The Last Word

I’ve gone and squeezed it dead, I more than fear.
That’s why I sit in my spot and just stare.
Where once images and feelings ran clear,
now only dust. And what’s worse, I don’t care.

I started doing it with you in mind,
your love being all that I ever wished.
I knew this harsh mistress could be unkind,
now I’ve killed her and that fire’s extinguished.

I push and dig, bring up naught but a moan,
the once-blazing fire within me gone cold.
Doggerel in its ash I trace here alone,
like a bell I ring, but not heard, so untolled.

I thought, perhaps, my gift would abide,
a soul-filling thing I’d do ’til I went.
But it seems it’s passed before I died
and all I’ve left is this goodbye unsent.

Like a friend that’s gone, I might grieve this loss.
I know I’ll grieve no longer seeing you.
Maybe this time spent without is just a pause,
my “goodbye,” au revoir ‘stead of adieu.

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Unreasonable

Each night I lie in bed
and ponder why I still sit
in that chair every day
trying to tell stories
of a me and a you
that never happened,
why I scribble about memories
that are the barest of vapors
moved by a breath I’ll
never feel on my cheek.
These days I ponder
that same question even
as I sit in this chair
talking to myself alone and
not listening, just transcribing
the silence where once spoke reason.
Maybe that’s why I still do this.
I’m searching for reason
where reason doesn’t exist.
No longer reasonable,
yet unreasonably necessary.

Day 17. A “reason” poem. It’s true. I lie in bed at night and wonder why I even do this pointless exercise, this seemingly fruitless waste of what time I have left. Then I get up, sit in this chair, open a new document, start typing and still don’t know why. Maybe that last sentence, which I just looked up and found sitting there, is my unconscious self’s explanation. It’s necessary for at least one of us.

The View From My Window

I see greens (a few) grays (a lot)
and shiny cars outside my window.
Duplex houses in varied earth tones
standing cheek by jowl
chain the cul-de-sac beneath
high, hazy clouds diluting
the morning blue sky.
That’s what I see.
That’s my view.
Yours would be different, even if,
right this instant, you sat
in this spot by my window.
You might see the tan patches
and brown mud splotches
where I see grass,
see the dirty pickup truck roll by,
the white sticks of winter’s
snow plow reflectors still standing
in doubt this Spring day will last.
But you wouldn’t see my view
unless I told you, and I wouldn’t see yours.
That’s why I like art,
almost any art.
It speaks the truth of the artist’s view
of her subject. And I can choose
to listen, read, observe, feel what
she says she does, as she does it.
Or I can turn away and
not pay attention to it at all.
Just as you can skip on by
my view from my side of this window,
the town, the country, the world.
And I can skip by yours.
I wish life was more like that.
I don’t necessarily need to hear
if you do.

Day 13 of NaPoWriMo.  A “view” poem. There are a lot of lines up there and just a little more between them.

The Tenderfoot

The Tenderfoot, Charles Marion Russell 1900

Say there, cowboy, heard you first herded sheep,
but soon enough moved on to real live beeves.
So how’d a kid with callouses that deep
learn to paint as well as a Hopi weaves?

Taught yourself since you were a sprout, you say?
I b’lieve you done good in learning that art.
Now you paint people and things gone away,
real cowboys and Indians, but with heart.

I like how you showed them Piegan fellows
on ponies galloping hellbent for meat.
Them bufflers, I can almost hear their bellows,
like when there were more of them than Blackfeet.

So you’re happy now that you’re in Great Falls
‘stead of wrapped in a blanket under stars?
Or d’you miss them days when the heifer bawls
as we drove ‘em to Helena’s rail cars?

I’d say you done well for yourself, Charlie,
got this fine house and a pretty young wife.
Beats pushing a plow though a field of barley,
but I still think you might miss our old life.

‘Preciate you painting my picture there,
though I’m on the wrong side of that tussle.
Bucked like a tenderfoot on that li’l mare
I believe was your show, Charlie Russell.

For Day 4 of the NaPoWriMo Poem-a-Day Challenge, the prompt called for a “painter” poem, where I am to take a painter and make him or her the title and subject of my poem. If you know me, you know my, ohhhhh, let’s say obsession with the American West. From when it butted up against my backyard in New York to what we now call the Old West. One of my favorite artists of that time is the great Charles M. Russell, who gave new meaning to the term “cowboy artist,” since he was both. This poem’s a conversation, one-sided at best, between an old cowboy chum of Charlie’s visiting him with reminiscences and maybe a slight bone to pick. 

Empty

Apparently I have nothing more to say,
but it’s not only words that will not come.
My heart that bled ink for you ev’ry day
is but a husk now, empty, voiceless, dumb.

I’ve fought like hell and I’ve just let it go,
like a man breaking a horse to saddle
Used all the old tricks, still my heart shakes no,
no longer a poet’s heart. A rattle.

And so I leave you, unfortunate few,
another will take this place, I’m quite sure.
Wordless poets might as well bid adieu,
after we’ve given up finding a cure.

And so to this disease I’ve fallen prey,
even love has failed to heal me today.

Recapturing His Muse to Let Loose His Wolf

I’d like to tell you a story,
but, nowadays, the stories
just won’t come.
I’ve tried all the old instigators,
but none of those break the spell
rendering me dumb.

So let’s try making something happen
as I’ve had to for so many,
many weeks.
A poem punctuated with rhyming words
at least rolls the ball downhill,
though not up any peaks.

There’s this guy I know, perhaps so do you,
whose life feels empty when he can’t
tell a story.
He’s told all kinds, from weepy to creepy
even gory, though none yet
a “Finding Dory.”

He thought a muse could bring him
the old inspiration, grist for
his creative mill.
But, of course, she was an illusion,
even to herself, now a wraith
of substance nil.

And so one day he reaches into that ether,
grasping at straws
not really there.
For five hundred more words,
or even for two, so long as they’re
not more hot air.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said to
the ghost of she who felt she was
his Keats’s Fanny Brawne.
“Just say a phrase, and in misery
I’ll phrase, a story sad as
Yeats’s with Made Gonne.”

So now he’s off to string thoughts
of some kind, in a story,
kind of together.
Of course this story’s about me,
now feeling free, loosing my prosaic wolf
from its tether.

Like You-Named Stars

The pillow to my back’s giving a push
toward this keyboard that won’t give an inch.
That’s how it’s been for this long lonely while
when the only you I see is up where
the stories come, through the dark to my bed.
That’s not in any dream, but in that time
between awake and not, since sleep won’t come
in the sense that I awaken like new.

I don’t really sleep, not because of you,
but because my sore old heart’s not in it,
just like your heart’s not lying here near mine.
So I toss and knot blankets, turn pillows
into lovers and foes. Doesn’t matter
since they’re not really human, though I am.
I’m so human, I miss something never mine,
which is why imagination became
my dear new friend and worst old enemy.

But that’s how I see you, through darkened rooms
like centrally heated tombs, where I share
a bed with ghosts of the not dead yet lost.
And they steal the covers and push me off
the edge, toward this keyboard upon which
I crash, opening the wound that you see
right here, amid all these, my other scars,
the ones hung on night air, like you-named stars.