Portrait of an Artist Named Stella

From inside the little house
within the suburban snow globe,
someone’s given us a good shaking.
Our paper weight neighborhood’s
been plopped onto a potter’s wheel
and is riding a most vigorous spin.
Outside, the landscape’s molding
into plaster life masks of houses,
the road. Cars and trucks
idly shiver beneath the skeletal
fine-limned trees that stand and sway
as if stroked in India ink upon
this immaculate gesso. Or at least
that’s what my bleary eyes see
of our homes enclosed within
this seasonal table top tchotchke.
I’m told there’s an escape-hatch
equinox whose surname connotes Green
over the horizon. But the horizon
lies way past anything I can see
through the snow-smoky white winds
spinning around me while I sit
staring out the window in
the little house within the snow globe
on the desk, where the dizzy poet
pens a blizzard named Stella’s biography.

Dead Wrong Dead Reckoning

From that first moment he saw her,
he was sure.
Or so his story goes.
He envisioned her as Hesperia,
nymph of incendiary sunset, while
the deck beneath him soared
and dipped upon the swells
and troughs of uncharted oceans.
He never admitted this to her
until years later, another
of his rosary of miscalculations.
But, to the fearful man, merely
tossing adrift on her sensuous sea
brought such exquisite terror.

After the truth escaped him,
and she warned him off
her shameful shallows,
he dove headfirst anyway and
dashed himself upon the rocks.
The death of his hapless hopes
in her storm-tossed seas
didn’t kill the dreamer, though.
Only as a castaway did he discover
she actually was the red sky at morning
and he just another wrong-way
mariner lost to the vast
emptiness, steering his course
without compass, so dead wrong
by his own dead reckoning.

Free written poem based on the following quote from Annie Fuller by Jay Asher for her Writing Outside the Lines Challenge:

“… know me …
don’t just see me with your eyes …”

Perhaps this lost soul should have looked beyond her sun-bright gifts and into her shadows to ensure his bearings before he was lost.

Searching for Comfort in The Devil’s Workshop

One dark day, you’ll discover
the forehead fits perfectly
into the palm of one’s hand,
as if the Master behind the skin
and bone designed it for just
that purpose. That Master will come
searching for solace and sanctuary
when it no longer can find any within.
But, it may find nothing there
but idle thoughts, calloused responses,
and more deep depressions.
Perhaps it will detect a tremor
or numbness in the caress of its servant
so long ignored and abused.
I suppose one really should expect,
after all the brooding over its
servant’s imperfect interpretations
of one’s heady imaginings, to find in those
final downturned and overcast days
the stony slag in a Devil’s Workshop
of your own forging?

Free write blather, inspired by my pressing of my uninspired head into my dry and arthritic hands. The perfectionist gets his perfect comeuppance.

Shills Like White Elephants

Two more stouts down here, honey? Thanks, love. So this is how it works, youngster. The pols will argue over when life begins, at conception or at birth. What the hell, the subject of their alleged debate could just as easily be Creationism versus Evolution. It’s the same churned-up, wormy loam that’s sustained the political phonies for more than a century. It’s what they hoe when tangentially preaching to the party-affiliated converted. We scribes would sit back and take notes, mainly gauging relative volume, totals of Biblical citations versus Scientific references and numbers of finger points. Though many now use their thumbs as pointers since the birth of Darwinian political exemplar Bill Clinton’s index finger-stabbing, definition-of-IS-is, white-lie, bad-optics hair-splitting during his own multi-hyphened product-of-a-sexual-encounter Dance of the Seven Berets. Oh, and we collected, crunched and consumed salty quotes like pretzels in our after hours bars. We were paid to fill open column inches or air-minutes between advertisements, with the implicit promise our bosses made to the advertisers of bringing X-number eyeballs to their come-ons for pharmaceuticals, automobiles or insurance. Judging which side is right or wrong rose above our pay grade, best left to the former reporters who soared or crawled over the broken egos of their colleagues to editorial or columnist positions either by hard work or something just shy of befriending (maybe just the journalistic equivalent of caddying for) publishers. Though some made it by outliving them. We ink-stained wretches are a cyclical lot who learned to somewhat compartmentalize our feelings as best we could without losing our edge, becoming totally numb. See, it’s not so much who’s right and who’s wrong on a specific argument as it is who those aforementioned editors and publishers choose to make right. We’d rather leave it out there in some artful, judgement-free, make-your-own-sundae bit of prose, like Hemingway did in Hills Like White Elephants. Hell, not once did he ever mention the word “abortion.” No one’s ever going to actually “win” these debates, combining science, culture, politics and religion in a danse macabre where Defeat/Death inevitably collects the dramatis personae and Victory/Life is merely Intermission, one last chance to pick up some Sno-Caps, Raisinets and nuclear containment vessel-sized containers of Coke and popcorn before the house lights go down for the final act.

