The Tune She’d Heard Somewhere Before

He’d say they were like the links on a chain,
each instance where he fell in love.
Or whatever facsimile of “love” he chased.
But he really didn’t understand true love.
He only knew it in a Webster’s Dictionary sense
that he’d read through the bottom of a tumbler
of pheromones and endorphins on testosterone rocks.

There were a few that rocked him, left him
stunned and aching in the avalanche of their passing.
To them he actually confessed his devotion, his longing,
his “love.” They would nod and then shake their heads No
as they moved on to the next manifestations of their own
understandings of the phenomenon.

Once, one looked back at his shadow, the memory of him
cascading broken and crooked on the debris she left behind,
as he whistled his way upward toward the horizon.
For a moment, she wondered why he always got back up
and tried just once more. As he crested the hill,
on his way to falling again, he shifted a few stones
that bounded down to her feet.

She picked them up, stashed them in her pocket,turned and
went her way, humming a tune she thought she’d heard
somewhere before.

On Day #17 of National Poetry Writing Month, I was asked to answer the challenge for a love or anti-love poem. Jeez, must I? So I sat and wrote something that might embody a little of both concepts…perhaps very little. A free write and one of those story-poems that used to flow from me as easy as tapping these keys. Maybe that’s my true love. Maybe there’s still a bit of my Muse’s love left for me.

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It’s Not The Hand You’re Dealt (But How You Play it)

Forever she told me
that she always felt Life
dealt her nothing but bad hands,
each full of strife.
I replied in encouragement,
Knave to her Queen,
“Don’t fold, you’ve got
one more hand to be seen.”
She sighed and said,
“I got nothing here but a nine.”
I said, “Toss those four
and let’s see what we find.”
So she looked at the dealer
and said, “I’ll take four.”
He chuckled and said,
“Is that ‘cause you can’t take more?”
Then the dealer grinned
His indecently superior grin,
dealing the cards, saying,
“Ya know, gambling’s another sin.”
I put my hand on her shoulder,
‘cause she was my Muse,
as the dealer said,
“I’ve a full house, so I guess you lose.”
She looked at her hand
and then back at me,
while I kept my poker face,
the lesson I’d hope she’d see.
“I’ve got this pair of deuces,”
she said to his sneer,
“And oh, look, I’ve got another
just like it right here.”
The lesson she learned is even
an Ace-high full boat can lose
to someone whose hand
holds nothing but twos.
So stay positive, keep hope,
and don’t lose your mind.
Bad hands happen, but (Who knows?)
you might pull your own four of a kind.

Day #10 of the April 2018 PAD Challenge (I’m a third of the way through without a miss) called for a Deal or a No Deal poem. In the old days, I’d write one for each instance on these Two for Tuesday specials. Don’t know if I’m up to it these days, but thought I’d deal you this bit of whimsy. Call.

Something About Hope, Time and Brown Eyes

I keep this picture of myself,
from sometime during the 70’s,
a smiling kid, brown eyes
gleaming with hope, black hair
covering my ears and shoulders.
In it, I am a young man of my time
and my time was Now.

The other day I was shown
another head shot of a guy
I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.
His was hair thin and silver,
some growing ON his ears or
fallen upon his shoulders.
He appeared a man old
before his time,
which he prays isn’t now.

Through the bottom of my bifocals
I peered into the dark caves
beneath his patchy gray brows.
There I saw something like
a glimmer in his brown eyes
and I recognized it as Hope,
which knows not Time.
And was thankful Time
can never dim true Hope.

My catch-up poem for Day 2 of the PAD Challenge, which was prompted by the word portrait. Any resemblance to actual old poets, living or dead, is purely coincidental…and poor editing.

Full Stop.

He hates to think
he’ll reach The End and
never have the chance
to close their story
with a clean, contented dot,
punctuation connoting
the final exhalation
of a spoken breath.

