When they finally discover my bones —
should the occasion ever arise
that a future someone stumbles upon me
while clearing a plot for Hydrangeas,
tomatoes or more bones —
when they crack through and find
the cracks I’ve put in this
old skeleton, will they wonder
what this being did to collect so many
breaks in his framing pieces?
Will they see the two scarred ribs
and know that each happened in
a different winter of my discontent?
Will they wonder over the dents and
cracks in the skull, and think it was
the castle keep of a warrior’s mind?
Or that of a poet who always tried playing
above his program weight, usually failed,
but never failed to try again?
I wonder if they’ll see my family placed
my coach’s whistle around my neck,
my tablet in one hand and this secret optimist’s
(broken) fingers crossed one upon the other?
What they won’t find will be any markers
of regret on this old fossil for any
of this busted crockery of mine left behind.
I gladly earned each and every one of them.
Day 26 of NaPoWriMo calls for a poem about what future archaeologists, whether human or from alien civilization, will make of us. I took that prompt it right down to the bones. My bones.
On its outside, it’s not much to look at, just
a wooden box, six slabs of worn, tan-painted plywood
held together by nails and a couple extra screws
I drove into it so it wouldn’t fall apart last winter.
Inside is even less impressive: just bare wood
bearing the stains of rain leaking within, as well as
the outline of the small ski slope that blows in
whenever the blizzards breach its ill-fitting door.
It all smells of damp domestic pinewood.
But inside that dark interior, new places visit me.
The bill for my car comes from Philly,
Bev’s anniversary card from Florida. The travel mag
teases me with views of Nova Scotia, a river cruise
on the Rhine and exploring the dusty red-gold
beauty of Arizona.
It’s an adventure each time I walk down
the driveway in my tiny suburban world
and reach into the vastly wider one stuffed
within its corners. I still get as excited as
the seven-year-old whose world didn’t extend
more than one block from our house on
Bradford Street in Albany. But inside, my
imagination still transports me as far as
these creaky old boxes perched on my lawn
and shoulders can take me today.
Day 25 of NaPoWriMo called for a poem descriptive of a small space. I chose inside my mailbox, which, while cramped, still transports me to places I’ll never set foot except in my imagination.
I remember those nights
that edged into day where
I’d sit, pencil in hand,
pondering how to overcome
that day’s opponent…
every night, every day, too.
Obsession and fear kept me
drawing up new tactics that might
steal a victory once the clock
started running. Should we press
from tip-off to buzzer, trying
to impose our weak will to turn
them aside from our goal?
No, that’s a task too difficult
to accomplish one-on-one. Inevitably,
we’d opt for a passive defense,
hoping to shield and slow them from
getting inside. But that merely
prolonged the inevitable, just like
every other time. I’d crawl off
to bed, resigned to another defeat
in this seemingly endless season
of losses. It’s record was 365-0 and
I couldn’t take the losing anymore.
It was then I admitted, pride be damned,
I’d ask for help. Even I couldn’t beat
Day 20’s NaPoWriMo poem, combining prompts for a task poem and one incorporating terms from a sport or game. After thirty years of coaching basketball, I knew more than enough jargon. After more than thirty years of the fruitless task of trying to beat depression by myself, I finally took on some assistant coaches. Still don’t win all the games, but my record’s improving all the time.
It was just another sunny spring Sunday afternoon, the kind where the wind sings its celebratory air, when I found her curled up in her own special chair. She wore headphones holding back wind’s hymn from her ears, on her cheek I saw tracks of her tears. “What’re you doing?” I asked, with the hard-earned knowledge never to tell a woman not to cry. She looked up with red eyes and said “We’re going to die.” I figured this was another of those things I secretly termed “femotions,” — cathartic expressions of feminine emotions — I now understood not to try damming or I’d be damned, you see, as just another male whose feelings ran the gamut from A to B. “Yep, we’re all somewhere along that path. Can I help?” I asked. Perhaps I could make her feel better if I took on her task. “Yes,” she said, and opened her fist, within which I found crumpled a smudged page titled “Funeral Playlist.” “You let me handle this,” I replied, because I’d already begun one for when I died. I never thought this morbid, collecting songs for the grieving, reminding us of loved ones our sides forever leaving. But what I wrote, like that uplifting breeze, came swiftly as I penned titles with ease. And they didn’t echo much of sadness nor strife. With memories wistful, soon I turned over her own fistful, a soundtrack celebrating the love of my life.
