Shelter From These Storms

Rabbit’s a patient boy, who cares not
that it’s Saturday as he hunkers
beneath the porch next door
until the rain lets up.
Cats or coyotes around here
eschew attacking rabbits in the rain
unless they’re starving. Otherwise,
it’d be cruel, and cruelty’s not Nature’s game.
That’s the domain of the allegedly
dominant creature of the planet,
the silly species that will put up with,
hell stand out in the middle of,
the storm as long as they can
stuff their mouths and
fluff their nests with more clover?

But rabbit doesn’t know this,
nor does he care. This rainy Saturday’s
just another “whatever” rabbits
discern as days. I doubt if he understands
it’ll be dark later. Or that the light
will return on that thing we call tomorrow.
Rabbit just cares that he’s
out of the rain and he’s sitting
in a salad bowl full of clover and his buddy
the robin just plopped next to him.
And, as I sit here in the house, I whisper
“Thanks, Rabbit,” for the momentary shelter
he’s given me today. I pray someday
my storms will let up, too.

Ya know? Sometimes Nature will get up on its hind legs, reach out a paw or wing and save me from myself and the storms besetting me. If only for the time I can write about those rabbits, robins and their rainstorms.

Feeling My Way

I wonder and wander each day at this time,
hoping I won’t need to resort to some rhyme
to chronicle the tour from right brain to left.
Sometimes the scenes are forests or plains wind-swept,
others like deserts, barren of even sounds.
But the best trips are those where I, spelunker
of this cavern, drop into my heart’s abyss
or maybe the bottomless black of your eyes.
I guess that’s because I don’t see as much as feel
my way into these chambers of mystery
where I’m sure there are glyphs of our history
on the walls that echo each heartbeat and blink.
So if, while you read, a tear on your cheek falls,
it’s just irritating me trying to feel
with hands and heart, my way out, along those walls,
imprinting memories I hope I don’t drop
before my wander is done, when I’ll wonder
not how I found my way, but how I lost it.

Full Circle

“What do you wish us to do?” the doctor asked, his benevolent demeanor, but with a double-parked, motor-running, it’s 4:58 on Friday vibe.

You never think about making the ultimate decision for someone you love. You divert yourself with other thoughts. What’ll the family say? How can I face myself after this?

“There’s no coming back for her,” the doctor said. But there’d be no coming back for me, either.

You stand still for that second, three heartbeats replacing the one normally filling that space.

“Okay.” My throat locking in that word and out the air.

The doctor does what he does. Then we wait. Not long. But a whole life together in an instant. She closes her eyes, takes a few deep breaths and… Gone.

But in that instant everything changed. All from one second of indecision to decision.

I had to make the same decision for my Dad, a year later. Everything comes full circle, they say. But you don’t want on this ride more than once.

I’m sure the weepers thought me an unfeeling bastard. The doctor gave the same rap about no coming back, for the best, no-resuscitate order. Then…

“Well?”

In that second, the guy for whom agreeing to have his dog put down changed everything, nodded and said, “Okay, Let’s do it.”

Then I began to breathe again, as others began sobbing. They could never make this decision. But, like I said…in less than a second…changed everything.

I’d cry later.

Always Facing Whatever Way The Winds Blow

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!

Doing Solitary in an Unlocked Cell (With You)

I’ve told you before oh so many times
how this poet’s life is built on alone.
Sometimes it’s baited with meter and rhymes,
but ‘neath them too often’s just meatless bone.

I guess a poet must learn to inure,
grow callused over his isolation.
Not that easy when you’re so insecure
all your friends live in your imagination.

That’s why I whisper, alone in my head,
and try writing all these poems for two.
But if my words make you cry in your bed,
hold on, perhaps these next might restore you.

Your reading my lonely days’ pages shows me,
for one tick, I’m not alone. You chose me.

For Day 20 of Poem-a-Day NaPoWriMo 2020, an “isolation” poem. And, baby, I know isolation. Just click that word in the word cloud down on the right and see how many pieces come up. And that’s just the one’s on the blog, not in the two collections (still available on Amazon, BTW.)

Lavabo Inter Innocentes Manus Meas

I believe I had it a few weeks ago,
but I’m never really sure.
On a good day, control’s a slippery thing
that’ll squirt from my hands as if
they’re covered with soap suds.
I hate this feeling; it’s akin
to my senior moments, when I walk
into a room and forget why I did.
Did I ever have it?
I’m certain of one thing, though:
doing everything I can to stay alive
and, by that same token, keep you well.
But, if you can’t control yourself
and this all goes to hell…
at least I know MY hands are clean.

So much of the poetry being written every day during National Poetry Writing Month’s various poem-a-day efforts is centered around the coronavirus pandemic. And why shouldn’t it be? The damn thing is wresting our normal lives from our hands. And yes, we are doing what we can to stay uninfected. A poet, though, has the ability to build a moment of control while he or she is composing whatever it is they’re writing. (Unless the phone rings, the wind knocks a branch down on your roof or a meteorite takes out the State of Florida.)

Oh, and before I forget, the title of this piece comes from the Latin prayer the priest would recite while washing his hands when I was a wee altar boy back during the Dark Ages at St. Patrick’s in Albany. (But I’ll bet you could guess I’ve always been an altar boy, couldn’t you?) The translation to English is: “I will wash my hands among the innocent.” I thought it a good fit.

