abrupt.
But if you don’t see someone
(or maybe just weren’t looking),
when you finally notice,
the change is stark and feels
like it occurred overnight.
But I know differently.
Took me a long time to accept,
but now I do. It took as long
as it did for me to change.
Oh, you haven’t noticed?
I didn’t think so.

Perhaps you’re a lot of people,
unable, or unwilling,
to fathom change, to accept
personal evolution, in anyone
but themselves.
But that’s okay. I’m cool
with the new you even
if you still haven’t figured out
how I can just not care,
but still do. In a different way.
See, I’ve changed.
So here’s this pile of smudgy singles
I just printed to tell you that.
That should be more than enough.
You can keep the change.

What day is this?? Oh yeah, number 26. The prompt was for a “change” poem. The above piece changed a blank screen into a picture with a stack of ones. That’s how I write ’em, folks. One word at a time. Sometimes crisp. Sometimes wrinkled and smudgy. Still, they’re coin of the writer’s realm. Tiny little place. About as big as the footprint of a chair and a table.

Hoka Hey ~ A Prose Poem


We spend our lives competing in a litany of engagements versus Nature. They’re held in Hamlet’s penumbra between the light and shadow of being and not-being. We join most of these struggles without even realizing if they’re flapping retreat or slapping leather. Call that growing, aging, maturing. Surviving. Then, one day, Nature begins filching pieces of us, shorting our strength in muscle, sinew, memory, beauty, being-ness. Worth. Such encounters inevitably become confrontations, confrontations become duels, duels become skirmishes, clashes, battles. They multiply into siege, then war. Then Nature takes the field. Nature always takes the field. It’s her field, full of beauty, grandeur, filth, terror, the simple-to-complex machinery cranking sunup to sunup to sunup, even up to and beyond my ultimate sundown. The might and light are fading now. Will my head rise with the sun tomorrow? Will I charge over the top to fall at last in a shell hole in Nature’s No Man’s Land? Maybe one gouged there by my own side? No, I think I’ll dress my line, dig in deeper. To fight on is MY Nature. Where I stand is MY field. I’ve planted MY seeds here. I built MY fortress on this ground. I fly MY banners of defiance, art and love above all this mud and blood churned by the savage Nature of Humanity and the all-too-human Humanity of Nature. I sing the body electric, not the death song. “Hokahey” doesn’t mean “It’s a good day to die.” It means, “Let’s do this.”
“Hokahey.”

Just too worn out by several things yesterday to participate in NaPoWriMo, but I was ready to fight on today. Asked to write a Nature poem, of which I’ve done a ton, I instead sat to my keyboard and “let Nature take it’s course.” The result is this, which I shall call a prose poem. I think it hits a couple of meanings of the word “nature.” 

My Not-What-You-Think-You-See

I don’t see it as anything odd,
how I do this or that is just how I do it.
So, why did you get your drawers in a wad,
like you grabbed a rock in your hothouse and threw it?

Do I point out how you study whatever you pick
after going two knuckles deep up your nose?
I mean, c’mon, you’re cultured, not some hick.
Well, at least you don’t eat it, too, I suppose.

Over the years, I’ve used a zillion H’s, I’ll bet,
from all the times I wrote my sneeze-sounding name.
But you have need for none that often, and yet
you skip it for saying These, Them and Those, just the same.

So please don’t pick, peck or parse my idiosyncrasy,
since, about yours, I’ve been silent, not some jerk.
Yes, I zone out, but it’s not what you think you see.
It’s a writer thing — a gift and a curse — not a quirk.

NaPoWriMo Day 22. A “quirk” poem.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Love

Write what you know, all the experts say.
But my level of knowledge, let alone understanding,
of the subject at hand is about as low as
one can feel when you don’t feel any love.
Those fancy lovers (and lovers of letters)
who believe they know all the ins and outs
of that “o” and “e”, all the angles of
that “L” and “V,” only know what they know.
Ya know?

Me? What I know of love could best be described,
though I’d never deign to proclaim “defined,”
as a mushy melange of obsession, possession,
with a strong dash of protection, chased by a swig
of rejection stirred with a sprig of depression.
And yet I write all these poems in which you
feel we are sharing a sense of that thing
I’ve never understood, but maybe felt once
or twice. I don’t know. I’ll leave that up to you,
my Love.

On Day 21 of the April Poem-a-Day promenade, I’ve been charged with writing a “love” poem or an “anti-love” poem. So be it. Here they are, all in one piece.

Doing Solitary in an Unlocked Cell (With You)

I’ve told you before oh so many times
how this poet’s life is built on alone.
Sometimes it’s baited with meter and rhymes,
but ‘neath them too often’s just meatless bone.

I guess a poet must learn to inure,
grow callused over his isolation.
Not that easy when you’re so insecure
all your friends live in your imagination.

That’s why I whisper, alone in my head,
and try writing all these poems for two.
But if my words make you cry in your bed,
hold on, perhaps these next might restore you.

Your reading my lonely days’ pages shows me,
for one tick, I’m not alone. You chose me.

For Day 20 of Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo 2020, an “isolation” poem. And, baby, I know isolation. Just click that word in the word cloud down on the right and see how many pieces come up. And that’s just the one’s on the blog, not in the two collections (still available on Amazon, BTW.)