When they finally discover my bones —
should the occasion ever arise
that a future someone stumbles upon me
while clearing a plot for Hydrangeas,
tomatoes or more bones —
when they crack through and find
the cracks I’ve put in this
old skeleton, will they wonder
what this being did to collect so many
breaks in his framing pieces?
Will they see the two scarred ribs
and know that each happened in
a different winter of my discontent?
Will they wonder over the dents and
cracks in the skull, and think it was
the castle keep of a warrior’s mind?
Or that of a poet who always tried playing
above his program weight, usually failed,
but never failed to try again?
I wonder if they’ll see my family placed
my coach’s whistle around my neck,
my tablet in one hand and this secret optimist’s
(broken) fingers crossed one upon the other?
What they won’t find will be any markers
of regret on this old fossil for any
of this busted crockery of mine left behind.
I gladly earned each and every one of them.
Day 26 of NaPoWriMo calls for a poem about what future archaeologists, whether human or from alien civilization, will make of us. I took that prompt it right down to the bones. My bones.
On its outside, it’s not much to look at, just
a wooden box, six slabs of worn, tan-painted plywood
held together by nails and a couple extra screws
I drove into it so it wouldn’t fall apart last winter.
Inside is even less impressive: just bare wood
bearing the stains of rain leaking within, as well as
the outline of the small ski slope that blows in
whenever the blizzards breach its ill-fitting door.
It all smells of damp domestic pinewood.
But inside that dark interior, new places visit me.
The bill for my car comes from Philly,
Bev’s anniversary card from Florida. The travel mag
teases me with views of Nova Scotia, a river cruise
on the Rhine and exploring the dusty red-gold
beauty of Arizona.
It’s an adventure each time I walk down
the driveway in my tiny suburban world
and reach into the vastly wider one stuffed
within its corners. I still get as excited as
the seven-year-old whose world didn’t extend
more than one block from our house on
Bradford Street in Albany. But inside, my
imagination still transports me as far as
these creaky old boxes perched on my lawn
and shoulders can take me today.
Day 25 of NaPoWriMo called for a poem descriptive of a small space. I chose inside my mailbox, which, while cramped, still transports me to places I’ll never set foot except in my imagination.
The old man sat on the bench,
chin to his chest, as birds throughout
the park sang paeans to new life
after the near-death of winter. Yet all
he heard were his own thoughts. Some murmurs,
some plain-spoken facts, but none the shouts
that accompanied his life as he roared
from childhood to old age.
His memory had leaked away the words
to his hymns in praise of life.
Even their echoes within his earthly temple
had been quieted by his body’s
decrepit decline. He’d lost his faith,
the blind confidence that, even in the face
of the worst, something good would happen,
or he’d will himself to make it so.
It mattered not if it was an act
of some deity, the last-second shift
in the winds of pure luck, or his own pluck.
Yet here he sat, in the deepest winter
of his life, a pile of sagging humanity
held up by one last tenacious memory.
He rose on unsteady legs and whistled
a breezy alleluia the birds understood
and began walking, always keeping the winds
to his back. Something said they’d
carry him the rest of his journey.
Maybe one last shout of faith.
On Day 24 of NaPoWriMo, a poem of one man’s faith, not necessarily in some deity or luck, but in his own ability to move mountains. Or maybe just find a way around them to the other side.
Age can be a terrible thing, what it can do
to a man’s body and mind that he once thought
invulnerable to the degradation of disease
and his own misuse over time.
But along comes the day when his shoes
become too far away to tie and the chasm
so great between the desire to remember and
the clear view of actual recall, it renders
memory nothing more than a museum ravaged
by the temblors of time. Now the picture
I hung of you is not much more than a frame
surrounding empty desire, one I must fill
or you’ll finally be lost to me forever.
And so I scour this shattered space for bits
of the ancient and arcane. With pieces of lapis
set in shards of Delft blue glass I fashion
your eyes, with flaxen threads of fine
Irish linen and crushed Etruscan alabaster
I formed your face, and with countless strands
of gold and brown silk, your hair. It’s an
imperfect portrait, true. Though, created
from treasured bits of my life and the echoing
music of your voice, I once again can hang
my invaluable memory of priceless you.
For Day 19 of NaPoWriMo, a piece made of the combined prompts of Writers Digest and NaPoWriMo.net — a memory poem and a creation poem. I like to think of this as my imaginary life imitating their art.
I think I’ve passed right over the acme
of my life’s arc, through its payoff middle
and missed it. No Ansel Adams grand vista,
no temporal sweet spot in a man’s life
where he can stand and say to himself,
“Good job, you made it.” I no doubt was head-down
in a reverie about a what, a when, or worse,
I just looked up and out my window I see
jet contrails crisscrossing the dawn sky,
snaring the sun in a web of crystal near-nothing.
A robin’s sitting in the budding red maple
out front singing his love song. And between them
lies a vast expanse of nothing but . . .middle.
A vermillion-breasted sign of new life and
a silver nib etching across the sky the stories
of hundreds of souls, joined in this moment by
whatever I choose to link them.
More than some arbitrary marker signifying
the end of the Beginning or the beginning of the End,
I forgot the Now I’m in and how I choose to fill it.
Like that moment two disparate birds wrote
the story of my life in a flash of morning sun.
On Day 15 of NaPoWriMo, the middle of the month, I present this rather long discovery of where I am in my life. And, at this moment, the view is pretty good. Photo from out my window, by yours truly.
For years, the river and I,
its surface like chipped obsidian,
would ramble side by side
along its banks, carrying on
the kind of harbor-deep and
I, with my carbon-black hair
and moods, wished I could enjoy
with a human companion.
But when a fellow Homo sapiens
would join me (and river)
on one of our midday sojourns,
they’d seem as shallow as
the Hudson’s shoreline
tidal pools whenever
the Atlantic would steal
from me its fluvial profundity.
It drained me, as well,
sending me away from
the river and it from me,
Instead, I’d limp round
and round a small pond,
which, while framed in
arboreal beauty, sat like
a vapid coquette, basking
in any compliments sun
and sky would shower upon
her jejune mien. Its placid,
flaccid demeanor, bereft
of any downstream gravity,
not only reflected how life
dulled since sharing black edges
with the Hudson, but how much
I’d turned pond-like, round,
soft-sided and silver on top.
For Day 5 of what I’ve discovered is now GLOBAL Poetry Writing Month (GloPoWriMo) my poem-a-day offering melds prompts from Robert Lee Brewer and NaPoWriMo.net. The former, to use an element, and the latter to convey a personal connection with the natural world, including its landscape. Mission, (too quickly) accomplished.
I once held almost religious
reverence for the enchantment of dawn.
How some metaphysical Firestarter
struck together his celestial
flint and steel out of sight
over the horizon. From that,
some great spark flew into
the dried ball of yesterday’s
unfulfilled dreams, setting them
aglow in smoky possibility,
shrouding the mystery of can I,
should I, why and why not.
I’d awaken to this magic
and breathe into the east,
to give flaming life to
the tinder of my today, this
communion of maybe with the
the solid kindling of certainty.
Now, dawn’s become the crawl
of horizon and me beneath Sun’s
unrelenting glare, wide-eyed,
unblinking and judgmental,
unlike serene Moon’s monthlong wink.
Staring at the birth of this morning’s
slow burn, I realized my dreams
will always be nothing more than
the fluff of Firestarter’s tinder
and dawn is another signal of
what’s left going up in smoke.