I wondered if you’d ever ask if,
in these cryptic columns of words,
I’ve drawn portraits of you.
No, I’d say, adding some gibberish
about craft and imagination,
sounding as pretentious as me
in a Bond St. suit and silk cravat.
But I pulled out some of these
heart-stained Rorschach blots,
turning each 360 degrees,
like scanning the whole horizon,
squinting to muddy the bloody,
searching for an expression of you.
Failing, I tossed each to scatter
in an array of wounds, of joys,
of so many of my life’s
moments I’d all but forgotten.
In a momentary glance across
the topography of them upon my desk,
one overlapping another, piles of
disparate drops coagulating into one,
I saw your face in a moment of grace,
and each time I blinked, I saw another.
Once, even my own. So, in answer
to your question, I can only say…
So goddamn complicated I can only
do it with my eyes closed and
consciousness tied behind my back.
“I have a bed, my very own.
It’s just my size.
And sometimes I like to sleep alone
with dreams inside my eyes.” ~ Mary Oliver
The doctor says I could go blind,
and for a moment my mind races
in frantic paces where sight
no longer graces my life like
random tones do a composer’s.
But then I realize I’m already seeing
such things in this darkened room.
There’s robin’s vermillion breast
coming to rest from azure above
to green below. And here’s your face,
unburdened by the toll of years,
the paths of tears, inviting yet
another riff on things only I
can see in you. The doctor says
we can arrest the coming darkness,
but what’s already lost
is gone forever.
I thank her and walk outside,
wearing what’s probably an odd grin.
She doesn’t know it’s at night,
with my eyes closed, I see
my life’s places and faces
so clearly. You may
tear away pieces of my sight,
but you’ll never steal my vision.
This piece was inspired by the final line of the first verse Mary Oliver’s Every Dog’s Story suggested my friend Annie Fuller.
The Muse by Gabriel de Cool, 1895
I defer to you
when it comes to experience.
I haven’t been in your skin
when the time came to Yes or No,
Stay or Go, Be or Not Be.
You’ve made your choices,
even though you might believe
some were made for you.
But our lives have not
been a grand accident,
some Big Bang that
set in motion a journey
we’ll look back upon and
play in our lonely final repose
at lightning-fast forward.
Someday the final credits
will roll and you and
your epic life, that
singular litany of Dids and Dones,
stands a good chance of
no longer Doing, in that
final spark of experience,
perhaps I’ll be there with you.
That’s because while I experienced
these visions of lives
both real and imagined,
captured and chronicled
as I, alone in my skin,
tend to do, you’ve been here
He asked me how I do this,
lacing words like macaroni
on a string of some thread
of a thought, like it’s
a Mother’s Day gift necklace
you dutifully made in second Grade.
Sometimes it’s that easy,
and it looks it, wonky doggerel
with broken mini penne sticking out
like a the the in the third line.
Other times, when you want to weave
like a fine Navajo blanket in verse,
it comes out looking like
one of those potholders you’d make
from stretchy bands on
a comb-toothed frame in Cub Scouts.
But when the right thought,
the right words,
the right secret sauce
of frantic inspiration
thirty minutes staring into
the pale blue haze
of a laptop screen
just before dawn
can feel like only
a heartbeat, and look like
a poetic sundown sky scape
from the pages
of Arizona Highways.
Or so The Poets tell me.
Sorta, kinda inspired by my brother. Thanks, Mike. This probably doesn’t answer your question, but to think about the How usually ends up with me asking myself Why. And that’s a question I don’t think I can answer in one of my pieces of pasta jewelry like the word one above.
With my ears straining, I lie here,
awaiting David’s secret chord to hear.
Cohen said it was good enough to please
young Dave’s big boss. Was it a C perhaps?
Or the big juicy G like I play,
with four fretted strings because…but
you don’t really care for music, do you?
I figure if some confidential tonal triad
exists that helped a shepherd become king,
maybe it could turn a dumb, near-deaf
pencil-twirling, guitar-plucking layabout
into what you might think is a poet…but
you don’t really care for poems, do you?
I don’t hear well enough to dance
a pencil across a page without falling.
Another failing, like why I’d worry
about pleasing anyone but myself when
I fill this space with muffled tones, pastel
shades of gray, dotted with blood red…but
you don’t really care for such musings, do you?
So I’ll just sit and push some keys,
not waiting for some muses’ energies.
My notes you’ll hear, with eyes for ears
and imaginations watching me lie in a lea,
a notebook on my knee, cloud sheep grazing
on blue eternity. And maybe I’m smiling…but
you don’t really believe that, do you?
Tried hard, but couldn’t come up with a thing to write about, so…
Oh, and if you really know me, you understand that last line.
You can’t wait for inspiration.
You have to go after it with a club
~ Jack London
The fan rattles away, blowing ripples
into my shirt and goosebumps
on my arms. My hands float poised above
the keyboard awaiting the control tower
to get its head out of the ass
of my head to impart instructions
(I can’t hope for inspiration)
for a landing I can walk away from.
In the monitor’s glass, I see
an expression of flight, but not
a flight of whimsy or artistry,
rather of runaway fear and survival.
But I can’t leave the room, I mustn’t
leave this chair, until words, perhaps
even pretty ones, fall from my heart
to the virtual page. And so I type —
fetching, lovely, cute, captivating —
heartfelt all. Now I await another
flight — of fancy or fear it matters not—
while the fan flips the silver on my head
as it oscillates like my creative self,
by and by and by in the lonely monotony of
the writer who’s forgotten how to write.
Where I reside in the literal, literary and physical senses these days.
Ernest Hemingway reading books with his dog Negrita at Finca Vigia in Cuba. Photo courtesy of “Ernest Hemingway Collection/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston”
We have only one thing in common really, Papa and I. We both cut our teeth in the word stringing game as young newspaper reporters. I think by that definition,this is where our similarities end. I didn’t go to war,suffer grievous injuries, move to Paris and hobnob with the literati of a Lost Generation, write a seminal novel of the Twentieth Century or live like this is the only day I’m going to get, then make sure it is.
Minor maladies helped me avoid my war, I only suffered a broken heart (chronically), I moved to that other cosmopolitan city starting with P: Plattsburgh, NY, and my ink-stained, scribbly hobnobbing was with characters called Bags, Botsy, and Burly. My brushes with death were a whitecap-skipping airplane flight armed with a camera and an apple farmer threatening me armed with a gun. Oh, and a heart grown too hard that inevitably turned me perhaps too soft.
But Papa’s words in my throat, my heart and a location south of there made me a writing man as much as a man who writes.On this, his birthday, I recognize I’ve never hunted lion in Kenya, never pulled four spouses and God knows how much tail, never drank enough to make a belligerent difference, never forget I’ve outlived him and know I’ll never pen last words of any piece I’ll ever write that are so incongruously sad as, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”
I just completed my semi-annual reading of the novel that has informed my life as a writer probably more than any other, “The Sun Also Rises.” And today is the author’s 117th birthday. So I share with you a piece of my relationship, personal and professional, with Ernest Hemingway. If he ever read this clap-trap, I’m sure he’d cut 50% of the words and punch me 100% in the jaw.