Her draft still
bears that bold-face
exclamation point,
bolt-upright, indignant,
with arms akimbo…
if !” had any arms.

His version sports
what they once called
an interrogation mark,
a Quasimodo “?” questioning
something they still
didn’t understand,
only that he’s either
the clueless or callous
actor who prompted
her reaction.

They say he’s not got
much of a future
to look forward to
and his vision’s grown
too befogged to clearly
discern the past.
So he wonders if
some day she might
just say hello.

Perhaps then they
could bid goodbye to
the figures who cast
their shadows upon
what once was yet
never could be
and place that .,
a simple declarative
conclusion, on this,
a story better left
…unwritten.

First-draft desparate free-write. Full stop.

Tunnel of Loves

Sometimes he can almost
make out what he’s looking for
deep in his Well of Memories.
Could be they’re glimpses
of what he actually experienced,
or maybe pieces of some other
recollection torn, dented
and stuck on their way down
in the shadowy moss fuzzing up
the view of this ever darkening
tunnel of loves lost and found?
Did she really say what he sees
in that unlikely clump of lichens?
Or is that merely a couple of dreams
he lost when finally he awakened?
Is that truly the touch
of her cheek to his or just
another soft thing he can’t recall
if he stole or merely wished
would warm him now when the world
grows colder, darker and
more regretful by the night.
Sometimes, when the moon’s just right,
he thinks he sees her face there
at the bottom, watching him
as he searches for something
no one ever saw but him.
Probably it’s just his face
reflecting back into those eyes
that hope they’ll find her there,
or see she might still care,
or the image of her ever thinking
she sees the same things
in the dark memories into which
she stares. If she ever dares.

I Wish I Never Knew

I never knew you could
hold grudges as tightly
in one’s hand as its fingerprints.
until you grasped the one
with my name on it.
I never knew that a grudge,
held with death-grip pressure,
could choke the air
from a living connection.
I never knew I could cause
such pain to someone
other than myself
until I burned you.
I never knew true emptiness
until I helped crush the trust
you held in me.
I never knew you could
hold a grudge as tightly
within a hand as your
fingerprints,
but I wish you would search
for mine again where once
I touched your heart.

Somewhat disappointed with this, but it’s a first draft effort and I needed to produce something today or I’d not have something to show to that martinet of an artistic psyche of mine for two whole days. Not acceptable to that little bully.

Red Ink

After lunch, lovely Mary the Secretary
returned to her desk, where a half-dozen
pink and red, foily and doily cards
stood at attention, like gate-mouthed swains,
each proclaiming at least $6.95
of their undying love and devotion.
On the center of her desk, though, lay
a folded sheet of blue-lined notebook paper,
one edge ripped into erstwhile wire-bound,
college-ruled lace. Red ink block letters
spelled out her name, and when she unfolded
the supine note, she saw a heart
and a message ooh-so-neatly written
in the same crimson hand:

I watch you sit alone,
listening to voices on the phone,
ponder if two heartbeats do echo
or mirror-beat as only one that’s let go.
But this is only a dream,
one many nights I’ve seen,
in which I’m not the me
by dawn’s light I see,
but one you’d wish hold you
how you’d want enfold you
on nights it’s your dream to
be held by one who dreams that, too.

At workday’s end, Mary shoved
the phalanx of craft paper professions
of infatuation into the wastebasket
beneath her desk. But she once more
read a note on her desk, gently folded it
and slipped into her purse.
With a winsome smile, she bustled
toward the door, idly saying “Good night”
to Just Jane two desks over.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Jane said,
as she waved and ducked back to filling
her spreadsheets. Mary never noticed
the red on Just Jane’s blushing cheeks,
nor the same color ink on her fingers.

Here’s the first of 2018’s Valentine’s Day (or anti-Valentine’s Day) poems/stories. In about thirty minutes, this one bloomed like a hothouse rose. It’s no American beauty, but it’ll do in a pinch. More to come in this year’s bouquet. (I hope.)