No Direction Home

Around the corner and down a way, just before the main road, two staples hold what’s left of a piece of paper to the power pole. I’d pass it in its fullness on my way to or from when snow still covered everything. It was hard to read then, weather having already faded it, the home printer’s ink running in tears down to the oiled wooden pole. But I knew it was a picture of someone’s white cat that had left the house and not returned. It could have run away, but I doubt it. It could have gone out and run afoul of a winter-hungered coyote, or maybe it got lost in the expanse of white upon which Home happened to be and a car or snowplow had sent it spinning like a snowflake to join the rest of the white on white landscape, maybe until Spring. And now all that’s left of someone’s plaintive posting for their loved one to come back are two staples and a tear of shredded hope. And I thought about the times I have been spun and hunted and lost. When I didn’t know which direction was Home, or if I even wanted to go there. When the dome of sky and the plate of earth are indiscernible from one another, and you look around you for help or escape and you know not which way is the N on the compass, let alone the road to redemption, you just have to find your way within. I once saw a litter of puppies tumbling down a hill toward the busy road upon which I sped by. There’s was nothing I could do for them, surrounded as I was by semis and fulls – the former, trucks and the latter, idiots. I filed that scene as a short loop that runs in my head and heart for thirty years. I have no idea if the little black bundles of bumptiousness hit road level and found a diverting chain link fence there (I pray so) or if a frightening inevitability ended their lives. I just know that they still live within the Home that is me, just as that cat might live in the lives of its family, or whoever saw its snowy invisibleness now indivisibly rendered in the home within them. Whether we know it or not, there will always be a Home for us, grim, gritty or glorious as it may be, in the memories of others, even strangers. Perhaps someday one of them will remember the shred of me when I passed through their day on the way Home. Theirs or mine, the direction doesn’t really matter. We’re Home.

On Day 27 of my Poem-a-Day quest, a “direction” poem. I saw the prompt and could only think of the line from Dylan…Bob, not Thomas. My taste in poets runs toward Minnesota, not Wales. Now, don’t nit-pick if this is a poem or not. It’s a first-draft expression of something within me. Let’s say it’s a prose poem, just for the sake of giving it an address in these last few days of April. A home on the way to May.

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Leaving the Nest

What’s it like to be free,
to no longer feel the weight
of it all upon your shoulders,
not bear so much upon your back
of what you can’t even see?
Is it like a life spent in the sky,
unbound from that which would
bring you down among we
who think we’re un-free?
We are silly sometimes,
wishing we were loosed from
our chains that truss us
to the day-to-day track,
expecting an oncoming train
that may never arrive atop us.
You thought you might be free
when you flew off from your
nest built of broken promises,
and curse-propelled spittle.
But that wasn’t freedom.
That was escape.
And the only escape that makes
us free is the one where
the spirit slips the ties
of You and Them, You and Me,
You and its nest over which
all bid adieu with a quiet “Amen.”

Day 23 of my poem-a-day NaPoWriMo quest. Had to take some time away because all my girls were in one place at once for the holiday. Priorities, y’all.

Astride the Penumbra

In a life spent standing
astride the penumbra,
the margin of light and shadow,
I’ve spent most of my days
braced against the winds
always blowing from the sunrise
toward the sunset.
While counterintuitive,
it’s been the darkness that’s
illuminated my way to tomorrows.
It is a wearying place,
cold and fraught with the hidden
and the injurious. And yet,
I’ve come to know it as I would
rising from bed and finding
my way around this room at 2:00 AM.
But someday, I hope to see you
again in bright light, standing there
with the sun at your back
and a smile on your face
reflecting the mirror of mine.
Maybe that’s why, each morning
before I stride to my post
on the melding-point penumbra and
glance at my well-worn path
melting into the darkness,
I still hopefully check which way
the winds might be blowing.

Day 20 of my poem-a-day quest. A “dark/darkness” poem. I guess they didn’t know darkness is my metier. Though it’s been more difficult to get to the writing with the Easter holiday and family visiting from out-of-state. Never said I was the perfect host, though. Just a dark one.

