I awakened again before I was ready, wondering why I never was so. It was five-something and I heard a tune playing over and over, though there wasn’t a sound in the room except that shut-eyed sigh. The blackout curtains held back morning over the East's ash and pine. But I couldn’t black out again as I began pining over the ashes of those lost years, mourning the missing lives we didn’t lead. If only I’d listened closer to the songs we shared, would’ve shared, could’ve… I should’ve awakened, known when you sighed, you were ready. If only…
As the North wind bullies
the trees out of its way,
I watch the baby leaves
get shuffled like poker decks
within the branches.
I know that feeling, the one
where my thoughts scatter
and bounce within my mind,
buffeted this way and that
by winds some call emotions.
But guilt, doubt, anger, fear
aren’t ascribed to any direction.
They follow variable courses,
blowing hot or cold, sometimes
stinging my eyes to tears,
other times tortured, tornadic,
leaving behind thoughts as twisted
as the bedclothes I crawled from
this morning, like emerging
from a dreamy storm cellar
to watch the North wind show
how it should be done.
That’s when I hear myself whisper
to those flattened flapping feelings,
“Hold my beer.”
An “unsettled” poem. Oh, do I know unsettled!
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 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.
I always felt I was the one
discovered you out there in the aether,
while you were still gigging
never very far from Boston,
since you had to get the kids
off to school in the morning.
Yep, I was the one who heard
your ringing instrument with
a vague accent from the South side
of mid-America. Nothing like
your native south of Quincy.
I downloaded all your freebies
and shared them with the ones
who counted and could appreciate
how you knew exactly what they felt,
as if they were the ones
scraping their chairs across
your kitchen floor, leaning in
while you’d try something new,
cut a demo, or poured
another cup of tea. Not coffee.
But I decided to let you go
after Nashville discovered you.
And I really got pissed when
Oprah told the world how she did.
What a silly, jealous man.
I guess I wanted to keep you to myself,
hidden like a whispered secret
beneath my headphones. Wonder if
I’d still move my fingers to the chords
of the old songs. If I could
even listen to them.
Shoot, what’s one more time?
This is a piece about singer-songwriter Lori McKenna, whose music I discovered online almost 20 years ago. When she was still, as I said, a regional artist. The music was great. But it was her words! I didn’t realize it back then, but the title cut from her second album, Pieces of Me, turned out to be an anthem of sorts for my life – and, if you’re reading this, maybe yours:
I have been a poet all my life
With really not too much to say
So you can push me anywhere you like
But you can’t push me away
My life is written down on papers in my room
And yours is bottled up somewhere
So I’ll send you letters from half across the moon
And it will cross your mind but you won’t dare
Here’s the spark
no one’s looking for,
out there in the dark
of their days.
It comes from a heart
which never knew
much but apart
from wherever your head lays.
I’ve been dead so long
to all but a few,
but I don’t feel it so wrong
being buried in plain sight.
But you, this morning,
came to my empty mind,
and I took it as a warning
that maybe you needed my light.
Our distance is more than miles,
more than even time can measure.
I’d walk it all for one of your smiles
that breathe mere spark to flame.
I’m know I’m shouting into naught
this light for you dimmed long ago.
My spark-words you’ll give barely a thought,
but I fought for that thought just the same.
Sorry I’ve been gone so long. Distance, time, pain and darkness interred me. If any there in the void still might care to read, thank you for your kind indulgence and the privilege of your looking up to notice this light so dim. Dim, yes, but it’s a light, nonetheless.
Sometimes I wonder
if you ever think of me
while you float there
in your own stream of misery.
I’ve been in your place
and, boy howdy, I found
that floating faced up
will beat face-downed.
I came by this knowledge
quite honestly, you see,
as I cruised the banks
of the River Woe-Is-Me,
hoping to go under
at least one time around
on this circular stream where
my feet touched no ground.
And so much of that time
I thought of you and me,
And that’s when I discovered
this persistent sound
of only one heart beating, since
I was the only one around.
I realized that even together,
we’d never be a We.
And my toe then touched bottom,
I don’t think coincidentally.
So I opted to wade ashore,
exhausted by the round and round.
Decided to share this story,
‘cause in for a penny in for a pound.
Now when I lie, to tell you the truth,
my lying is done with verity,
not supine in water, veritas-laced vino
nor even in psychotherapy.
I still think of you, though no longer
around your finger I’m wound.
I just wonder if you’d let me know,
when finally with peace you’ve been crowned.
I remember those nights lying there alone,
since there was nothing better to do,
when the words would come to me —
like a doting parent, a monster
from beneath my bed, a guardian angel, a kiss,
They would tell me a story without making a sound,
not read, just known, not understood, but gospel.
And, like when I grew up, these parents left,
or I left them. The monster went poof and
now demons scratch their nails
across my consciousness. I sold my angel for
thirty pieces of fool’s gold and any kisses
left with you.
I am alone again, in a darkness beyond black,
waiting for words that don’t wish to share my bed.
So today I sit in this lonely place,
closing my eyes to the light and praying
for deliverance from the exile of my own making.
And here you are again, carrying this thing
I never appreciated. You don’t have to love me.
Just sit here by my bed until I’m asleep.
I never told you how much I love your voice.
I can’t hear you, but I’ll never stop listening.
It makes no sense to consider
a life where we never met.
We met and that’s it.
Whatever pebbles we disturbed
started rolling down life’s mountain,
either missing other stones altogether
or eventually triggering landslides
where I always seemed to be standing.
But these avalanches of angst,
or anxiety, never touched you,
just the anger at all my dust
drifting by, obscuring your view
of what you found most important.
Your reflection may not look like
it once did in that mirror pool.
No, age didn’t cause the change.
It’s really the ripples
of concentric circles that your
fleet of pebbles set off now that
they’ve finally come to rest
upon what might’ve always mattered
to you most.
It’s easy to see, from outside not in,
how these obsessions have propelled my life.
Some have been lovely, others brought me sin,
too many of them have caused my life’s strife.
I admit this aloud, my confession,
since you tell me to move on I’ve gotta.
But isn’t kowtowing just more obsession?
Because I’ve done that for you a lotta.
Maybe fixating on one thing’s just passion,
something most would agree is acceptable.
And maybe my way’s not in your fashion,
but don’t toss it in your receptacle.
Besides, obsession’s just thoughts moving me forward.
It’s my compulsions you’ve found so untoward.
Too true. But it’s why I do this so hard and why I’m here. And yeah, some of these rhymes are R-E-A-L-L-Y stretching the bounds of matching corresponding line-ending sounds, but for once I’m not gonna obsess about it.
Sometimes I wonder if
I ever actually felt her warmth,
sensed her, breathed her in.
I look back and question
any place in my life where
I stood in her presence,
held her, or she held me.
I wonder if she was
nothing more than a dream I had,
when I still had dreams,
an ideal that kept me on
a path to be the nice polite boy
and good strong man, since
that was the way they said
one took to win her favor.
But I never did experience
her love and,
like most sore losers,
I have doubts now she
even exists. Perhaps, in this,
my last dream, if I stopped
searching so hard, one day
Peace will find me.