My childhood was rather short,
being the oldest of our brood.
I learned about duty and care
of kids while still a kid, too.
I had a gray-bearded soul
from my childhood until now,
when I’ve taken the baton from
middle age’s aching hands to begin
this next circle of existence,
they call senior citizenship.
But my soul isn’t interested
in trotting the anchor leg of life.
It hears sounds like children playing,
drawing it off this rutted cinder oval
to traipse cross country and enjoy
what it missed while Life whizzed by
and I stayed in my lane, pumping
like a piston, in a ’52 Chevy.
Yesterday, I picked up a basketball
and played a game of 1-on-0 like
the kids always did. I crossovered Life,
let one go, swishing it and thought,
“How great is this game!”
Once I saw the future as something exciting and totally within my grasp. Nothing could stop me, once I was 10. Then I saw the future as something exciting and probably within my grasp, like that girl in Biology class, once I was 15. When I was 18, once I received that 1-A on my Draft Card, I saw the future as something scary and full of dreams of death and terror in a land halfway around the same world I thought I’d own when I was 10. Once I saw my future in that girl, and that one, or maybe the other, or possibly her, and then I turned 22 and found someone already had found their future in me. When I turned 30, I thought there was little future in my future but nine-to-five and nights spent wondering where my future went while I stared at the ceiling with a spirit peened over by my own hammerheaded darkness. At 55, my future looked quite close, a constricted heartbeat away, until I found two miracles revealed: a heart can heal just as quickly as it breaks and I owned some power in my words to break hearts and heal them, too. When I turned 62, I peered back at a life spent looking at a future I thought remained just beyond arm’s length, like stars upon which childish dreams are hung, bright and tempting—as if we’re human magpies—yet always out of reach. So I looked at my yesterdays and realized the future’s nothing more than a vast plain upon which we stand with nothing to stop us on our way to those 360 degrees of horizon but our own nimbleness of mind and spirit. Oh, and looking at it all like we’re still 10.
Here’s my 300 words worth of a prose poem (maybe) response to my friend Sharyl Fuller’s last Writing Outside the Lines prompt for 2016. It’s that statement at the top of the piece. Hope to have a story for it soon. Thanks, Annie.
I might be disappearing for a while.
Don’t know when I’ll return.
I’ve held this message behind my back
for a long time, like I’m some facile,
dawdling, magician, and it’s that
Nine of Hearts we wrote your initials on.
I am in fact that prestidigitator, though
much taller, younger, better looking,
with a soothing baritone and a shock of
windblown black hair here in this
deck of illusions. Unfortunately,
even a conjurer like me can’t hide
these muddy brown eyes that occasionally,
and only for a second, ever looked into yours.
I hope you’re buying this patter,
letting it carry you deeper into the finale,
because I’ve been an honest man,
always pulling these words out of my hat and
leaving them like suicide notes
for you later to parse what’s
when I draw away the velvet curtain and
you find I’m not there anymore.
Actually, I never really was.
Some of the rocks at America’s Stonehenge,
Photo by Stan Shebs, via Wikipedia
These words are heavy,
even those that have no weight.
A the or feel, for instance.
I have to drag them from
that deep pit of rubble,
whence they come out
rough and shabby.
Sometimes they stay that way,
these words with which
I build fences and houses,
because I’ve never learned
the polisher’s skill. I can fit and cut
to make a strong wall,
one sturdy enough to hide behind,
but not defend myself.
Today, I hauled up another block
of my quarry to build a cathedral
called a novel. Hope someday
I can erect a Stonehenge at least.
Today, I restarted working on my dream project, a long form work centering around the battles of Saratoga and a young woman named Trish Bodden’s role in the run-up and aftermath of those early autumn days of 1777. As you can see, I find this backbreaking work. But I’ll get to my Stonehenge, Brit or Yankee, someday.
You said you never knew.
But it’s something one doesn’t confess
to a suit, a wall of fabric behind which
hides something like a real person,
the mourner and the mother,
and the weave of all others.
You never heard the words,
those threads holding together
a couture life you wished to wear.
Back then, the rules wouldn’t allow it,
when you still believed in rules, too.
You decided to break some anyway,
threads or rules, it doesn’t matter now,
allowing others behind your wall
to what you wanted touched. And lives,
slippery-skinned and angry,
stood raw in the light.
So now we’ve slipped away,
maybe one day to reach for
these lapels of shoddy possibility again,
on this buttonlesss suit that
I wore just for you.
An “I’m desperate to write a poem” free write.
Photo by Joseph Hesch
I’ve missed you, day-pioneer,
first-light blazer of time-trails.
We’ve not met since our friend
left me holding her in final-sigh.
I confess, during this cold earth-rest
I dreamed to join the forever-sleepers
beneath the far, flat margin
of life-light and eternal-dark.
Today you were waiting there for me,
encouraging one more cast
into the eastern sea of tomorrows.
I felt the leash-tug forward,
telling me look not back
at the long, black, only-me
lying at my feet.
Taking a tentative step, I sensed you,
warm upon my face, she,
warm against my leg, and we,
sharing soul-sunrise again.
My Swedish friend Björn Rudberg has asked that we try to write poems with Scandinavian style phrases called kennings. A kenning is a very brief metaphoric phrase or compound word that means “to know” (derived from Icelandic, but exist in many other languages like Swedish and German). It was used extensively in Old Norse (later Icelandic) and Anglo-Saxon poetry to add both color and better meter to the skaldic songs. For instance “whale-road” was used as a kenning for the sea in Beowulf, and “wave-stead” replaced ship in Glymdrápa.
Readers know I make up a lot of compound metaphors because sometimes words don’t exactly exist for my feelings I express that even I don’t understand. This is another 100-word poem, and I think a poor effort, at using kennings to express my emerging from a long winter–of the body and soul. But that photo up there is the sunrise that inspired this piece, and it wouldn’t be denied.
Squirrel and I both can tell
the season’s changing.
Maybe it’s the shift in Sun’s angle
stretching shadows a little longer
during the height of our day,
inhaling what we smell
in the transformed air,
even though the still
mostly green leaves
haven’t figured out yet
it’s they who are exhaling it.
We skitter our pencil gray ways
into and out of weakening light,
sketching and scribbling maps
for future reference, preparing
for that long decline of day when
these nuggets will be all we have
to sustain us. We’ll view it all,
as we always have, safely
from our space of invisibility
here in the longest shadows,
in the cold light of moon and star,
where all we have to keep warm
will be these set aside memories
of a time in May.