What Was Found Above the Lines Has Been Lost Between Them

Aerial photograph of a Bristol F2B fighter aircraft flying above the clouds.

Above the lines you can see the scars etched
into the beauty’s countenance, crisscrossing
ones old and new, some smeared with spoiled
face powder trying to cover the pocks
and failures of old men’s vanity.
But that’s only if you regard them with some
romantic aesthetic you lose all too quickly
as you are assailed by the scream of
the engine in your lap, its heat of no use
in the freezing air and wind in your face,
redolent of burnt petrol and cast-off castor oil.
You dare not wax so poetic that you stare
at billowing, sun-painted clouds as if
they were masterpieces like great Cathedrals,
or as the marble imaginings filling them,
wrought by some absent God’s immortal tools.
No, above the lines’ beauty and cleanliness
are mere primer for a blank canvas, one yet
to be spattered with the black and red blooms
of Archie shells, the yellow tracings of bullets
as they pierce your wings, fuselage, or someone’s son.
You chance a glimpse of the slanting or spiral
chiaroscuro of a funeral pyre in descent,
in a hurry to bury another boy in the box
within in which he tried to stay above all the mud
And blood below, only to be lost between the lines.

Inspired by a picture and conversation shared with my friend, the novelist Julia Robb. These days, I feel so much like one of those young men of the Lafayette Escadrille or the Royal Flying Corps in late 1916/early 1917. I see little beauty in what I’m doing here anymore and feel my time at this is growing as short as my next climb into the cockpit of this desk. 

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Such Fine Memories

Such a fine memory
I have of you.
Of you walking by me
in the moonlight glow
from the window.
I remember sensing
the scent of you
that night like
your silhouette wafting
though your nightgown.

Such a fine memory
I have of you.
Of you beside me
all those nights,
so close I could not sleep.
Of your warmth
touching my body
as palpable
as your kiss.

Such fine memories
I’ve carried of us
all these years,
how you’re always there
when the music plays,
when the room goes dark.
But there never was an Us,
never really was a you.

Just fine memories.

I was due for something new. This is at least that.

Another Slice of Blood Orange

 

Sometimes I sit here
in the dark and ask myself
why I started this,
this burning of lifetime
spitting words into the air
like orange pits or
like blood from a split lip.
Wasn’t for any notoriety
since no one was supposed
to read them but me
and a very few who wondered
what the hell this was about.
And it wasn’t to write books,
lord knows, since I’d forgotten
how to read them years ago,
let alone write them.
It wasn’t, like you said,
for the approbation, since
I never belong with anyone.
Couldn’t be for what you call
stroking, since I’m unused to,
uncomfortable with touching.
I guess it was for a kind of
recognition, though, because
over these past ten years,
I might finally have recognized
my futile, inky-souled nature,
the guy spitting out orange pits
and blood to myself for myself.

My take on Robert Lee Brewer’s Wednesday poetry prompt in Writer’s Digest last week. He wanted a Recognition poem. I found the prompt and poem in my sleeplessness around 3:00AM this morning. Ahhh…throwback to the dark solitude of my Insomniac Poet days.

Echoes of Echoes

Today he thought he heard
the voices that once
chilled his spine and
set his chest thumping.
But it was only the soft airs
of old tunes. Perhaps carried
on the cold breeze, he mused.
Alone in bed that night,
he thought he heard them again,
wondering if they who once
haunted his sleep had returned.
A whispered G’night, babe,
a thin Buona notte,
a warm Night night.
It was then he discovered
it was his own breath
on the pillow caressing
his cheek, warming his memory,
sighing a final farewell
to all those dying echoes
of his displaced desire.

Genesis 3:19

The sunlight slanting in
through the window,
lingered on a bowl of fruit,
each waxen piece siphoning dust
from the light to immerse
itself in a world where
an apple or banana wears
as much fuzz as a peach.

No one notices this since
no one dines on the mahogany
table upon which the bowl sits.
No one’s moved more than one
of the chairs from beneath
the table in months,
though handprints muss
their dusty shoulders
on the way to the living room.

The tablecloth has yellowed
around the footprint rings
of teacups which helped read
the morning papers, except
for the five that rest outside
upon the threshold. But in
two days, her name will appear
on page C-8 of a seventh.

After that, sunlight will slant
beneath the green marquee,
to linger on the spray of silk roses
atop the mahogany veneer box.
A twirling wind will whirl motes
of west Texas, gilding the teary
lilies peering over prayer books
that, as one, proclaim,
“dust to dust.”

Step Nine

There’s this guy who penned a story
he’ll never share with you.
It’s a tale of two people who
should have, but ultimately never knew

their true feelings for each other
but should have sensed them coming.
Not roaring like a freight train, but
maybe a funeral parade’s muted drumming.

In it he tells her how he’s sorry
for the way he let her down,
though she’s so hurt she’ll forever view
him as a vain and heartless clown.

But he was compelled to tell her,
to again open his scarred wounds,
to make amends for damage he’d done
so he could listen to the old tunes

that always brought to his mind an Us
where only a He and She existed.
And though he fought like hell to forget her,
some of the obsessive feelings persisted.

So he comes clean with his long story,
all of the wherefores and the whys,
of how he one day just disappeared,
bringing her to forever despise

the guy who always lent a sympathetic ear
and a strong shoulder she could lean on.
How he followed some “expert’s” orders
to break away from the damage he was so keen on.

It ends with him saying a last goodbye,
after listening to her side of their tale.
But you’ll never read this story,
that’s always been his white whale.

It’s something he fought for years
to get out of his crippled system,
but now that he has, he feels no catharsis,
only realization of this hard wisdom:

You can follow all the steps prescribed
to cure your crippling addictions,
but until you confess your failings to yourself,
your true stories are nothing but true fictions.

Just so you understand, my poem is only a free-written, first-draft creative exercise in storytelling and rhyme. What is it they say at the beginning of Law & Order episodes? “The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.” However, feel free to run it on your mind’s big screen through whatever personal lens you wish. It’s yours now.

Return Receipt Requested

Maybe they’re like notes
I tied to doves I’ve tossed
to the air, hoping one’ll
light outside your window
and you’d see what I had to say.
Or perhaps I wrote these words
on blue-lined yellow paper,
folded them just so to slip
them under your door.
For sure I’ve penned
more than a thousand such
things, expressing doubts,
affection, hopes aborning
and dashed, telling lies
based in ironclad truth and
truths steeped in my wildest
imaginings, hung them
in this public square,
hoping perhaps you’d recognize
one as you passed and consider
turning it over to write back.