I was asked if I could contribute a piece for the next edition of THE BARDO GROUP/BEGUINE AGAIN’s Be-ZINE related to Science in Culture, Religion and Politics. I can’t cop to any of those subjects truly being in my wheelhouse. Nevertheless, I sat down and imagined a one-sided conversation by someone who looks a lot like me and has seen and chronicled the bloody confluence of those subjects–a retired news reporter. My career on that side of the news business was not so long as the friends I made during my reporter years, but I readily admit it quickly grew a husk around me and opened a vein of acid-tinged cynicism and indifference that I fight to this day. I took no stand about these subjects (well, maybe politics) in this piece, but thought it might be interesting to dive back into the deep end of my primordial news ooze to see if it still makes me smell of sulphur. It does.

What the Winds Leave Behind

I struggle to remember
so many things that
I know I never will.
They’ve blown away
from my grasp in winds
I once bulled my way
through and now bully me.

I can recall many
random things of puzzling
importance, like the blur
of a certain perfume and
a swatch of freckles,
but not face nor name,
a cold confusion where
a sense of warmth
against my skin
once inscribed itself.

But that’s how
the winds of time
mistreat you.
They’ll stagger your steps,
scrub the carvings
from your monumental
and leave you shivering,
cold and bewildered,
these dwindling nights.

Whatever the Heart Has Left To Take

The gentle man always was
a tick slow on the uptake,
blind to the foibles
and shortcomings of the angels,
fallen and otherwise, who
he believed encouraged him,
with a virtual handkerchief drop,
to voice his feelings
to (about) them.
But that exposed the soft anatomy
of his misplaced humanity
to their talon-sharp vanity.

So to unspoken words he turned.
Not the gesture, the expression
nor the tender touch the angels
always returned unopened.
He spoke instead to
the tissue-thin mirror
of a notebook’s page,
which sometimes reflected
his words to a keyboard
which echoed them
to you and you…and You.

You may read them
as love letters if you wish,
even though they’re unaddressed.
Read them today or whenever
you wish to feel what
he never got to…
except from the page.
The page always takes
to its heart whatever his heart
has left to take there.

Written on the 7th, but felt like sleeping with it. My poem-a-day run continues, as well as my weekly piece for Annie Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines Challenge. This week’s prompt is that illustration up there.

Here Behind the Golden Door

What does it take
to leave your home,
your land, all the people
who shared your heritage,
maybe even your name,
to step into the unknown?
Your destination may shine
like the golden door
the green lady lights
with her uplifted lamp.

What’s it like to line up
for the unknown darkness
with the tired and poor,
hell, the wretched refuse?
See how she invites
all of these, the homeless
and tempest-tossed, to join
in breathing the clear,
the fetid, the piney,
the prairie, the briny,
all of this air
redolent of freedom?

You don’t have to know,
my friend. A handful of
men and women, members
of those unintelligible
huddled masses, each
with your name, or
maybe something like it,
stood in the box and
answered them for you
so you could be born
there on second base,
think you hit a triple
and call this place Home.

Don’t know where this came from. Maybe it came across my creative ocean because I’m tracing my roots back to Ireland, Bavaria and Hesse and have run into the antithesis of a golden door, more a leaden wall.  We’re so lucky, ya know?