What My World Had To Say

It’s the frame through which
our pictures happen to unfold
of how the world goes ‘round and ‘round
and I just sit here and go old.
I perch here on this side of the glass,
the world lies around out there,
and we pose for hours and one another,
the world supine and I in my chair.

Even on overcast days, outside
it’s brighter than it is in here.
That’s in the eye of the beholder,
and this beholder’s craving a beer.
I watch the maple and birch trees bow
and then, with the wind, they dance.
On a page, I draw a picture of them,
with words better suited for romance.

Some days those words come quite easily,
other days it’s just so damn hard.
I’m sure the world deserves better,
but unfortunately I’m me, not some Bard.
Birds, squirrels, a woman, some girls,
memories of them true and false,
cross by my window in their own way each day,
this window ‘neath the old back porch walls.

I write down what I see, most times what I don’t,
‘cause I have a tendency to forget.
The world’s wooden-framed eyeball never blinks,
but I’ve yet to see it write about me yet.
So that’s the lot of the back porch poet,
the guy who chronicles what he senses each day.
Not too many read these, as far as I know it,
but if I didn’t, who’d know what my world had to say?

On Day 9 of Poem A Day April, an ekphrastic poem. For all you folks like me who never knew, that’s a poem inspired by a piece of art. I’ve written lots of poems like that! I’m an ekphrastic poet! Who knew? Anyway, I chose that photo up there because it reminded me of yours truly as he hunches over his laptop each day in front of the window facing the backyard.

The Space Within and Without

The sky still looks as big as December’s,
as I sit within this big circle of pines.
Miserly maples and oaks and big-leaf trees
still clutch Spring in their tiny fists.
The mate-baiting robins find scant hiding places
within the space between branches,
their vermillion breasts puffing up
and glowing in the sun as if they’re
retouched photos on a computer dating site.
But soon enough, this will all close in,
when the leaves come out to play in the sun,
forming a vernal wreath framing the cul de sac.
Perhaps by then I’ll be able to see it all
from the opposite side of this infernal window
framing the space outside these four walls,
here where life goes on, here where
I count it in the click of these remaining seconds,
not the tweeted beats of robins’ forever songs.
But still, it’s life.

Day 2 of April’s poem-a-day quest: a “space” poem. I don’t think this is what they expected, but that’s how I roll.

Keeping My Head Above

Just thought I’d write today. No theme, no depth of subject or consideration of how it might affect my life and life in general. Just write. So…

My life’s a mess, but so is human life overall. The length and breadth of it is a litany of sloppy, awkward, falling-down trial, error, failure and maybe the occasional tie. There don’t seem to be any wins. And if we think there are such Me-versus-the-Universe faux-comebacks, that’s just the House sucking you in with a blast of endorphin to keep you at the gaming table.

I guess the best times are the trials, those times where I’ve messed in the mess and have yet to fall on my face in the slop of it all. There are few times where the mess isn’t within and arm’s length of me (or you). I dance on the edge of it, splash in it, wade through it, throughout the Sphinx’s four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night quiz answer for Oedipus. His prize was the keys to “a NEW Thebes!”

And we all know how that turned out, right? 

Yes, life is messy, from its hormone-drenched origin, to its splatter-flick, camel-through-a-needle’s-eye (so I’m told and have observed) delivery, over its boot-sucking traverse of the day to day swamp, until its icky finale and ultimate disposal.

I am up to my chin in it all, with the once-distant solid ground of my evermore within sight, which sometimes feels more appealing than yet another swallow of life’s wallow. I’ve taken on a lot of its turbid wash over the past few years, sometimes nearly going under, occasionally dreaming of scuttling this leaky vessel altogether.

But here I am, taking the gamble one more day, reaching my foot into the stark paper-white unseen in hope there’s a there there to support me until tomorrow when I hold my nose and take another sodden step. That’s the risk I take. Maybe you do, as well. I’ve taken many a messy misstep, sunk into it over my head and somehow sputtered like flotsam to the surface. I’m an expert at treading, though I’m more exhausted every day.

Maybe you’ve been lucky enough (or made your own luck) to find a map to the stars’ homes, isles of dryland dreams to keep your feet unsullied at least for awhile. I applaud you, but won’t allow myself envy. That’s just more heavy ballast I don’t need. I carry enough of my own. 

So here on this page I have smeared the results of my latest fall in the marsh of human existence. I’ve wiped from my eyes the detritus I observed upon the silty bottom. Exhaled more of the miasma floating above the surface like a diaphanous warning of days to come. And I’ve spit out some of my latest gulps of failure. 

Another mess. Another chance to tread on. Another tie.

Prisoner of My Own Device

I have become a prisoner
within this body, this mind,
this world, this life.
While I know I can’t jump
into any others, I also realize
I can’t jump anymore at all.
Meanwhile, they’re all
shrinking around me, this spark
of humanity, of being.

I cannot escape from this world
that exists beneath but one roof,
population: six and one ghost;
this hobbled body that cannot
do much of what it once did;
this mind atrophied by age,
sadness, anger and fear.

I exist in whines and complaints,
poorly expressed, framed within
postage stamps or cards
I’d send only to you.
And I don’t know why I try,
since even I don’t want
to listen to me anymore either.

Soon the air will be gone,
this spark extinguished,
these silent songs choked off.
I know I’m the key to my escape,
but how can I turn
if there is no lock?

I’d tap out this message to you on the bars, but there’s no you there to listen and we’ve each forgotten our secret code anyway.