For Day 18 of NaPoWriMo, I combined prompts again. A Life and/or Death poem and a poem using neologisms. A neologism is a word made from combining two existing words (like “motel” coming from “motor” and “hotel”) or they could be words invented entirely for their sound. This piece is a cobbled together thing, but the sentiment is one I think about a lot because I’ve already begun making up my all-too-soon to be in rotation ultimate playlist.
I came across a photo of you
the other day so I thought I’d
drop you a line. It’s been such
a long time since we last talked.
It reminded me of the long ago time
when I’d always fight for you
instead of you fighting with me?
Just like here was a time when
you shared your warmth with me
instead of offloading angry heat.
That was a time when my sadness
made the world laugh, including you.
But it also was the time when
the ring of your laughter made me
all the sadder.
Did I ever tell you there was a time
when just the sound of your voice
made my day?
Now there’s come a time when
days pass between recalling what
you even sound like. Isn’t that sad?
But there’s a time every day
one or more of these silly thoughts
spin around my head like a cyclone,
dislodging emotions that carom
around my heart leaving behind
even more debris over which I trip
and reel, the World whirling
around me so fast I feel I might
auger myself to its core.
Anyway, hope you’re doing well.
You know me, nothing much changes
in my life. That Earth turns and
it’s another day just like yesterday.
It’s okay if you write back.
Probably better if you didn’t.
Love, I mean Best wishes,
For Day 16 of NaPoWriMo, I combined Writers Digest’s prompt for a poem titled “(blank) System” and NaPoWriMo.net’s for a poem in the form of a letter. And, just because I didn’t use it yesterday, I through in a dash of Writers Digest’s prompt for a “one time” poem. Oh, and if I could find a way to do strikethrough letters on WordPress, that “Love” in the end would look crossed out, as I wanted it to be.
I think I’ve passed right over the acme
of my life’s arc, through its payoff middle
and missed it. No Ansel Adams grand vista,
no temporal sweet spot in a man’s life
where he can stand and say to himself,
“Good job, you made it.” I no doubt was head-down
in a reverie about a what, a when, or worse,
I just looked up and out my window I see
jet contrails crisscrossing the dawn sky,
snaring the sun in a web of crystal near-nothing.
A robin’s sitting in the budding red maple
out front singing his love song. And between them
lies a vast expanse of nothing but . . .middle.
A vermillion-breasted sign of new life and
a silver nib etching across the sky the stories
of hundreds of souls, joined in this moment by
whatever I choose to link them.
More than some arbitrary marker signifying
the end of the Beginning or the beginning of the End,
I forgot the Now I’m in and how I choose to fill it.
Like that moment two disparate birds wrote
the story of my life in a flash of morning sun.
On Day 15 of NaPoWriMo, the middle of the month, I present this rather long discovery of where I am in my life. And, at this moment, the view is pretty good. Photo from out my window, by yours truly.
As the higher, I’m reserving judgment on “highest,”
species on the planet, by now you would think at least
one of us humans could/would/should have thought
of a way to push ahead our evolution toward a means
of peaceful coexistence among one another.
But suspicion, greed, hatred and war are part of our DNA.
HUMANITY: loose ends with a common thread!
Even if there was an Adam, his sons kicked off the game
of man versus man with brother against brother.
The passage of time grew and multiplied these four horsemen
like funky fruit in Cain’s garden east of Eden.
Thereafter, whether you buy the Biblical or scientific,
original sinning Man’s evolution advanced his four antagonistic
Secondary Sins as much he did fire, steel and weaponry.
Even his thumbs evolved in opposition to his fingers.
HUMANITY: loose ends with a common thread!
Perhaps Man, the upright, big-brain atop the food chain,
never has evolved. Rather, his seed scattered, taking root
in the less green places across the fence from his neighbors’.
Our double helix rope frayed, never uniting us in
perpetual amity. We represent the apex of Nature’s orderly chaos,
only made in some God’s image. Or so the winners say.
HUMANITY: loose ends with a common thread!
On Day 11 of NaPoWriMo, I combined NaPoWriMo.net’s prompt for a poem in the Bop format with the prompt from my friend Sharyl Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines challenge. Hers is the refrain of this poem.