The View From My Window

I see greens (a few) grays (a lot)
and shiny cars outside my window.
Duplex houses in varied earth tones
standing cheek by jowl
chain the cul-de-sac beneath
high, hazy clouds diluting
the morning blue sky.
That’s what I see.
That’s my view.
Yours would be different, even if,
right this instant, you sat
in this spot by my window.
You might see the tan patches
and brown mud splotches
where I see grass,
see the dirty pickup truck roll by,
the white sticks of winter’s
snow plow reflectors still standing
in doubt this Spring day will last.
But you wouldn’t see my view
unless I told you, and I wouldn’t see yours.
That’s why I like art,
almost any art.
It speaks the truth of the artist’s view
of her subject. And I can choose
to listen, read, observe, feel what
she says she does, as she does it.
Or I can turn away and
not pay attention to it at all.
Just as you can skip on by
my view from my side of this window,
the town, the country, the world.
And I can skip by yours.
I wish life was more like that.
I don’t necessarily need to hear
if you do.

Day 13 of NaPoWriMo.  A “view” poem. There are a lot of lines up there and just a little more between them.

I’d Love It Otherwise

I’ve talked about you so, so many times
you would think by now I understand you.
But no, seems you’re just a frame for these rhymes.
In my heart, I know it’s all I can do.

Because you are that thing that makes me weak,
and weakness has always been my power.
While your touch has ever been what I seek,
even touched, I’d more than likely cower.

If one day, emotion, strength and insight
might somehow stir me to honest action,
you’ll know I finally won this long fight
between truth and a fantasy attraction.

It feels just like demonic possession,
my love’s just another great obsession.

Day 9 of my NaPoWriMo poem-a-day challenge, a two-fer. When asked to write a Love and/or Anti-love poem, I ended up writing one that could be either…AND both.

BINGO

On August 5, 1971, if you asked one of us ’52 Leap Year baby boys what his lucky number was, he’d probably laugh a nervous laugh and tell you 366. Though any number from 200 to 366 would feel quite charmed. On that date, I already carried what you might call an unlucky number, 1-A, Draft Eligible. Like the others, I waited to see where my birthday landed in the Selective Service’s Draft Lotto, a government-sponsored game of chance most guys hoped to lose. When some suit in a suit pulled my Lucky Number — 46 — I was fairly sure I or my commanding officer would one day soon send letters to my parents from an APO somewhere in Asia. At my Draft Physical, where medical corpsmen poked and military doctors prodded lucky losers, one doctor discovered this, and another verified that, which changed the right-hand half of my unlucky numbers — 4 and 6 — into a luckier letter — A. This 4-A spared me the fate of most of my peers huddled close as brothers on that dark January day in downtown Albany. But in the years since, when I observed so many of those guys come home casualties of that life-changing gamble the U.S. forced us to play, I feel conflicted about my eventual Lucky Number. But for one day before or after our births, we all could be sitting here unharmed, pondering the cosmic vagaries and auguries set in motion by the casual spin of a giant bingo drum.

On Day 8, of my poem-a-day NaPoWriMo challenge, I was supposed to write a “lucky number” poem. I’m not sure this qualifies, but we’ll call it a prose poem.  It’s not what I wanted to write, but it’s the first thing that came to my mind. Blame my cock-eyed depression-stoked version of survivor’s guilt.

After the Fall

They tell you that falling is easy,
it’s getting back up again that’s hard.
But when the fall is such a long one
that you haven’t found the bottom yet,
or it hasn’t found you,
that can be as hard on your mind
as the concrete covered in shattered dreams,
broken promises and slashed hopes
you’ll eventually find at the bottom
on your virtual (or actual) corpus.
That’s because there are shards
of all those things stuck to the walls
past which you fall. All the history
that you can see and consider,
awake, asleep, eyes opened or closed.
Funny thing is, after the fall,
you can use all those things to climb
your way back up as far as you can
before your next fall.
After the fall, there’s always another,
but that means you crawled away
from the previous one. Come here,
take my hand and I’ll show you.
Aren’t all these broken things pretty
flashing by when the moonlight’s right?

Day 6 of my poem-a-day challenge. This is the “After _______” poem.